I turn on Brand New or some other influential band that was once invariably on repeat and has now become the unapologetic catalog of my college and post-college days.
One song sends me to an unfinished living room. He’s staring back at me and he’s mouthing the lyrics and we both know there’s much more than the bottle of Jack Daniels between us. Another plays and I’m in a corner booth. I’m sandwiched between best friends and we’re holding jello shots and we’re loudly proclaiming this night to be the best night of all the nights. And then another plays and I’m laying on a couch. I’m deep in a neglected text book as my roommates and I study for our last string of finals, red bull and Adderall and cigarettes at the ready.
And as one track ends and the next begins I am overwhelmed with a palpable longing for days I know I’ll never see again. Despite all the happiness I’ve found and the love I constantly feel and the peace I now own, in those musical moments between melodies and breakdowns, I’m missing what I’ve already had.
I just can’t quite figure out why.
Maybe it’s fear.
I’ve experienced seemingly endless moments of passion in which the meaningless gave me meaning. I’ve experienced ceaseless nights of debauchery in which the treacherous gave me triumph. I’ve drank too much and loved too much and hurt too much and felt too much and in the cataclysmic clusterfuck of overabundance, I found myself. And now that self is changing.
Maybe it’s masochism.
It’s been so long since I’ve lost control or succumbed to excess or felt the pain of a poor decision and while they all ostensibly belong in the “avoid” category of life lessons, they’re all undeniably capable of making me feel alive. There’s pleasure in pain and I haven’t felt overwhelming pain in a while.
Maybe it’s inevitable.
I’m facing the unknown with all-too-real consequences that no longer affect just me and that leave a tangible taste of potentially paralyzing inadequacy in my mouth. How easy it is, to deal with a changing present and an overwhelming future by romantically remembering the past. How effortless it all was. How simple we all were.
Then the record ends and another artist starts to play that has recently been on repeat and has now become the unapologetic catalog of my current, 27-year-old days.
One song reminds me that he was horrible and I was miserable and not even that shared bottle of Jack Daniels could erase the hurt shared between us. Another plays and I remember that some of the people I had the best night of all the nights with are no longer in my life for very specific and very good reasons. And then another plays and I remember how exhausted I was and how unhealthy I was and how eagerly I looked forward to the day it would all end.
My love affair with nostalgia brushes over the cracks and erases the scratches and perfects the imperfections of a perfectly tainted past. I inject it and what was once difficult becomes easy and what was once mediocre becomes unbelievable and what was once detrimental transforms into the adventurous.
And I realize that when waxing nostalgic about “the good old days”, I’m actually missing out on the good old days.
I realize that ten years down the road I’ll be overwhelmed with a palpable longing for the days I’m living now. Days I know I’ll never live again.
And yet I’ll continue to press play on the unapologetic catalog of my college and post-college days.
And I can’t quite figure out why…