Breakup Files #5: Living at night depresses me

There's a line from High Fidelity that goes something like ‘Only people of a certain disposition are frightened of being alone for the rest of their lives at the age of 26, and we were of that disposition,’ that has always stuck with me. Hell, I identified with that line even when I was 18. In the wake of the recent breakup I've been thinking about this line even more, as I have now aged out of that "special disposition", though not by much. It is still just as easy, when the people I work and interact with on a daily basis generally look at me as a young kid, to feel like life is inevitably winding down to nothing, leaving me a shattered husk of a withered man that will soon be found by the smell of a rotting corpse and an obituary that reads "neighbors described him as 'quiet.'"


I'm being a little dramatic here, but the intention is the same: there is something about aging that makes life seem like a series of events that are constantly winding-down. This fear of being alone for the rest of my life is something I never analyzed much, or simply chalked up to the hopeless-romantic sensibilities of my teenage/early-20's years. I think I have achieved a little bit more of a top-down view on the problem this time, though. It isn't a fear of being alone as much as a fear of aging, of making my way back into a world that is not the same way that I left it 4 years ago.


This fear of aging is also complexly intertwined with nostalgia. As much as the grim realization that time is finite and (in many ways) I'm wasting it, it is the remembrance of being young and somehow happier. Of course the truth is that I wasn't happier back then (perhaps even less so), but the memories I retained of those times are the happier ones, the ones with friends, feeling euphoric and free, not the middling times, the harsh hangovers, and the same sense of uselessness that I'm fighting now. These darker times are suppressed and forgotten, because they're just as embarrassing now as they were then. But the nostalgia persists and I remember the times when I was part of a "scene" and the craziness that we got into, before the relative comfort and predictability of day to day life began to take hold. I often find myself wondering about the different paths my life could have followed, especially the one where I stayed in the "scene" and kept partying and drinking and working jobs that allowed me to indulge these interests. I have no illusions that somehow my life, in its current incarnation, is better than this potential other life. They are just different, and both valid options.


The 2014 French film Eden deals with this loose concept. The movie itself revolves around an EDM (Electronic Dance Music for people who are not as cool as me (i.e. have access to Google at the moment)) musician who frequents the party/drug scene that tends to develop around Rave culture, and we follow him as he grows older and broker and really doesn't change, while the scene changes around him. It is a movie about aging out of your interests and how your exterior changes the context of your interior over time.


*Note: I was originally going to review Eden, but found I didn't have much to say about it in the context of the movie. The film was sold to me on the premise of being a techno version of Blue is the Warmest Color, which vastly underestimates how masterful the script, editing, and performances were for that film. Eden is a far above par bio-pic (it is loosely based on the life of the directors brother and co-writer of the film), but not the instant classic that Blue… is.*


One of the most interesting aspects of Eden is how it seems to stumble through the life of its protagonist musician, Paul. It hits beats in his life that are seemingly transformative, like the suicide of a close friend, but soon even that becomes a strange echo of the past. Because that is life. You move forward, something major happens, but you still have to keep moving. It brings to mind The Great Gatsby in the way that we all are 'born ceaselessly into the past,' but Paul strives to hang out in the wake of that past. We watch as he visits one ex-girlfriend who has since moved on, exclaiming how, after ~10 years, "it's crazy that you haven't changed." The declaration, made by someone who has settled down and exited the rave lifestyle, comes off as a strange chiding of the childishness of Paul's life, but she also expresses it as a nostalgic remembrance of a time that was once great. That notion embodies the point of Paul's life: It was once great. We watch as Paul goes from living a dream life with his closest friends in tow, to losing those friends and slowly sinking into despondency in the strangely isolated spot he finds himself in.


One of the more telling plot lines of Eden is where Paul ends up back with a previous girlfriend, who has since married, had a child, and divorced. She moves back in with her mother and Paul starts up their romance again. Neither seemed to ever be wildly in love with each other in their hey-day, and neither seem even mildly in love with each other now. Their relationship is simply the manifestation of nostalgia and how comforting it can be. Paul is nostalgic for a simpler time when he was young and life felt free and fun, while she let life get the better of her and she longs for the days when life was easy and a constant party. The relationship may not solve the present problems for either of them, but it helps to have someone around who at least reminds them of what they consider better days.


Better days are just what they seem like, though. In my younger and wilder days I had just as many problems as I do today, they were just of a different scope and I had a lot more free time to devote to myself. Aging is a strange prospect, in that as you get older time seems to move faster (based on the relativity of the time of life you have already lived). It creates the illusion that we are racing for the grave, when we are actually shambling towards oblivion at the same pace we always were. This is what causes a fear of 'settling down', the idea that soon everything will be repetitive and the day-in-day-out nature of life. That life will become repetitive and predictable, and that this stagnation of our external world must necessarily color our internal world that same shade of monotonous.


The problem is (as Paul finds out in Eden) that even parties become the day-in-day-out, if that is what makes up your life. Life, in and of itself, is a repetitive striving to survive. Once you build up enough experience, everything feels connected and similar. The experiences begin to interweave and you see the echoes of your past in everything in the present. The only thing you can control about this peculiar facet of the aging process is how you personally handle it, because there is no happiness that is inherent to living, it all comes from within yourself. While the adage that we all die alone may be discomforting (depending on who you talk to) the more frightening revelation is that we all live alone throughout our lives and maybe, if we're lucky, we can find someone else to go through this thing with. Each of us alone, but at least there's company.

October 16th, 2015