Saturday, September 03, 2005

Maybe Camus was right...

Dear Uff Da:
So, I think I DO have a mental problem. Or mental problems.

Yesterday, out of the blue, I hit rock bottom. I slept most the day. Wandered downtown to the main library, got a library card, and rented “All Creatures Great and Small" because I’m craving the English countryside. It reminds me much of upstate NY.

What the fuck?!

Country music doesn't please me as much as ambient new age and classical. It seems I’m entering a new phase of my life, to a place I’ve been once before.

I want to give up my pickup for a Ford Focus, I want to take classes in stained glass, and I want nothing more than to sit in a coffee shop listening to jazz, reading something Edwardian.

I miss my family. My sister gives birth, once again, in a couple of weeks. I want to be there for the birth. I cannot.

It’s strange. I yearn for different, simpler times ... like 1992 in Germany. Making $350/month supported me totally for a year. Today I can barely survive on $350/week.

What happened?

I want to be back in Germany, hanging with my German friends, discussing the overbearing, meddling father known as the USA, looking out the window at an alpine lake. People who ride bikes for necessity, not sport or fitness.

Ugh.
Shoot me now fucker!!
—Lost



Dear Lost,
Well, first off, while I’ve often pondered whether you are indeed a mental case, that’s neither here nor there! Truth is, what you’re thinking and saying is not that much different from what I’ve heard from others. Save for the Edwardian bit, that is.

The most important thing to remember is that we all have choices, and we make them every day in regard to who we are, what we do and how we do it.

You said you’re entering a new phase of your life, which is a place you’ve been before. Why do you think this is? What is it in you that’s got you thinking about things you used to do, and the life you used to have, when, as you said, you could live on $350 a month?

A lot of it could come from stress over the whole proverbial growing up and taking on responsibilities and debt. Or, it could be something deeper. What have you been doing lately that is different from the life you write about? (Admit to the pickup truck and penchant for sweaty shirtless cowboys, boy!)

I think the thing you need to think about is whether this desire to go back to the old days is a true desire to return to something or someone you were before, and maybe have lost or walked away from, or just a way of avoiding what’s going on now.

Believe me, I understand the whole concept of wanting to go back to the past, putting the proverbial rose colored glasses on. His name is Matt. But, hey, guess what: 99.9 percent of the time, when you get back to the idealized past, all the things that made you leave are still there, and they suck just as much, if not more. Why do you think I’ve never set foot in San Francisco again, either?

If you realize that perhaps you’ve been denying a part of yourself, or you’re missing something that you truly do miss, maybe it’s time to start moving back in that direction, even if it’s just in small ways.

There are a shitload of coffee shops in this capitalistic caffeine-fueled nation of mindless, soulless workaholics we live in: pick one. You’ve got the library card, take out CDs and books that appeal to this side of you, and see if they still resonate. I’m glad to hear country music doesn’t please you—it’s all just a bunch of whining pussy boys with annoying accents anyway. Work on getting some money together to take a trip to Germany, or find one of those meetups and meet hot German men who will be your sugar-daddy and take you to Germany with them! (Um, I'm not probably not supposed to advise that, but hey, whatever works, right?!)

And bikes for necessity—well, stick here in the U.S. long enough and we’ll all be doing that. Hell, I did all my errands on my bike today. Of course, I’m an exception in that I’m addicted to my bike, but, it’s peaceful, it’s good exercise, and, if you’re like me you might just find yourself chasing some tattooed hottie who passed you on an Alpe D’Huez that you know just wants to snuggle up against your Zurich, thus increasing the aerobic benefits, wink-wink-nudge-nudge! (Oh, if only I'd caught him ... )

However, the other part of your message regarding family is another matter entirely: as so-called Generation X, we made our way out into the world, formed our own family units, made our own rules, didn’t do what our parents did and … well, now many of us find ourselves adrift. Most of us were smart enough to not have kids (can’t afford them, no stability, look how we were raised), but I must admit there’s a part of me that looks at the dumbasses who have them, most of whom are in the process of fucking them up as surely as we were fucked up, and sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake. It’s lonely, it’s hard, and the desire for family is human, and understandable.

We’re not like our great-great-grandparents, off on a ship with no contact, no chance of going back. We’re global, we can visit and call and text and e-mail and see and hear what we left, and as we age the old rose colored glasses again come into play, but, when it comes to family, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The desire to connect to family is human, and if you really want and/or need to be closer to them, start working on getting back to them.

But, if you’re missing them because of what you’re missing in your own life, it’s not a quick fix, because Mom will still tell you how poorly you dress, Dad will still tell you you’ll be single forever if you continue to be so abrasive and opinionated, your ex will still be frigid and judgmental, and you’ll find yourself walking into the woods hoping for a hungry bear.

We can’t use people and things around us to fill the hole in our souls, but we can use them to help guide us to where we need to be, for ourselves. It’s a big, ugly journey, but we’re all in it, whether we like it or not, until we’re worm food.

Although, on the Germany part, I can’t say I blame you on the desire to expatriate. That’s another column completely! I’ve been missing being abroad so much I went to Ikea today and bought enough Scandinavian food to feed all of Valhalla!

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