I know you are thinking, bummer baby…Why the long face and depressing thoughts on such a joyous holiday?
Well, it has to do with a lot of factors but the biggest one is that connection that sometimes happens when you finally “get” a story. Not that moment when you first see a movie or read a tale and go “Wow that was awesome or that totally sucked…” No, I’m talking about that moment when you finally really “see” something that changes the entire dynamic of a story just for you.
I don’t sleep real well. So I spend a good deal of time at night flipping through the channels hoping to eventually land on something I can turn the volume down low on and slip off to sleep.
Recently I turned on The Big Chill and figured it would do the trick.
I mean come on; this is a movie I have seen a hundred times with a great cast, superlative writing, and a spectacular soundtrack…I should have been asleep in ten minutes. Two hours later, puffy faced and tear soaked I realized I was totally wrong.
Instead of falling asleep, I found myself for the first time actually connecting to the characters as real people where as before when watching it there was always a mental disconnect. These were my parents, dealing with real adult problems and I had no idea of the complexities of the issues that the actors on the screen were trying to portray.
From dissatisfaction with one’s life physically, philosophically, career, self-image; I found myself engaged for the first time by these issues on the screen. Most of all, I found myself commiserating with the silent star of the film, Alex.
Being the crux for the entire film, Alex was the acknowledged brightest and best of his group of friends yet there he is lying cold in his casket being serenaded at the beginning of the film with a bad rendition of the Rolling Stones. Having lived a life that was unsatisfactory for as long as he possible could, Alex decides (either in a rash decision or in a cold calculated manner, neither of which we will ever know because it is not really discussed in the film) to put an end to his life of mediocrity.
It is this dynamic; his surrender in the war against mediocrity, that drives my brain today.
I am so much closer to forty than I am to twenty now…to be honest, I can barely remember what my twenties were like. What I do remember is that there was a vibrancy to my life then that is suspiciously missing from my life now. There was a fire that burned deep within that never let me forget that success was just around the corner.
I feel as if that fire has gone out or if it still burns it sputters like a bic lighter on its last fumes.
Yes…I have a beautiful daughter who shines so bright with joy and enthusiasm that sometimes it is hard to even look at her but everything else is just a dingy wash of mediocrity that refuse to relent.
When my significant other and I got together, I was twenty five years old and she was already thirty with a kid of her own. She was almost a decade into a successful career while I was still working hourly gigs just to pay for my pot habit and to barely keep a roof over my head. I was not ready for the challenges that lay before me.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to be involved with someone who is already successful and has no idea where you are in life because they never struggled the way you have? It is like running up a muddy hill that grows exponentially every year as their success grows and yours gains no footing.
This has been my life for the last eleven years. All of my friends and family have gone on to success (one way or the other) as lawyers, artists, writers, law enforcement officers, and business people. My sister; who couldn’t read her way out of a wet paper sack, graduated with a masters in Political Science and is in charge of crisis management for one of the biggest corporations in the world. My significant other still stands on top of that muddied hill; easily one of the most popular people in the music industry here in the T.C., staring down on me with disgust and disrespect.
So here I am, staring down forty like it is the barrel of a gun.
Broken, battered, overweight to the point of obesity, physically unable to walk down the street without wishing I had a cane, prematurely bald (and what is left is going white), chest pains so bad when I sleep that I never make it through a night without waking up a thousand times. Stressed out, unemployed (and made to remember how big a loser I am every time I say or do something that doesn’t fly with my significant other), while clinging to a dream I should have let die years before.
I am Alex. I never lived up to my potential. I live in a world of shit I helped to create and there is no escape now because death is not an option. I have reached the point of no return and have no idea where I am even going.
The Big Chill that night taught me to ask this question. What difference; dead or alive, do I make in people’s lives?
Beyond my daughter, as far as I can see…none.
There would be no heartfelt weekend of reconnection and spiritual awakening if I were to check out tomorrow. Just a solem stoic service before monday comes and everybody heads back to their real lives thinking to themselves, “Wow he wasted his life…I wonder if he knew it?”
Yup, I know it.