Missing The Old You
One of the things I do of late when I come back to NYC is see women I used to be involved with. I'm a big believer in maintaining connections, especially the ones that have meant a lot, and it's been a point of pride for me that I'm friendly with virtually all my lovers and girlfriends.
Life in the Woods is more romantically lonely (lots more) than my urban days have been, so I really enjoy these dinner dates, remembering what it was like. I've no real agenda in mind, but it does wonders for my psyche to sit down with a beautiful girl and have a good conversation and realize that I'm still a likable guy. My day-to-day doesn't offer me much evidence of this -- again, speaking in a romantic context -- and my self-confidence is fragile enough that after spending enough time without positive feedback I begin to regress.
So last night I was having a great chat with this tall, enterprising, quick-witted beauty at the still-excellent Great Jones Cafe, and the topic of nostalgia comes up; my saw being that it feels depressingly premature to be looking back like that at the tender age of 27. She has a really great insight: the devilish thing isn't reminiscing for "the old times" as it's inevitable and arguably proper to cherish your own personal history, and anyway if you want to do the things you used to do, the odds are you can do them again. That's just a question of will. The real bugger is missing the person you used to be.
This has all sorts of rather deep implications, not least of which is that your attitude or outlook or "aura" deeply affect your experience of life. In imperceptible but (I believe) quite powerful ways this affects how other human beings react to you, which in itself affects your attitude. Lather, rinse, repeat. There are a million cliché phrases to describe this phenomena, but in spite of that it is a very real thing. And itsn't it distressing to realize that you've lost that old energy, and you don't know where or how it went?
The question resonates with me, and it seems to be at the heart of what I'm struggling with lately. There's a kind of enthusiasm, optimism, excitement, and most of all a visceral abandon to the adventure of life which I feel has drained away over the past three or four years. Even as I rail against institutional conservatism and risk-averse behavior, I find myself growing ever more mindful and cautious and skeptical.
I'm struggling. The most important thing is to stop struggling. Part of this is a natural outcome of maturity and experience, and it's not necessarily a bad thing, but I do really feel like there's a part of me that's slipping away.
And it's a valuable part. Even the planning aspect of my mind, the portion driving this change, recognizes this. I can logically see that this change in attitude is not only reducing my sense of sizzling in-the-moment happiness, but also closing doors. As per the above, this slow bleed of enthusiasm and spontaneity, the "loss of my starry-eyes," has a detrimental effect on my future life chances.
Typically there's a lengthy gap for me between intellectual recognition of a problem and any sort of resolution or change in experience. Thought and action are not easily bridged. On the other hand, this isn't the first time I've had this realization, and odds are it won't be the last. Round and round and round we go.
So, to sum up, I'm confronting this challenge -- as one definite grown-up put it to me recently -- of "growing up in my own way." Many of the lovers I talk with will mention a Peter Pan-esque quality to my personality and attitude; sometimes ruefully or with scorn, but more often wistfully and with warmth. It's an attractive and infectious thing, refusing to bow to the demands of the square world, living on ones own terms. It's a part of my energetic attitudinal complex that I think accounts for a lot of my lucky breaks. Even as I mature and begin thinking for the bigger-picture and long term, moving on from the life of a rambler, I don't want to lose that.
Easier said than done. That's for damn sure.
After my dinner and a drink I rode the good old L-train into Williamsburg to meet up with some of my Brooklyn friends, as well as my moving-to-NYC sister who was in town, at Pete's Candy Store. I love that place, and it's maintained it's charm over the years.
Sitting at the next table over from me and A-Stock are a quartet of good-looking girls. Younger, too much makeup for my liking, etc, but still quite fetching, and dressed to kill. One of them seemed to fancy me (or maybe I had something really awful stuck in my teeth) and was giving me the eye.
It was a good illustrative moment, because my response was to sort of uncomfortably duck and look the other way. I can't even bring myself to flirt. There are plenty of rationalizations -- I was waiting for my friends to arrive; I'm not really so excited about random hook-ups anyway; etc -- but the more true answer was that I had, in my own mind, no way of reacting to the situation and reciprocating her apparent interest. And what's the fucking harm in flirting? It would have probably made me feel good. An earlier incarnation of me wouldn't have been so stilted, but to the current me that door is closed.
This little moment doesn't actually bother me the day after, but as I said it's a good example. Visceral abandon to the adventure of life is how most of the great things that have happened to me have happened, and it's something I find harder and harder to get into these days. This is especially pointed with matters of the opposite sex -- my biggest gripe about my current state-of-life; blah blah blah -- but this hesitancy increasingly creeps into other areas: my work, my politics, even my writing. It must be stopped.
So indeed. In about a month I'll be turning 28. No longer a young man, perhaps, but still a man who is young. We shall see if this turns itself around.