My Spotify playlists are organized by decade. This sums up how I think about a lot of things: by eras. My longest playlists? A toss up between the 60s and 70s, the 80s follow closely behind. Most of the time when I play music loudly in my room my mother comes in amused, “Don’t you like anything about the era you live in?” “Of course I do!” I reply indignantly, except I am a loss for what to list apart from the two T’s: technology and transportation. I guess those are pretty big things, but my pause for thought has made me realize something. Our generation is frustrated. We take a lot for granted.
I know I am not alone when I say that I think I may have been born in the wrong era. Many of my peers seem to feel this way. My preference? Well, I possess a romanticized fascination with the late sixties. Hitchcock released Pyscho and The Birds, political activism revolutionized America, hippies with flowers in their hair danced in a pot-infused stupor at Woodstock and Elvis couldn’t go on with Suspicious Minds. I just cannot help my desire to be transported by those gorgeous flowery images.
Perhaps this is a virtue or vice that only creatives experience due to our tendency towards escapism or maybe it is more of a generational phenomenon. When we are not condemning the music on the radio or the clothes on our high streets, we are blaming technology for our ever deteriorating ability to concentrate on any task for longer than a couple of minutes. Today our reluctance towards change and innovation was clearly exemplified by the changes occurring on Instagram. For those who haven’t had an Insta scroll today, allow me fill you in. The Internet flew into a ‘The Dress’ style frenzy today after it became knowledge that Instagram plans to change the way we scroll from a chronological feed to an algorithm, much like Facebook and Twitter. Not only did Instagram users from all walks of life collectively decide to lay down their pride in order to get their followers to “turn on post notifications”, but the backlash against this change was loud. Instagram has since released a statement via Twitter (lol why not on their official Instagram?!?) claiming that the changes will not be happening tomorrow as per the rumour, and that they are “listening” to the public opinion.
You would have thought that we would be used to changes by now. Every app we use seems to have new updates almost daily and most of the time despite the initial acclimatization period, users learn to adapt instinctively and actually benefit from the changes. So why do we fear the future so much? Even in film and literature our obsession with dystopia has illustrated that our projections are rarely positive; we seem to be waiting for some sort of apocalypse. Is it because we are becoming increasingly aware of our role in destroying the planet through global warming and climate change? Why do we think things are always getting worse? Is that because they are in reality? Or is it because we are so immune to the beauty in which we live in? Why are we unable to see the good changes too? Or do we resist change because the future threatens what we have right now? It does often feel like we are in perpetual editing mode. But still, I do not understand it. Most of us seem so indifferent to the allure our present so why does change always bring about controversy? Why is the past romantic, the future frightening and the present so characteristically dull? I borrow my the closest thing I have to an answer from the so obviously stamped Woody Allen movie Midnight In Paris, “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”
More and more, this has become true of our generation. We struggle to cope with the present because we idolize everything we never had, the people we never met and ideas that were once original. Any creative person will surely identify with the struggle that no idea we have is likely to ever be original because chances are, someone has had the same one before us. How mind-bogglingly infuriating is that? How can we possibly attempt to add something to the world, find a space for ourselves and live a life of purpose if nothing we do is ever original? I guess the answer is by not resisting the changes that we are lucky enough to be experiencing in our lives right now. I think we all need to practice the art of being a little more open to change.
I am always game for a #throwback. Instagram can vouch for me. It is the idea of living in the present rather than a perpetual state of reverie, that is the challenge. I find myself constantly torn between spending and saving, treating and refraining, observing and speaking out. Although my mother is bemused by my old soul 99% of the time, she is hardly surprised because she is forced to acknowledge that she is partially to blame. We even went to see Springsteen together and watched in awe as the 6o year old hard-core biker beside us cried whilst belting out the lyrics to Jungleland…I mean mum is hardly surprised by the child she raised. Indeed, I grew up in a household where Frank Sinatra played on in the background during dinner and Old Hollywood cinema was discussed at breakfast. While I enjoyed Disney and Nickelodeon as a child, I was much more interested in imitating Eliza Doolittle’s cockney accent from My Fair Lady. During holidays in Portugal my grandfather wrote on a fabulous 1940s typewriter. Now when I use it each press of a key transports me back to being sat on his knee with an ice cream in the 4o degree heat of our varanda. These are some ravishing memories to consider now and I am forever grateful to my parents for providing me with such a culturally and historically rich upbringing. That is why I am not prepared to renounce myself as a sixties kid just yet. My childhood has made me appreciative of the past and that it is worth embracing.
With regard to the present, I hope to become less critical and learn to balance (in heels…on a tightrope…just joking…kind of…I do have this weird obsession with circuses though, but that’s a topic for another day). This balance I am attempting to cultivate is about learning to take pride in the things that the present can offer, while still enjoying the fantasies of the past. I feel like it is no bad thing to be more grateful, more appreciative of the opportunities that the present provides and to learn to see the world as if for the first time every morning when you wake. That childlike innocence and magnetic excitement is what the present is so lacking.
I should appreciate the opportunity I have to ramble on here for example. Some of my literary idols F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charlotte Brontë might not have ever conceived this possible. I must admit that the idea that one day perhaps a future generation might even think of this blog as romantic is quite enchanting. I suppose it is for this reason and others that Mahatma Gandhi said, “Everything you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it because no one else will”. He was right, but more than that, he was just like us (+ embodying every good trait ever, ok so maybe not quite like us then…) I guess at the very least we can all look forward to our deaths in the hope that we will be martyred and celebrated in legacy because that tends to be the theme doesn’t it? Scorned in life, celebrated in death. We are all misunderstood really and mortality is imminent. Death is a for sure thing. That is not news, so I guess I don’t really get why it is all so frightening still. Well until then, I’ll be over here watching Barbara Streisand slay in Hello Dolly! Peace and love…