Being over 40 means having every commercial addressed at you, begging money-spending, hoarding of all kinds of material goods. It’s both funny and depressing. The music is the touch point, I have noticed: artists which seemed avant-garde in the time past currently hawking some kind of ware. The online, media version of selling wares, anyhow. It’s unnerving in part because the target is my middle age, my time when supposedly I am in the flush, in the black, willing to spend. Except I am not all these things. Oh, I’ll buy this and that, to be sure—I’m no angel. But I choose to live a life more simply, to be Franciscan in my outlook on things, on daily decisions, ordinary, everyday. These commercials do nothing for me, and for this I am grateful and, at worst, annoyed. No, I do not think that Lexus will make me happier, or the new iPhone (I only now just got one, and even so I am skeptical of all this power in my hands). I equally take joy in knowing that what is possible now—that the bright yellow monstrosity of a Walkman, paired with the Nikon camera and its many rolls I developed, or the little notebooks and agendas I kept—that all these meld into this one slim little bit I slide into my pocket. Intoxicating indeed. The future is now, after all.
But the future doesn’t hinge—depend—upon this red wheelbarrow. In many ways, it’s not even as necessary, all this technology and access. But it connects some things for me, makes possible some things, allows me this moment to pause and consider what I have already written down in life, and to recap it, reclaim it, rewrite it as it should be, not in the fits and starts, the puzzle pieces in which it now lays. To reconsider the me I am now based on the me of pages written past, alone and with friends at writing groups, in classrooms at high school and college, and in between, hot summers spent repressed at home. Stepping into a time pool I hear that soundtrack of my life played on a big headset connected to a giant stereo system: tapes ordered by mail, 12 for a penny, to get hooked on the monthly subscription. Sting and the Police, INXS, U2. Something about the lyrics, about the soundscape of this music, spoke to me, sheltered as I was. I would rewind over and over some of the most poignant moments depending on what inspired me in the moment, letting others’ renditions of the world of relationship and love define me some, imprint me, color my worldview. I knew about lots of other music—my friends were this melange of pop and alternative cacophony, and we fought over what was best, and because I loved them all, I loved all the music, or I tried, tried to understand all the music. Because somehow that was understanding them. I wasn’t the biggest fan of some of the pop, the metal, hair bands, rap, but I found something I could like or admire in each genre, and became aware if not a consumer. And some of these became attached to those who listened, and this became their ears for me, a way to listen as they did, not just see or walk as they did. It was a pretty pivotal thing, my freedom of choice in music.
So now that I’m in my 40s and watching these commercials with the soundtrack from another time, another version of me and my friends, I laugh. It doesn’t quite have the effect they’re going for—I won’t buy—but I am entertained. And brought back to a time I might not have picked out again from these inner files. Considering this year filled with real personal challenges for both myself and my family and friends, this refresher course on the old me helps me now, with my new sense of self. I’m in a place as the year ends of the cliche reflection, but there’s nothing cliche about it: I am reckoning with the real and gritty. That’s going to be my new year in a nutshell.