Millennial High School Nostalgia

The absurdity of being a white high school kid in the mid-2000s only became apparent to me recently. Millennials were between the ages of 5 and 20 when 9/11 happened and the internet started to take off. No big deal, just our formative years completely altered by a catastrophic national event and a culture change unlike anything seen in history. That’s a lot coming at you all at once. It was less than ideal, to say the least.

But for most of us, there was music. After all, who better to explain the feelings and give hope to a bunch of 16-year-olds than a group of 22-year-olds? Oh, shit, we really were set up, weren’t we?

Either way, a lot of us made it through some rough times because of that music. I’ve gone back several times through my 20s and listened to that music, and in some low points, it all felt very familiar. But I also realized that it was contributing to a lot of my problems at the time. I was listening to a lot of really sad, hopeless, and depressing music at that time. It fed into those feelings for sure.

Now that I’ve grown past a lot of those problems, I appreciate the positive, uplifting music more and how those songs remind me of the good things about being a teenager. First kisses, first loves, freedom from things like work, bills and heavyweight consequences. And again, I say all of this from a white kid in a midwest city perspective. If there’s one thing the internet has helped do, it makes people who are willing to listen more conscious of the plight of others. I was very privileged to have the experiences I did.

I don’t think the world has gotten easier since we were in high school. Actually, I’d argue that it’s gotten more complex, even if we have access to more information now. It’s the information overload that concerns me, combined with the spread of misinformation that has taken hold. It’s my hope that for the high schoolers out there now, they are finding music that speaks to them and helps them out through the tough shit.

Even if it depresses me now, when you’re a kid, you just want to know you’re not alone. And music provides that. Even as adults, that’s all we want. I think that’s why artists like Lizzo, Beyoncé, and Weezer (still) maintain their strong base of fans. They allow people to stay with them on the journey and continue to enjoy listening to their music.

Conversely, I think that’s why artists like My Chemical Romance, Blink-182, and Good Charlotte (all of whom I loved listening to in high school) don’t stay with us into adulthood for the most part. We grow out of that angst and frustration with the world and (generally) develop healthier ways of dealing with those problems when they come up. Music merely serves as that reminder: we are not alone.

~

Photo by Rocco Dipoppa on Unsplash

 

I’m Thinking About Horses

Warning: This post talks about suicidal thoughts and death.

“I’m thinking about death
What if this plane goes down?
That would be okay, you know, I had a good run
I wonder if a lot of people would come to my funeral
Maybe my fans would do something special
Maybe they’d cry and maybe it’d be in the newspaper
Yeah, I think I’d get in the Detroit News
Probably not the New York Times
People’ll probably like my music more when I die
‘Cause they’ll know no more is coming
You see, people love stories with endings
Right now, I’m just sort of a story that’s dragging on slowly
Page by page, year by year
But people want an ending, they want a crash
They want a ear in the fucking mail
But I don’t have one
All I have is another lousy poem
And the knowledge that I’ll probably die somewhere confused and decrepit in a nursing home
I don’t think this plane’s gonna crash”
-Mike Posner

~

This section of lyrics is from a song called “I’m Thinking About Horses”. It’s less a song and more a spoken word poem, but anyway. The whole piece has been a catalyst in me thinking more closely about how I live my life. If you haven’t heard the whole thing, you should listen to it. It’s brilliant.

It’s helped me be more conscious about what I’m thinking about in the moment. And I’m starting to realize that I think about death a lot. Not in an overt way, or a way in which is harmful, but more as a curiosity.

As a kid, I was probably unhealthily scared of death. For no reason really, it just was what I did at night, trying to fall asleep. If any therapists want to dissect that for me, I’m all ears.

Anyway, in my early 20s, when everything spiraled in my life, I stopped giving a fuck. There was only one night where I ever really thought about suicide, my 21st birthday, but otherwise, it was just a dull, numb feeling. A feeling of not caring if it all ended.

And since then, my relationship with death has changed drastically. I’ve gotten better mentally, but I do still think about death a lot. No longer in an anticipatory way, or in a way that I am apathetic to. Now, I think about death as intriguing.

An example: Yesterday I was driving on the expressway and passed a car on the side of the road. It was wrecked and the engine had clearly caught fire and flamed the car out. The contents of the trunk were on the side of the road, so I assumed the people in the car had successfully gotten out okay.

But my mind jumped to the alternative. What if I had been in that car? What if the seatbelt had gotten smashed and I couldn’t get out? Then my mind went to self-immolation. Self-immolation is the act of setting oneself on fire. It’s been used throughout history as an act of protest.

It’s astonishing to me that someone could be on fire, dying, and be completely calm and generally immobile. That level of acceptance is intriguing to me. It’s also something that I would imagine would occur when one would be in the fictional car scenario from before. My mind is a curiosity all its own.

There are many other small moments through the course of the day that will open my mind up to death. Again, always from a sense of wonder more than anything else. And I wonder if I’m the only one.

Do we all have these thoughts, and we only don’t talk about them because it’s not a cultural norm? Or is my mind wired differently, always searching for more understanding or opportunities to learn about anything, including the end?

Either way, I’m comfortable with my thoughts. They aren’t dangerous or even negative. I’m a constant learner, even about the worst aspects of the world around us.

~

What happens when we die?

Thoughts on the afterlife, spirituality, and death.

Once you have walked in the shoes of every race, religion, gender, sexual orientation

Loving and hateful person

It is only then that you will understand how precious life truly is

How do we handle the moments before death? Very few of us are ever “ready” to go, so how does our brain and spirit process the knowledge of impending extinction? 

I think it matters what we’ve done leading up to that moment to allow ourselves to feel at peace with how our lives played out. But not everyone gets the hospital bed to have time to come to terms with our decisions. 

How does it all change for someone who dies in their deep sleep cycle in the middle of the night? Or the person who only has a split second of consciousness before they get hit by a car?

How does it change for someone who’s taking their own life? Does suicide give you more or less mental acceptance of the end of the line than someone who has to dwell on their life for months as a disease slowly brings them home? 

I have many questions, most of which I have little to no inkling of an answer for. But I believe that thinking about these things opens our minds up to a much greater, more lived in experience.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Where do we go? When it’s all said and done, where do we go?

 Obviously, I’m speaking in the ethereal sense. Physically, the ground awaits us in some capacity. Whether we get a wooden sarcophagus, our ashes spread or we become a tree, almost all of us are becoming reunited with the earth. Which is poetic. From the ground we were born; to the ground, we return. 

But where does our spirit go? Spirit is a pretty neutral term, right? I don’t think any religious group would argue that we have a spirit. Sorry atheists. 

Is it as dualistic as heaven and hell? I don’t believe so. What about those of us that are average? Not objectively great people like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Not objectively bad people like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Pol Pot. Just, average. Plus, this implies that any religion is correct, which is its own separate article.

So if it’s not heaven and hell, do we just…disappear? Does our spirit enter the next sentient being it can find? 

I’m not here to be right. But my thinking on this changed when I listened to the track Waiting Room by Logic. His album Everybody was my spiritual awakening. Sounds strange to say an album with a song called Killing Spree would be the source of a spiritual awakening but alas. There are levels to this.

Anyway, in the track Waiting Room, it’s an almost five-minute conversation between god and a man named Atom. Atom and god have a long back and forth about the afterlife, what it is, etc. 

The basic premise is that there is reincarnation, but it’s not linear. Meaning, if I die today, I could come back as a warrior in medieval times, a farmer in the 1930s or a dictator. The lineation instead comes from our spiritual “wokeness”. Someone like Gandhi is much farther along in the spiritual timeline than most of us.

It’s also revealed that Atom’s spirit is the only spirit, which makes sense if we’re tracking this spiritual journey through reincarnation. Then, god decides to drop the bomb on Atom (pun intended):

I created this place for you, Atom

This entire place was made for you

Every time I send you back, every life you live, you grow

And mature and understand the grand meaning behind all of this

Just a little more each time

And if that wasn’t enough, god tells Atom that he will eventually become like him, mature into an all-knowing being. To which Atom replies:

I’m a god?

And then god altered everything I had ever believed about life and how I approach the world. 

No, not yet. You see, I was once where you stand right now

It is not until you have lived every human life inside of your universe

That I may take you from this place

Once you have walked in the shoes of every race, religion, gender, sexual orientation

Loving and hateful person

It is only then that you will understand how precious life truly is

Reading this again for the first time in a while made my eyes tear up. It’s such a beautiful way of looking at the world and makes you reevaluate what we’re all doing, why we’re all here, and who we are growing into. 

But it’s also a bit nihilistic, which is a perspective I hadn’t considered before this moment. This belief also presumes that we are all preordained to be a certain way. We may grow, but it’s all been decided. I can aspire to have the spiritual enlightenment of Gandhi, but it’s much more likely that I have a ceiling on how “woke” I can be, and that ceiling has already been decided. 

I still think this explanation makes the most sense to me, at this moment in my life, but I’ve changed my belief system several times in my short life and I will probably change it again. 

~

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash