I left my teenage life behind 19 years ago, yet it has taken that long to fully understand the meaning of “meh.” There are fancy words for this expression – disillusionment, apathy, indifference, stoicism, lethargy, disinterest…choose your favourite from a thesaurus near you. These days they all mean the same thing, meh, and it’s a shitty place to visit, no matter how brief your stay.
At the moment I’m not sure how personal this post will become. Let’s see where it goes.
Today is a sad day.
I’m not writing this for you, dear blog reader, no, this one’s for me and Teenager X. This is a prime example of blog therapy. If these words weren’t scrolling across the screen right at this moment I’m certain my throat would explode from screaming a new big bang out of it.
I wasn’t a very good teenager. I was loud, stupid, selfish, arrogant, self-centred more often than not, and I only ever lived for the weekend. It took me a long time to grow up, a regret I’d rather not have. And although I’ve learnt many valuable lessons along the way I wish I could hop back in time and give my younger self a huge kick in the balls and tell him to sort his life out pretty damn fast.
Yet here I am, almost two decades later, morally centred, emotionally stable, optimistic, happy and smiling. Could you call those twenty years wasted? Surely I could’ve figured out where I needed to be quicker than that, right? I guess those who believe in karma might say I’ve found my way eventually, and that from of all the paths I may have taken, I found the one that was right for me.
There should be a Hindsight Pill.
Wouldn’t that be a marvellous thing? Not exactly a time machine, more a quick experience of the shape of things to come. A glimpse along the twisting path of your life. Not so much that you’d make radically different choices (although would that be so bad?) but enough to give you a slither of inspiration to nudge you along a different, possibly brighter, path.
I’m not complaining about my life, merely curious about how different it could’ve been. Science conscious folk could argue that every choice we don’t make is played out in another plane of reality. I like that idea. It gives me some comfort to know another Dave Farmer could be a graphic designer, musician, explorer, astronaut or any number of pursuits I’ve imagined one day taking up since childhood.
That train of thought prompts me to ask: “Why am I me and not somebody else?”
I figure that’s a topic for another day.
Why are you here?
A few months ago I ended a post, The Emotional Drain Train, with a prompt: “I’d genuinely like to know why you think you’re really here, dear blog reader.” My favourite comment was from Joss, of Crowing Crone fame, who said this:
Why am I here? Mostly as a living example that you can create a great person, a great life out of almost nothing. I think that’s it. And, of course, to walk in beauty. But I think they are one and the same, no?
In particular I liked the bit about being a living example that you can create a great life out of almost nothing. Thinking about it there are many reasons why we’re here. It depends not only how you view yourself and your life but how others view you.
So, back to why today is a sad day.
Today I saw “meh” in pure form. It horrified me. I found it deeply upsetting. I’m trying to find the right words to describe the cold, gut wrenching empty sensation that invaded me when I saw it.
You see, looking at me from across the kitchen table was Teenager X, blank face, eyes filled with apathy, seemingly disillusioned with life. I know I’ve poked fun at teenagers in the past, and yes they are hilarious most of the time. But not today. There was nothing there. No spark. No life. It felt like I was talking to an empty shell.
Every hope and dream I’ve carried for the future of Teenager X vanished. No. That’s wrong and unfair. I still have hopes and dreams, but now they’ll have to be different ones.
I don’t want them to be.
With every fibre of my being I want Teenager X to walk a good path, at least far enough so it leads to a stable foundation for a life not besieged by potential bad fortune, fear and regret.
I want that path to be bright, prosperous, challenging, adventurous, and though hardship is sometimes unavoidable I want that path to have as little hardship as possible. I want Teenager X to set out on the path of life with a good set of tools and a balanced, positive attitude.
I firmly believe this means taking advantage of that short-lived commodity, youth. Where possible it shouldn’t be wasted on thinking only about the weekend. Think education. Think about the future. Think about where you want to be in 5, 10, 15, 20 years time. And accept that hard work is a necessity not a choice.
Two paths. One choice.
From my point of view I see two pathways for Teenager X. I see them as clear as I see the words on this screen.
One path, The Yellow Brick Path, can lead to a good life, one that was so keen to be grasped and enjoyed not long ago. One with adventure, joy and pride. Skies the limit sort of stuff. That path is where my hopes and dreams for Teenager X lived. It’s still there, just about. But it’s fading fast and I don’t think I have a bright enough light to show the wonders that lie along it.
The other path is shrouded in regret, debt, fear, isolation and longing for something always just out of reach. This is the Path of Meh, where the Living for the Weekend Monster lives. It’s already hard at work enticing Teenager X with illusions of a happiness. These are short-lived things. Ethereal. Use once and throw away. Disposable hollow fun. And if that path is taken all that potential and possibility once stored in vast amounts might wither and die.
The Path of Meh tastes like sweet scrummy candy at first. But sooner or later it turns bland and pointless.
I don’t want Teenager X to walk this path because I’ve been there myself.
That’s not hypocritical is it?
Just because I turned out okay (more or less, wouldn’t you agree dear blog reader?) doesn’t mean any other traveller on the Path of Meh will too, does it? Who’s to say that any path chosen is the wrong one if it brings happiness? But it’s the way the path is chosen that scares me. Embracing any choice blindly doesn’t feel right. Every now then we all take a leap of faith (or something similar to the atheists out there) but what harm can solid reasoning do?
I want Teenager X to put aside the inner monologue…
“Blah, blah, old person yakking on about when he was young. If you could’ve been anything why are you here now? Rolling my eyes seems to convey my thoughts on that one. Oh who cares? Why doesn’t he shut up? Why does he keep going on and on and on? Ooh a text. Quick reply. Oh man, he’s still talking. Blah blah. Times have changed you know. Teenagers are different now. The world is different. Blah blah. Not listening. Ooh another text.”
…and understand that I’m not talking for the fun of hearing my own voice. Sometimes even that bores me. Have you ever started a sentence only to crawl to a stop because you simply couldn’t be bothered to finish it? It’s like you’ve heard the rest of it in your head and it sounded so boring and pointless you just stop talking! No? Aww man, just me then.
I want to share my knowledge and life experience to help improve that of Teenager X. I want to share that I’m a perfect example of taking The Path of Meh when I knew deep down the Yellow Brick Path was where I should’ve gone. I explain and explain, and ask questions, over and over, trying to find out why this change has come about and why Teenager X is so transfixed by the wicked Living for the Weekend Monster.
That’s all you’ve got? Meh?
A shrug. Dunno. It’s too hard. I just don’t care.
I WANT YOU TO CARE!
I reckon my Dad would’ve gone loopy if I’d said: “I just don’t care” to him when I was a teenager.
How I hate that word and everything it stands for.
Teenager X, my words are my truth.
So, my message to Teenager X is simple, from the heart and so much easier to put into words on a screen than using my voice. Here I have time to gather my thoughts and think about what I want to say. Here I’m unhindered by anger, upset, loss and that nasty cold black hole in my stomach.
Teenager X, you are amazing.
You have that rare spark in your eyes and smile. You have such potential to achieve and thrive. You just need to unlock it. You have the ability to do so well and succeed at what you put your mind to. Focus and dedication is all you need. And you really do have a wilful spirit. You always have. You simply need to harness it. The rewards are worth walking the extra mile.
I want you to be happy, to enjoy your life and reach the end without regret. Long time have I cherished my dreams and hopes for your life. I thrive on my imagination, laced with reality at times, and I’ve seen you walking that Yellow Brick Path in bright sunlight, happy, smiling, optimistic, bold and eager to tackle any obstacle in your way.
If my life is nothing but an example of what path not to take then it has been worth living.
I implore you to think, to take a step back and truly consider where the Path of Meh might take you, both short and long-term. Not because I want to force you do something I’ve dreamt about, but because I want the best for you. I’m not here to shout you down, twist you to my way of thinking or discount everything you say as teenage bullshit.
I want you to listen without judgement or preconception and honestly understand the choices you make now can effect your future, in subtle and bold ways. If that means writing down every idea you have about your choices, even a thousand of them, then so be it. I’ll gladly sit beside you until my legs go numb and my hip screams “PAAAAIN!” at me, thinking, debating, questioning, inspiring, challenging and offering alternative paths to the one you’re close to taking.
As Joss says, I want you to walk in beauty.
I’ll always support you, love you, be there for you no matter what.
In my eyes you are an angel.
And I want you to fly.