During the Friday, Sept. 15 "Cort and Fatboy" podcast, I shared some recent mortification.
Twenty years ago, I went on a tour of Europe with two pals. We were e-mailing each other about the anniversary, so I dug out the journal I kept during the trip. Figured I'd share a few written memories with the other guys.
I hadn't read this thing since I scribbled it on various trains and barstools from London to Corfu.
I opened it. Oh, the cringing that ensued. Here's a sample passage, from page 23:
ANGSTY ANGST ANGST SELF-LOATHING MYOPIC SHALLOW INSIGHT marginally amusing riff or description ANSGTY ANGST ANGST BONEHEADED ROMANTIC GESTURE CHRONICLED EARNESTLY ANGSTY ANGST Eurail pass ANGST.
As soon as I extract three sentences worth sharing with my two pals, I am killing this thing with fire.
Anyway, during Friday's podcast, I thought I'd try and turn my cringing into "teachable moments" for any C&F listeners of relevant age and constitution. A more considered text version of this can be found after the jump.
10 Things I'd Tell My Younger Self After Reading the Angst-Journal I Kept During A Eurail Vacation 20 Years Ago
[ideally read while listening to Journey's "Only the Young" on repeat]
LESSON 1. Do you have the romantic, I-get-artfully-drunk-and-write-Linklater-scripted-poetry-in-my-journal, Ethan Hawke brand of angst? What's that? You don't? Guess what: NO ONE DOES. AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T WRITE YOURS DOWN WHERE ANYONE CAN READ IT. (Good Lord I’m glad there was no Facebook or Twitter in 1992.)
LESSON 2. That said, you will be astonished by the number of experiences you forget over two decades. It’s worth writing down the good/extraordinary details. So: To paraphrase Cecily in "The Importance of Being Earnest," write your memoirs in anticipation of future publication. (I am being ironical here. Sort of.)
LESSON 3. When you leave the school system that gave you structure for the previous 13-17 years, your identity system is ripped out from under you for a while. This may include your faith in people, deities or institutions. Roll with this. It is perfectly fine to "not know" for a while, or perhaps indefinitely. Being angry at yourself for "not knowing" is a silly waste of computing power.
LESSON 4. The rom-coms have been lying to you, my friend. That movie thing where a single last-ditch grand romantic gesture wins the girl's heart? Yeah, that's a big ol' pile of poop. (For details, see my 2009 review of "I Love You, Beth Cooper.") Learn this early and often. No one person solves your problems, even if there was kissing. No one orbits your sun. Believing otherwise slaps a deeply unattractive sticker on your forehead. On that sticker is written the word "NEEDY."
LESSON 5. (On a related note: Feelings running high? Hesitate to call.)
LESSON 6. Look around. Observe. Get outside yourself. I was disappointed during the re-read to learn that I spent most of my angst-journal dumping my sensitivities on the page instead of, you know, writing down the names and addresses and stories of the people I met and the incredible vistas I was seeing. "Feeling" might be less important than "looking," as it turns out.
LESSON 7. Your decision-making brain is not fully formed yet (science tells us so). Don't beat yourself up for being unfinished.
LESSON 8. Enjoy the good things about your time and place. I was traveling overseas during a decade of relative peace and prosperity and optimism that Americans may never experience again -- it was a crazy time when wars seemed to last weeks, not years -- but I apparently spent much of the trip crawling around in my head like an agoraphobe refusing to leave his hotel room during a Hawaiian vacation. Regrettable.
LESSON 9. Have you been marinating in a stew of jet-lag backed by years of collegiate all-nighters and revelry and silly food? If so: Is it possible some of those "feelings" you wrote in your journal were in fact generated by the long-term disruption of your Circadian rhythms, rather than by the external world? If so: Should you maybe stop looking to assign blame elsewhere?
LESSON 10. Next time pick a book to take on your trip that's less of a cliché than flippin' On the Road.
Now excuse me while I go build a Luke-Skywalker-at-the-end-of-"Jedi" funeral pyre in the backyard for this thing.