I've had this song stuck in my head the past several days, and it's not just because it's a brilliant song (though it is a brilliant goddam song). I think it's the cold weather that reminds me of it. When I first heard this song, it was on a mixed CD a friend gave me back in my Walmart days, and I would listen to that CD on repeat as I drove the seemingly endless road home through snow and ice at ten o'clock at night. The song itself has a strong feeling to it, but it has a much stronger significance from its link to that exact period in my life, making me feel just as I did then, nervous as hell as I drove home, tired from working into the night, but happy.
There was a lot I hated about working at Walmart, but when I relive how I felt at that time, I realize that I really was happy. I was working, writing, reading books, and watching movies, and that was about it. It is not nostalgia that I feel, because I do not yearn to be back in that position again, or to actually relive it—I am as happy now as I was then—but it is useful to remember that I could be as happy in that context as any I've experienced since or any that I anticipate for the future. When it really comes down to it, to have a few friends, to have health, to have access to the art that pleases you—that's all anyone really needs. I do believe I am bettering myself by going to college, and I expect to have an immensely more comfortable life once I'm in my chosen career, but ultimately I think human beings are flexible and cunning enough to make a great life out of just about any situation. When we belittle those who find happiness “flipping burgers” at McDonalds, stocking meat at Walmart, or cleaning classrooms in a school, we betray only our own lack of imagination concerning the subjective human experience.
The same goes for having children or not having children. I don't think I'll have children. My energy is drained by being around others too much, even the people I love the most, and being attached to a helpless person for a couple decades does not sound pleasant to me. I used to be profoundly depressed by the number of people I see having children immediately out of high school, thinking they all waste their potential by lashing themselves to infants, but while I still have reservations regarding that choice I now understand that they are at the very least capable of a happiness every bit as equal and profound as that which they would find without children. They may have less time and more stress, but they also worship the creature that absorbs that time and produces that stress. (These are all generalizations, of course, subject to the typical array of human insanity, but you get the point.) On the other hand, bubbling parents who can't seem to comprehend that others may legitimately have no desire for children, no capacity for children, and no plans for children, display an equal lack of imagination. Personally, I think even though I have a distaste for the little bastards and hope never to spawn them, if I were ever to do so I would pretty quickly change my mind out of necessity and love and raise the little life-sucker as best I could. (And get a vasectomy to celebrate its birth.) They say you can tolerate the screams/poop if it's from your own progeny, and I don't doubt it. If I have faith in anything, it is the human capacity for delusion. This is probably the key to happiness: whatever happens to you, your brain will convince itself that it was for the best. Cognitive dissonance saves us. (Most of us.)
What is this, the ninetieth post I've made examining my decision to go to college and comparing it to my “Walmart days”? I have forgotten what the purpose of this post was. But damn, that song is a good song.