Not Waving but Drowning
I'm always trying to learn something new, guitar at the moment, because I find it critical in slowing down time (subjectively); otherwise days, weeks, and months just shoot past. Learning or doing something new anchors periods of time to something particular, something difficult, and keeps your brain squishy. I apply this thinking to music too, so because I don't want to get stuck for the rest of my life with my current taste in music, I'm often listening to new music. I recently became aware of Loyle Carner, creator of exquisite confessional hip-hop. While listening to my new favourite artist, the song Not Waving, But Drowning suddenly came on, featuring not the words of the famous (though new to me) poem, but rather the author's thoughts on the poem.
I read about a man getting drowned once His friends thought he was waving to them from the sea but really, he was drowning And then I thought that, in a way, it is true of life too That a lot of people pretend, out of bravery really That they are very jolly and ordinary sort of chaps But really they do not feel at home at all in the world Or able to make friends easily So then they joke a lot and laugh And people think they're quite alright and jolly nice too But sometimes that brave pretense breaks down And then, like the poor man in this poem, they are lost Not waving, but drowning
Wow, hearing that was like getting hit by a ton of bricks; I ended up rewinding time and time again, to absorb every single word, to take it all in, as someone peered right into me. Maybe that's why the poem is so famous? I like to think that I'm ready to let my pretense break down, but that's wishful thinking; I'm fearful of scaring away the people who'll listen to me, either when I'm trying to be quite alright and jolly nice too, or when we've built the necessary rapport to go deeper.
Looking at me from outside, I seem to be doing alright. New job is much better, I'm finally getting over my concussion, and I can find myself complaining about being too socially too active (June was busy). But I'm not okay, I'm hedging all my decision, because I'm so uncertain about my future. I'm not greedy, but I'm hoarding my money; I have no plans to move away or quit my job, but I delay and postpone whenever my anyone suggests I buy an apartment (which is frequently at my age); and though I feel romantically isolated, I'm not making a genuine effort to change anything, though that's as much indifference grown from repeated failures and disappointments.
But I'm far from quite alright and jolly nice, I want to scream and shout, to get mad as hell, and to run off somewhere. What's my long-term reward for plodding on with what I'm doing? More of the same until I retire and die? But I don't, such upheavals are so massive for my life, and so I break my upheavels into small pieces; pieces that I'll never gather enough of, and so maybe they just keep me locked where I am.
Riding on the train, it's easy to look around at people staring at their phones, oblivious to the world around them, and fear that I'm alone with this. But then I do the same, and maybe they look up? I wonder how many of my friends would have an identical reaction to the above poem. If they did, I'd love to sit down with them, and plan our great escape.
My end-goal at the moment is to let the pretense fall, but in a controlled manner, so the stress won't get to me, or I'll be left adrift in a sea of indecision. Being of my generation, I was immensely taken by Fight Club, and particularly the line about Tyler liking Marla because “at least she's trying to hit rock bottom”. I wish I had the courage to do that, to flip the table and let everything fall where it may. Only be really starting over, could I ever hope to find something me. Until I do that, no matter how far away I'll run, when I return home eventually, I'll put a shirt on and go back to my white-collar job.
That's why I haven't run away yet, because I'd come back the same person, with a few new experiences sure, but fundamentally the same person. If I am to change anything in a meaningful way, I have to hit rock bottom, so that I can truly see what I need to change, and so that I will have the courage and daring to enact those changes.
Enough with hedging on decisions, but it's hard to overcome your own nature, when things are at a fundamental level fine. That's probably where the pretense comes from, otherwise it'll feel like we're crying “wolf!”, when we need help, but essentially stay the course.