On my own for New Year’s Eve 1999, I thought life couldn’t get any worse. Little did I know what the 21st century had in mind…
I was at my parents’ house. Never party people, they went to bed early. I fell asleep on the sofa reading a book around 11.
Fireworks going off nearby woke me up shortly after Big Ben struck midnight. As the whizzes and bangs died down, I could hear faint cheers and the sounds of celebration further down the street. But my parents’ house was still and silent.
I remember feeling intense shame that, on the threshold of middle age, my best option for seeing in the birth of a new millennium was sitting on my own at my parents’ house. The world was celebrating. I’d been left behind.
Turns out that wasn’t the low point…if anything it was something of a high point when set against the following 20 years…
Let’s just say that, while there have been some highs and lows along the way, a trend line on the graph of my life during the 21st century would point sharply down toward the x-axis.
So I’ll be spending the final moments of 2019…and the last moments of the decade…almost exactly as I spent the last moments of the 20th century. I’m at my own house rather than my parents’, but I’ll have exactly the same amount of company.
Thankfully I’ve grown more accepting of my fate than I was 20 years ago. Back then I was angry with myself for not being worthy of anybody’s friendship and companionship.
For most of the 21st century I’ve punished myself for that unworthiness, hoping the powers that be would eventually accept I’d done enough to atone for whatever unwitting sins I committed to deserve my life sentence.
Of course, I still wish there was someone to give me a hug on my birthday, or a kiss on New Year’s Eve, or even just a cheery “hello” in the morning, but since I’ve accepted that’s not going to happen I have, perhaps surprisingly, become much happier…or at least less unhappy, which feels like more or less the same thing…
So, although I’m pleasant and courteous in real life, beyond the minimum necessary to avoid being perceived as too much of a weirdo at work, I avoid human company. People only let you down, I’ve told myself over and over.
Rare trips on my own to the cinema apart, I don’t go out. Going out on your own is even sadder than staying in on your own.
On the plus side, my decision to splash out on a Netflix subscription means I’ve watched every single episode of both Friends and The Good Place in sequence over the last couple of years.
If nothing else, this has cleared up a few plot holes from only catching about 85% of Friends on linear broadcast TV the first time round, so my time hasn’t been completely wasted…
The biggest positive impact on my life in the 21st century came in the mid-2010s when I took up not just writing, but became brave enough to publish what I’d written.
At first, this was just something to stop me brooding when I had too much time on my hands.
But it developed into something more serious. It crept up on me like a love affair with someone you’ve been best friends with since kindergarten, but discover to your great surprise many years later you’d really been hopelessly in love with them all along.
Although I started writing about my spare-time passion for music, I’ve more recently written work-related things as well, including all 70,000 words of a business book which launches early in the new year.
From a dark place in the mid-2010s, writing has given me hope.
Goodness knows how I stumbled across something I’m at least half-way decent at. I’m in no doubt there are millions of more talented writers in the world than me, but relative to the average person in the street, I’ve got something, however modest, to offer.
Writing has given me feelings of unaccustomed contentment and, more recently, even a sense of pride…both unfamiliar companions in my life so far.
Nowadays, I don’t pummel myself emotionally to stop my mind creating dreams my reality found impossible to deliver.
In the little corner of my life put aside for writing I’ve even allowed my dreams to run slightly ahead of my reality. I’ve started to believe that, in this aspect of my life at least, tomorrow really can be better than today.
That feels important. The pain of the last 20 years is starting to fade…
Slip inside the eye of your mind
Don’t you know you might find
A better place to play
You said that you’d never been
But all the things that you’ve seen
Will slowly fade away
Even if my dreams are only of writing a slightly better piece of prose than I did yesterday, most days that dream becomes a reality…so if you don’t like this article much, I wouldn’t look back in my archives if I were you…
In ways I’d never expected, writing about music has helped me appreciate it’s never too late for the trend line on the graph of my life to turn upwards once more…
So, Sally can wait
She knows it’s too late as she’s walking on by
My soul slides away
But don’t look back in anger
Don’t look back in anger
I heard you say
At least not today
Through writing about music I’ve learned not to look back in anger.
If the 21st century hasn’t been good to you either, I hope you find a way to rediscover your dreams.
Try not to look back in anger…at least not today…
Here’s Oasis…with, unusually, Noel Gallagher on lead vocal…and their 1996 UK Number One, “Don’t Look Back In Anger”…
If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/3ixTiPABjqkBKPocxq6oIe