Angst: not just for teens anymore

So one night over the summer I was loitering distractedly in a back alley somewhere in downtown Vancouver (believe it or not, I was at work), and I noticed a bright-looking piece of paper on the ground. Looking closer I saw it was a Popsicle wrapper. I was strangely drawn to the thing-in fact, I had a hard time looking away until I figured out why I was so interested in it.

When I was but a very young pup living in England, Mum would sometimes take me to the cinemas to watch Disney flicks. Y’see, back then across the pond, the cinemas had intermissions in the middle of all matinees, and someone would push a cart out at the front of the theater where you could walk down and get a “choc-ice.” The choc-ices always came in splashy, enticing wrappers.

This early movie-going experience could be one of the first solid impressed memories of my life. But since I was so young, the details and circumstances of why I enjoyed myself at the movies back then have all slipped away. This point is interesting, because all I have left in my mind is an image of a blue curtain and a vague sense of the emotional quality: a feeling of general happiness, belonging and well-being. Seeing that Popsicle wrapper lying in the alley somehow captured a thread of my early subconscious memory, giving me a fleeting link back to what it was like to be in that happy state of mind. I tried to hold onto it for as long as possible. It got away.

Now it’s October 1998. After 24 years, I feel somewhat conned out of my share of happy-belonging-well-being moments so far. What’s nearly as worrisome is that I’m having a hard time even remembering the really good moments that have come and gone. Compared to my early movie theater memory, things are paradoxical now. I can think back to more recent happy times and recall all sorts of details and circumstances of what was going on, yet actually recalling the subjective, qualitative aspect of feeling good is a trickier proposition. Maybe it’s a learned art, who knows?

But as my inquisitive mind dictates, I’m working on a list of reasons for my disaffectation.

1. Hasn’t taken up a rewarding hobby
2. Isn’t getting involved enough with schoolwork
3. There’s nothing good on t.v.
4. Thinks everyone else is lame
5. Lacks faith and spiritual connection with the world
6. Too few like-minded people to share thoughts and ideas with
7. Needs to spend more time drinking and carousing
8. Has unwittingly turned into cynical, bitter and jaded sourpuss
9. Nothing’s shocking or captivating any more
10. Clinical depression
11. Not getting enough sex
12. Didn’t go to senior prom
13. Worried about the future
14. Found out there is no Santa
15. All of the above

Some of these ideas make sense, but there’s gotta be something else. And it’s not like I suck or anything. If I was a boring, sheltered, unadventurous person it would make more sense. I think being happy means being connected to something.

Or maybe it’s all about self-discovery. Socrates said “know thyself,” but what does that mean? Maybe it’s really simple. Maybe I’ll never understand. I’m sure this time next week my mind will still be wandering aimlessly, searching for Popsicle wrappers, trying to be happy and wondering what made me cry at the end of Titanic. Now where the hell did that come from?

Gareth Morgan can be reached at gdlmorga@ucalgary.ca

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