“Jesus Christ. I’m 26.
All the people I graduated with,
All have kids,
All have wives,
All have people who care if they come home at night.
Well, Jesus Christ, did I fuck up?“
~Passing Through a Screen Door
The Wonder Years, The Greatest Generation
I am compelled to post this tonight as it will only remain true to my life for the next several hours — and because it is a pop punk bridge for the modern age that reflects ultimately what I find many in my generation often grappling with.
I know it seems like all we care about is what’s happening on our phones but the timeless mortal longings for companionship and love and meaning in our lives – surprisingly!!! – remain. In my conversations this past year, with friends or acquaintances or strangers of a similar age, I’ve heard plenty of takeaways on what it means to be alone, what it means to be coupled up, or somewhere in between. Some seem dead-set on running as far as they can from commitment of any sort, thinking such trappings spell doom for their individualized futures; others seek it like water in a drought, gasping and grasping for something to hold onto other than themselves that will provide vitality. Still others I meet are in some sort of medium ground, not alone and not lost though conventionally behind the times and, through their personal choices, redefining them. Some others just don’t seem to care where they fit. They just seem happy.
I am one of those who is not alone, though I live that way. I am one of those who pokes and prods and rips up roots almost fast as I can grow them, though I have a few places I can call home enough to find someone to laugh with and buy me a drink. I often feel as though I have fucked up, though I know in my heart of hearts and deepest of consciousness that I have not.
To me this song spells out fervent desire for change, without yet knowing which kind to make. It starts from the feeling that the present in all its normalcy is not adequate, when the room to run is so far and wide and somewhere out there is something more. That feeling, the opposite of sought-after stability, is glorious in its own way, and glamorized thoroughly, but it presents challenges and fears in the way traditional settling down might in others. What if nowhere feels like home? What if there’s no one to look over at, and smile to know all you’ve shared? What if, to be running and constantly seeking, means you lose everything that is worthwhile after all? Answering these questions sometimes only brings a stronger desire for sameness, for stillness, for closeness that may not be found outside in the world but behind your bedroom door. And then the cycle begins again…
With this song, with this album, Dan Campbell and The Wonder Years presented a story of the times that I hope will preserve the emotional trials and struggles felt by many in the here and now. It helps that it is incredibly fluid, aggressive and devastating rock music, that makes your neck arch and fingers drum and throat ache to shout. I shouted these words 10 rows deep last August, screaming as loud as I ever would packed among hundreds of strangers younger than me, or older than me, or cooler than me, or more scene than me, and for that day, for that set, I did not feel fucked up. I did not feel like I’d missed out. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.