You Were Cool

The other night I was listening to The Mountain Goats, as you do, perusing a twitter conversation reveling in their lyrics, as you do, when I stumbled upon lyrics I didn’t recognize. This wasn’t too much of a surprise—The Mountain Goats have a huge catalog and I definitely don’t know all their songs—but these lyrics struck me as one of their “important” songs like No Children or This Year or Woke Up New. And I didn’t know it. So, as you do, I googled the lyrics and clicked through to a live recording and within 60 seconds I was uncontrollably sobbing.

it’s good to be young, but let’s not kid ourselves
it’s better to pass on through those years
and come out the other side
with our hearts still beating
having stared down demons
come back breathing

people were mean to you
but I always thought you were cool
clicking down the concrete hallways
in your spiked heels
back in high school

The song is You Were Cool, and holy shit I remember these interactions, I know these people. Hell, there were a couple years in middle school and early highschool where I was this person (I did not have spiked heels, just people who were mean to me). And when I think of those moments, when I replay those interactions in my head, well this song is what I have longed to be able to say to them, to hear others say to me.

Tomorrow I turn 35, which is five complete years in my 30s; another 5 remaining. My 36th year on earth is going to be full of big changes which I haven’t gotten up the courage to talk about publicly because I keep hoping if I don’t talk about them they will be less anxiety-inducing. My hopes have thus far proven inaccurate. So yeah, forgive me, but I’m being a little contemplative as this completely arbitrary marker of time rolls past.

The first half of my 30’s have been overall shit. And yet, tonight, as I sit alone in my bedroom, in the house I live in alone, I find I’m content. The past few years have been a journey of healing and fighting to remember who I am and what I like about myself. This journey has been completely worth it.

Recently I listened to the entirety of the excellent Finding Fred podcast and sobbed throughout it (I cry a lot. always have, always will, and will never ever be made to feel shame about it). In the first episode, the host, Carvel Wallace talks to his friend Ashley C. Ford about Mr. Rogers and she said something that has stuck with me so much (around 12 minutes into the linked episode):

I felt like I rediscovered a piece of myself, a part of myself, which happens as you age. Like you start to think of all the things you’ve cast off, for reasons that, when you look back, that was to fit into something else, and I miss that thing, and I want it back. I’m sitting there, I’m listening to this song “I like you as you are” and I’m remember holy shit, I used to like myself. I used to really, really like who I was, and I don’t feel like that right now. And, it was the beginning of trying to like myself again.

This also made me sob, because I recognize this path. I have stared down some demons, many of my own making, and come back breathing. Later in You Were Cool Darnielle sings I hope you love your life now, like I love mine / I hope the painful memories only flex their power over you a little of the time. I had a lot of ideas about how my mid-30’s would look, I don’t think a single one of them has proven true. But I’m taking this evening to mark that when I try to hold my life at a distance, when I dust off all the anxieties and just pay attention to the things I can control and I care about, I do love my life, and I do love who I am. That feels momentous.

I hope my journey has many more trips around the sun, and I hope no matter what, I can keep track of the best parts of me. I think if I can do that, the unending anger and sadness I feel about this world we’ve built will continue to be fuel on my fire.

we held on to hope of better days coming
and when we did we were right
i hope the people who did you wrong
have trouble sleeping at night


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hey I'm winston. i work as a product manager for HashiCorp. i read a lot for fun and to help me better understand and interrogate our world. this web-blog is where i chronicle some of my learning.