On Youth

A personal post, for a change. I am 25 years of age, and I feel old.
Now, why would a 25 year-old feel old? Ridiculous, I’m sure you’ll agree. Statistics would imply that living in the UK I have at least twice as many years left as are behind me already, which should be more than enough. I feel old because it seems far too easy to slip into a pattern in these days of technology and office cubicles, and time seems to slip by faster and faster as the pattern sets in. It seems to me that in the pace of modern life, children of the post-baby-boom generation are caught in a cycle of chasing their own tails, spinning the hamster wheel at the expense of true progress towards whatever it is that individual actually wants for themselves.
It is far too easy to get stuck on the Hedonic treadmill. The constant chasing of the next high and the subsequent adaptation and regression to the mean is what leads so many to descend into addiction to alcohol, tobacco or drugs. It doesn’t have to always entail substances, however, and for some people, this is more and more intense experience to the point of adrenaline junkie-ism.


Calvin and Hobbes – Bill Watterson

The Hedonic Treadmill originated with British psychologist Michael Eysenck in the 1990’s after initial discussion by Brickman and Campbell in their 1971 paper “Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society” that discussed the adaptation to new circumstance.
When you are young, it is easy to be constantly in pursuit of something, even if you don’t know what it is. Released from the birdcage of the structured first 15 to 20 years of their lives, the full extent of the freedoms in front of them slap them in the face like a cold splash of water. For some it is overwhelming. For others, it brings a salivatory response as they feel almost hungry to go out and give chase to whatever it is their heart desires.
In an awful lot of cases, that ends up being money. Money makes the world go round, money is their passport to a better life and money is everything. As Brad Pitt famously says in the Chuck Palahniuk movie Fight Club;

Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

The Hedonic Treadmill is the psychological descriptor of this phenomenon. It represents a drug-like addiction to the next hit, be that of consumerism, adrenaline, dopamine, food, televised garbage or any other substance of the individual’s choice. It is a honey-laced poison, that succours you as it draws you in.

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

When I profess to feel old I don’t mean old in the conventional sense, frail and unable to move, more past behind me than future ahead. But old mentally.  Old in my thinking, and old in the philosophy that I choose to live by.  That philosophy is a rejection of the Trainspotting mantra uttered so readily by Mark Renton; his phrasing seems ridiculous taken at face value, but when considered in the framework of the treadmill it is entirely poignant. Why choose a life on the treadmill when you could choose heroin? Surely both are as destructive in what you actually want for yourself?

“Life sucks, then you die” – Stephen King

In actuality, the pursuit of a good and true life is all there is. Each of us has hopes, dreams and fears. Each of us has something that makes us feel young, something that makes our being feel alive. For some it is travel. For some it is art. For others it is languages, culture, history, sports, athletics, books, writing reading flirtingdancingdrivingfallingjumpingrunningcyclinglaughingjokingeatingsinging. It could be any damn thing.

“There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? There is only now, and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion. This is how you live a life in two days. And if you stop complaining and asking for what you never will get, you will have a good life. A good life is not measured by any biblical span.” – Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Whatever that thing is for you? Go and do it, and do it now.

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