What happened to the magic?
Thursday 11 July, I sit at work frustrated. It is after 5pm, way after 5pm, almost 6pm; I should’ve finish at 5. As the minutes pass and my huge mountain of work ever so slowly shrinks, my irritation grows; who am I irritated at? At my colleague who complains to the management if I don’t finish all my work? At my managers for not quite understanding how hard I work? Or at myself, yep, at Marvin, for not having the guts to stop working at 5 o’clock, leave the work behind, and explain that the afternoon was very busy, and therefore, I, not being SUPERMAN, couldn’t finish it and went home when you stop paying me, at 5pm.
As I sat brooding, I thought; “Marvin, why are you doing this to yourself? You can’t stand this job, it bores the life out of you, you’re feeling completely unmotivated and demoralised, you’ve had enough and you’ve been threatening to leave this place for years. Yet here you are, working your guts out, doing unpaid overtime ‘for the company’… You’re sitting here staying late, working at something you absolutely loath with every inch of your soul”… Are you mad?
As I griped, bitching like an old man on a hate campaign against the establishment, my eyes slowly lowered to my desk. I became silent.
On the desk there were two drawings, basic sketches, primitive really, nothing Picasso, but something I did with all my enthusiasm, 100% effort, carefully crafted with love. These little things gave me great pleasure and filled me with a sense of pride, happy that I created something. As I stared at my masterpieces I suddenly thought to myself, “now THIS, THIS is what I like doing”. A smile came to my lips.
Then it hit me! Like a bolt of lightning. Like a brick in the face, BANG, it hit me hard. Everything stopped, no work, no thoughts, no anger, no bitching; just stunned silence. In that moment my mind opened the truth to me, suddenly, all of it. Every other thought disappeared out the back door.
I spend a large portion of my day engaged in something that gives me no pleasure whatsoever, leaves me emotionally exhausted, and physically lethargic; it robs me of the desire to do ‘anything’ interesting when I get home, even the few hobbies I try to maintain; I just want to Flop down on the bed and watch TV whilst eating fast food.. IS THIS WHAT LIFE IS FOR?
(Yes, I know I know I know I know; this IS totally my own choice, I’m here because I chose this job, and continue to voluntarily attend work every day like a willing slave… etc etc)
Big me – The Vortex – young me
As I gazed at the desk thinking this, something very very weird came over me; I don’t even know how to explain it. It felt like some sort of out-of-body body experience. If this happens again, I’ll go see my doctor; I Promise 🙂 I seemed to get physically sucked into a time vortex, taking my mind and body back to a pre-adult Marvin, it felt like I was really there, in some unspecified time in history; I was no longer in the office, I was somewhere long ago and far away. I was suddenly remembering all the things I loved doing and experimenting with back then, all the things I used to do to keep life interesting. They all dropped on me like a pile of books from an unstable shelf. And I couldn’t handle the falling mass, it just floored me;
Singing (you don’t wanna hear that :-D)
Break Dancing & Body Popping
Pulling apart everything electronic attempting to fix them
Recording my own ‘actions Stories’ on cassette
Trying to Make Kites
Paper plane making (ask me to make you one, I make one super-badass Concord, it flies on and on forever)
Knock down Ginger (do any of you remember that?)
Constructing the most ‘crude’ musical instruments
Rubik’s cubes and other puzzles
The list went on and on…But before I could even understand what was happening to me, I get dragged back through the time vortex and find myself sitting at my desk; it’s about 6.05pm (I’m normally home by that time)
Back to the Future
While finishing the last bits of work before breaking free from self-imposed psychological imprisonment, I start to reflect; Back then, Every little break during school was an opportunity to unleash pent up energy via some ‘interesting’ self created activity, all the kids were doing it, at least that’s what it seemed like, and when outside school, especially during the summer holidays, the activities just increased all the more. To us it was completely normal, why wouldn’t you behave this way? Or do you love boredom? Or do you or crave inactivity? I can only clearly remember two periods of near complete inactivity.
1. When I contracted Pneumonia, and spent about one week in hospital.
2. Once, because of my blisfully unaware naughty behaviour, my mother grounded me, stopping me from going outside to play for a whole weekend. It was a very hot weekend, and I can remember, every kid on the estate, all of them, hanging around outside, doing stuff, having fun, banishing boredom, I watched it all from my 2nd floor bedroom window, it was a pretty painful experience, feeling trapped unable to express my adventurous side…. perhaps that was my first taste of adulthood the experience! I digress slightly. When I was grounded I still could do activity at home, but the painful part, was knowing I had no complete freedom to do as I pleased…. hmmm that sounds a lot like a typical day at the office.
Did this have to happen?
What on earth is this about? What happens to people? What happened to me? Why do adults change? Is it inevitable? Is it inappropriate to hold onto that childlike spark? Do the things we once took pleasure in as youngsters eventually bore us? Is the loss of adventurousness an inevitable part of growing up and getting older? Is sitting in this office, bored to tears, just the fulfilment of my unstoppable adult destiny?…
Years ago I had an interesting dream where I went back to a place where I lived between 1980 and 1985; flat in Limehouse, East London. In the dream I was on the road outside my block of flats, looking up at my bedroom window, I caught a glimpse of the silhouette of a young Marvin, but, I got totally freaked out at the idea of an adult Marvin coming face to face with a Childhood Marvin, and Instead of trying to communicate with him, I fled the scene totally petrified (If you’ve ever seen the film Back to the Future, you will understand why I had that reaction to meeting my younger self). Perhaps what I should have done in the dream was go and speak to little Marv…Maybe I would have got some answers. Maybe he might have reminded me of what it’s like to be an excited child again, with all the natural curiosity and relative care-freeness, with that unabashed desire to create stuff to do just to please yourself and nobody else… well I missed the opportunity because I was too scared to face him, and here I am still asking; where did my natural curiosity go? Who stole my adventurous nature? Why is my creativity imprisoned? What happened to the magic?
Don’t get me wrong, there were ‘dark’ sides to my childhood, but along-side the darkness there was an ardent unquenchable longing to make life exciting, fun and interesting, even if the way I sometimes chose to express that adventurousness was through reckless, silly or naughty behaviour.
Whatever the behaviour, it usually had the one objective; to maintain that spark, it was irrepressible, and no parent, no teacher, no bad weather, no school day, No dark winter’s afternoon, could take it away from me. But somehow, looking at myself today, I realise it has ‘almost’ disappeared (yep, I said ALMOST). So where is it?
Are all kids ‘CRAZY’?
Have you ever seen kids walking down the street looking crazy? I have. I see them all the time, outside my window, on the main road. I never used to notice it, but now I notice it more than ever. Have you ever noticed it? They all walk funny… if not all of them, many of them. I mean, who walks like that? Not me. you know the way they move, just watch them, when walking with adults watch the difference… they seem to half-walk half-run, not upright, but leaning several degrees forward, as if they’re trying to get to that next exciting thing, whatever it is, some don’t even half-walk half-run, they skip along, jump about, what for? Who knows? Their arms wave around, flailing about like a badly engineered windmill, arms going all over the place, they jump and flip about as if today was their last day of life and they had to squeeze every bit of joyful weirdness out of the day.
I’ve tried to imagine adults walking around like that; imagine that, if I saw that coming towards me, an adult walking like that, I would cross to the other side of the road; I would be thinking;
“are they completely drunk? Are they deranged? Which hospital did they escape from? I don’t want to meet that”.
But why don’t I want to see that? Is it because I’ve been taught that an ‘adult’ must walk and talk a certain way and if he doesn’t then the world is going to end? Or that perhaps that person is the Antichrist? And the people who taught me that stuff, well, who taught them? And who taught ‘their’ teachers. And the question begs, were those teachings right? But my question isn’t so much why adults walk so differently from children. No, the question is, where did the natural exuberance for life go? Did it just disappear one day? Was it squeezed out of us as teenagers? Did we get tired of it? Did we get too busy earning a living? Or is it just a natural consequence of getting older, or did we one day realise that for the sake of ‘self preservation’ amongst our peers, we needed to act ‘normal’ or ‘cool’, so as not to upset those around us, or rock the boat, or to avoid appearing unusual or different, which could obviously result in our everlasting banishment from sane society? Or was it that we spent most of the childhood years being told to ‘grow up’? Is that where it started?
Whatever the reason for this apparent loss of that thing (I haven’t even thought of a name for that crazy childhood non-limiting self expression that seems to keep life exciting ), we seem to adopt methods for coping with the resulting, boredom, despair, irritability, uneasiness, dullness, etc. What’s your method of distraction? How do you escape the nightmare? Millions of hours in front of the TV? Binging on food? Overconsumption of alcohol? Inability to let go of technology even for a short time? Sugar addiction? Lack of motivation i.e. being a couch potato? Aimless surfing of the internet? Or perhaps you choose more constructive fulfilling ways to exorcise the dullness demon.
Eventually, some are rudely awakened to this loss, I awoke to it recently.. And now I’m as scared as hell. No excuses, I need to take responsibility for this and try to get back the magic. Is it get backable? 🙂 Or is it gettable back? I believe it can be re awakened. I believe that for life to be more fulfilling, it NEEDS to be reawakened. If you think about this, it actually does get re awakened from time to time in our lives; that great holiday where you feel like a new person, with all your weighty worries nowhere to be seen, or when the sun comes out after months of cloudy cold weather, you become a new YOU. But it often disappears as fast as it came. The average kid though refuses to let it disappear, if need be, they’ll run around in the most inappropriate places, just to keep the magic going, just to keep that thing alive.
Not necessarily correct conclusions, causing confusion
I’m writing this at 11.30 on a Wednesday evening (a week after that office-vortex experience). Two teenagers, maybe 16, 17 years old just passed my window riding BMX bicycles in the darkness, shouting to each other and laughing at the top of their voices, so wild, so crazy, so oblivious. They probably don’t even recognise that gift that they have, or maybe they just don’t give a monkeys, who knows? I think they’re just ignorant, NO, not a ‘harmful’ ignorance, but an innocent, good, healthy ignorance, they’re doing all they can to make their lives unboring. They appear untroubled by the possible irritations of late night noisy conversation.
I sit here now at 12.20am Thursday morning. Just finished formatting this, thingy majig, doo daa, It’s late, I’m mentally tired, I know I should be in bed, it’s work tomorrow, but guess what? I want to finish this, yes, writing is something I really enjoy doing. It won’t help me pay the rent, I don’t get paid for it, no one has forced me to do this, and it’s not an essential part of my daily routine. BUT, I love doing it. Yes, I’m tired, but inspired, impassioned, I’m ‘working’ late, but there’s no sign of anger, no sign of loss of motivation, no pain, no asking ‘what are you doing to yourself Marvin’. There’s just the gentle hum of a few cars passing on the main road, the clicking of my keyboard, the bright back-light of the computer screen, and my tired gritty eyes, watching as I type. Yes, I LOVE THIS THING. Is this part of that magic feeling? I’m usually desperate to finish work and get away from it as soon as I can, and in the evening I try forcing myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour (very rarely happens actually 😀 ) so I can have the energy face another horrible day at the office. But here and now, writing this, I feel completely at peace, I don’t want to force myself into sleep, because I’m doing what I love right now, giving it 100%.
Now I get it, now I get why when I was told to go to bed as a child, I wanted to cry, why I got silently angry and reluctantly obeyed; I didn’t want bed. Is this why children resist? Because the adventure must continue unimpeded by unnecessary sleep? the excitement and the fun needed to carry on, and bed was the death blow to the magic, and here I sit, refusing to go to bed, just like that little Marvin, digging my heels in, refusing to be sensible and get some sleep.
Perhaps that’s the answer to where the magic went. Dare I say it? Is it the act of being constantly sensible that forces the magic out the door? Are magic and sensibleness each others nemesis? Marvin…. Shut your mouth and don’t ever speak such things.