Dave's Progress. Chapter 107: Smarter or Harder?

"And I always thought that it would make me smarter,
 But it's only made me harder."
R.E.M., "Near Wild Heaven".

I took a trip down memory lane earlier today by listening to some music I hadn't heard in, perhaps, twenty odd years. It was music that I used to listen to around the time of my initial experience of mental ill health, and, boy, did it pack an emotional punch. It reminded me of the time, around 1990, when I first left for university and a, supposedly, bright, new existence. Only thing was, I was going through the most emotionally turbulent time of my life. My girlfriend and I were in the process of splitting up, I was leaving home for the first time and all my friends, it seemed, were displeased with me for a variety of reasons, not least of which was an abiding low mood which had appeared to have come out of nowhere. The more I look back on it, though, the more I find it hard to delineate whether it was the low mood that appeared first, or if the low mood itself was a reaction to all these changes in my life.
Immediately prior to all this, though, this period had also been one of the most joyous in my life. I had been in love for the first time and my girlfriend and I had travelled together, been to the cinema together, eaten out together, gone to college together. Indeed, we seemed to do almost everything together, apart, that is, from move in with one another. So, as I listened to the strains of R.E.M.'s "Near Wild Heaven", I couldn't help but remember all the good times that we had shared.
However, I then remembered just how low I had become at that time, and the experience of first love and then unceremoniously losing it came back to me with a bang, and then I heard a lyric which I often would play over in my mind at that time- "I always thought that it would make me smarter, but it's only made me harder." Then, it was as if Michael Stipe and his band, who I am still a great fan of, had seen into my own experience and clarified it for me. It was as if they were saying what I actually felt at the time, which was that I had had an experience, and suffered for it. I felt that I had somehow become bereft of emotion. So, unlike Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner", who emerges from his ordeal "a sadder but a wiser man", I felt I was very much not particularly wiser, but numbed to feeling.
It is only with time that I think I have become that little bit wiser and some of that feeling has returned. But, still, I will never be the person I was then. He is lost some place in time never to be reclaimed. And I suppose it's just a part of growing up that we have to accept that we cannot reinhabit the past, as Gatsby has to learn so cruelly in F.Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, "The Great Gatsby".
I spoke only a couple of chapters ago of how my experience has led me to have a new and invigorated appreciation of life. This is true. But let it also be said, that perhaps like everyone, on their own streets of progress, I have become not only smarter, but harder.         


bazza said…
Are you looking at me? (Bazza's attempt to be 'hard', when in fact he is a bit of a softy!)
A very nice post David, with some interesting insight to yourself.
Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Dear bazza,
Well, I don't see anybody else here, so yeah, I'm looking at you (David attempting to emulate the hard Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver").
Actually, bazza, if truth be told, I am probably a bit of a softy, like your good self. In my post I was referring to how, perhaps, we can become tainted through experience, and, probably not even realising it, become tougher, or "harder". I think it's something that probably happens to everyone, either through being hurt or just growing up. And now I feel another R.E.M. song coming on- "everybody hurts, sometimes...". Fortunately for you, you cannot hear my voice!
Thanks bazza, and Very Best Wishes to you,
Perhaps, David, this 'hardness' you speak of was only a protective mechanism put in place to prevent you from experiencing more pain. We often build 'walls' around our hearts, hoping to remain safe behind them.

And change itself can create havoc within us. I have never done well with change. When something is good for me...I want it to stay that way.

'Everybody hurts, sometimes' - how true that is! It's amazing how music can carry us away, back to places both good and bad...

Great post, David,
David said…
Dear Mattie,
Thanks for your comment and I do agree, that the "hardness" I speak of is, perhaps, a protective thing, as you say. When you've been hurt, I suppose it is only natural to put up barriers to prevent that happening again. It's kind of sad, in a way, but I feel I have learnt a lot and perhaps emerged, if not the same person, then a new and reinvigorated one.
With Very Best Wishes,
dcrelief said…
HI David.
"The Great Gatsby" will always hauntingly be a favorite. I suppose 'Catcher in the Rye' influenced me some too. That inside need and want to remain in innocense; not know the world can be at odds with me, or I with it.

Can I build some walls? Lawdy yes! I've gone so far as to put a roof overhead as well. My self-blinding behavior accumulated in numbness. Who knows what events or people were involved? At the end it was only me asking the 'universal whatever it is' to let me feel something.

Country singer Trace Adkins sings a song titled," I want to feel something." He sings...'I want to feel anything to prove to me that I'm still alive.'

Staying in the moment keeps me focused on enjoying NOW. Yes, I loved some of yesterday, but some went down wrong. I no longer care or dwell on who I used to be. I like myself NOW.

You are one terrific writer! Thank you for this awesome post.
In peace,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Another interesting read. It's amazing how music can instantly transport us back to a moment, a memory, some good, some not so.
The music can give us a moment of reflection of how we were, then. Of course, you have moved onto a new and inspired time in your life. That's a most positive sign along your own road of discovery.
And I think you are just a bit of a lovable rogue, a smart lovable rogue.
Take care David. Just think, soon you will have the incredible pleasure of talking to me and discussing if we believe they put a man on the moon.
Kind wishes n'stuff, Gary.
David said…
Dear Dixie,
"The Great Gatsby" is a favourite of mine, too. And, I also like country music, especially Johnny Cash. In his version of Trent Reznor's "Hurt", he sings "I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel". I suppose it's along similar lines to the Trace Adkins lyric.
Having built up my own walls, I feel as if now they are beginning to come down, and like you, I kind of like myself for who I am now, not for who I was. We all have the capacity for change, I guess.
Thanks for your lovely comment dc, you seem to really understand where I'm coming from.
Take Care,
David said…
Dear Gary,
"Lovable rogue", moi? Why Gary, how kind of you. Mind you, with my ruggedly handsome "Robin Hood" looks and charming persona, perhaps I do deserve that particular monicker. And now I shall go and stand in front of the mirror for two hours!
Really, though, Gary, I am rather looking forward to your impending visit. A little scared, maybe, but looking forward to it all the same!
Thanks for keeping up with my blog and a bow and arrow, your way,

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