When you get older, plainer, saner
Will you remember all the danger we came from?
– LP, “Lost on You”
A day or two before I started writing this, I learned that there was going to be a book fair just off campus, at Bilkent Center, from October 27 to November 4. At first I thought about going. I looked at my schedule, and actually tried to prioritize the things I had already been thinking about doing. And then I decided to do something else instead of going to the fair. But as I made this decision, something felt weird.
I actually had the same weird feeling earlier this year, as my family and I were moving to another house and I was trying to collect stuff from my old room. I looked at the crumpled sheets of newsprint hanging all over my wardrobe. Yes, I was that girl who, after reading literary magazines, used their pages to write song lyrics on, to write down poetry, band names, quotes, words…coloring in the empty spaces, spending some entire nights on this. And here I was looking at the walls and my wardrobe, and deciding that I just didn’t want to keep any of that anymore.
Has this ever happened to you, that something you once found really exciting somehow slipped away from you at some point in your life, and you didn’t even notice? Or that some hazy, dreamy ideas and some enthusiasms you had just aren’t there anymore? Once you do notice this, you feel that something has happened – that you’ve changed, or maybe you’ve grown up. Going back to the fair issue, I know an “I” who would been so excited to go to a fair, to a reading, insanely eager to meet authors and poets and talk to them. This doesn’t happen anymore, and maybe not surprisingly, there are many other things like that that don’t happen either.
LP opens her popular song “Lost on You” singing, “When you get older, plainer, saner, will you remember all the danger we came from?” Although it’s mainly a song about love (and I’m not talking about love here), and although I don’t write song lyrics all over my walls anymore, I still have a thing about words, and to hear such an impressive song open with these three words, used together for a particular meaning, still excites me. Old, plain, sane. A claim of association, meaning the artist has observed that as you get older, you get saner too, and also somehow plainer. It’s difficult to understand what would make us say that we’ve gotten older if we haven’t turned 80 or 90 all of a sudden. There must be some determinants of this, and so we’re saying that being plain and sane indicates being older.
Let’s talk about being saner first. It can simply mean rationalizing things more and putting logic into what you think and how you act. You analyze situations more and don’t let the emotions from a particular situation overwhelm you. For instance, I could still have written this column even if I had decided to go to the fair; it’s not that. The change here is that I don’t insanely love some things the way I did before, although I may still enjoy them. This, I think, is being saner. And what about being plainer? Well, the walls of my room in the new house – they’re plainer now.
Yes, at some point as time passes, you just lose some of the enthusiasm for whatever it was you used to do before, and let logic prevent you from being so ecstatic about things now. People who went to the fair probably had their own logic for planning their weekend, and went there with that mindset. And if we consider the authors who were there, even they may see their art more as a profession now and don’t let themselves get completely lost in it the way they once may have done. And this is also fine.
Don’t fall into the romantic notion, based on what I’ve written here, of thinking how nice it would be if you were younger than whatever age you are now. See, I’ve never lost that notion, it’s part of who I am; I just don’t build my life around it anymore, and that’s actually beautiful. I know that I’m still young, and I know that when I look back at this time when I’m older, there’ll still be things that will bring back the same weird feeling again. I know that a few years later, I’ll look back at the things I’m doing now and call this phase of my life “college days.” That’s probably why you don’t just change one time and your interests all of a sudden change too. It’s also possible that maybe there is no causal relationship – that being old doesn’t cause the “plainer and saner,” but instead they all happen together. It’s more like a continuing process of wanting to move forward. Life sometimes gets so monotonous, and so you escape into something else and then something else; this then becomes a kind of routine that leads you to move on. As you do, you also grow up.
However, although this process continues throughout your life, it seems like it’s most evident after early adulthood and the teenage years are gone, maybe because during those years you’re more reckless and so far from being plain because you’re constantly searching yourself, adding new personalities to yourself, trying them on because you have the energy to do so. Remember that all revolutions are made by the young: young people getting rebellious about the way things are, getting drunk on ideas, on works of art, on love, on music. Think about how many people will tell you that they had a band when they were in high school, if you happen to ask them.
Me? Well, I had one too….