I mentioned to friends on Friday that I was planning to have a few drinks, despite K. not being around. A work colleague pointed out that drinking on his own was always an excuse to indulge in tunes from his youth on the CD player. I commented that he had a considerably cooler musical your than I did.
Indeed, my musical horizons only really expanded when I got to university. Or maybe they were in the process of expanding when I arrived there. I remember spending much of my exciting but lonely first term practically cocooned inside David Bowie’s “… Zingy Stardust….” In the spring I was eventually to emerge among Radiohead, Supergrass, Strangelove, Buzzcocks… But for those few months, I inhabited that one album more than any other.
This was the one that I listened to on Friday, drinking spirits I could neither enjoy nor afford back when it formed part of my consciousness. And I realised: when I first heard this was as distant from me now, as my first birthday was from me back then. When I started university I felt not just that eighteen years of age made one a substantial human being, but that my own eighteen were far fuller, and more eventful than anyone else’s. How should I feel now, looking back nearly another eighteen?
When I do so, I can recognise that boy, that man, that precocious and occasionally annoying teenager. I see him in his room in college, and I can feel what it was like to be in his skin. It breaks my heart to know that he’ll always be back there: stuck in the past, brimming with angst, and utterly bemused by the world. It breaks my heart again to think of all the doors that closed on him as he grew older.
But much as there’s dreams I can no longer dream – international rock-star, Nobel-winning physicist, hot new Granta prospect – there’s a part of me that’s relieved that the younger me dreamt them, so that I can now move on. And while I wouldn’t wish my earlier self to never have happened, I certainly wouldn’t wish to still be him.