I found my fossilised younger self at the edge of the village – a frozen effigy of the potential I had left behind. It didn’t look like me – they were a lot shinier than I had ever been, because they grew up in an age of positive reinforcement. My whole existence is typified by that sketch by Eddie Izzard where a guy scales down his ambition from being an astronaut to buying a pair of shoes.
I grew up inside a prophylactic. Thatcher’s sale pitch of upward mobility worked if you were earning enough, but for most people the eighties were about AIDS, heroin, and unemployment. My heroes were Yozzer from Boys From The Blackstuff, and though I never took heroin, Trainspotting really resonated.
The past is an awkward handshake in a choked atmosphere of stagnant history; it’s burned up rocket fuel. But the people you are talking to wouldn’t understand the way you feel, and it’s a cruel viewpoint, but as you stand there answering a questionnaire that seems to have been handed around the village, you feel like it is stuck on some kind of temporal loop. And when you step away from it you know it will just drop back into an entropic recursive feedback loop.
The same songs are on the radio – the digital radio now, with no DJ, and they’re classic. This is where we’re at. Your past is the fat in your arteries that’s going to stop your heart, but it tastes like comfort food, and you’re spooning it into your mouth.
You gave up on wearing belts and shifted to elasticated pants. You gave up on running and took up walking with a Fitbit. You gave up on walking and you’re playing the 30th iteration of SIMs. It gives the impression of being a life, and you’ve been sharing updates and photographs, so it must be.
Our feeds and our streams and our walls remember our anniversaries and regurgitate them for us. Everything is an algorithm. Everything is accessible. Everything is something you can apply a metric to. Everything is an atemporal morass where the past and the present haunt and interrogate each other – overlapping, interleaving, breathing in the remix.
Some days you just wish for an air-gapped life – a life where the intelligent speaker doesn’t wake you up, where the social media doesn’t repackage your past fro you, where you don’t count your steps, update your feed, or selfie. Some days you don’t want to be stuck at what you perceive to be the midway point – you are preserved in the amber of your past decisions, waiting for the light to change and let you go forward into the remainder of your life.
The first moment you say “You’ll never believe this about me, but I used to (have, be, do)”, something fundamental has changed about you and your relationship to who you are and the world.