Pinch yourself and hit send

One of my favourite simple pleasures in life is rediscovering songs from the 90s – and in particular, the one-hit wonders. My most recent nostalgia hit is Pinch Me by the Barenaked Ladies. Remember them? Yeah!

Ten years ago to the day, I posted this brief status update to Facebook (in the third person – I guess that’s how we did it back in the olden days):

Intriguing! So … what was my youth all about again?

Naturally I set off to find out. I brought up YouTube in my browser and found the original video clip for the song:

I’m not sure what I meant when I said the lyrics sum up my childhood. I guess I’ve always had a semi-charmed life (there’s another 90s hit for ya!) in the sense that I still don’t understand how I am a functioning adult. I have to stop and pinch myself sometimes, in a manner of speaking.

But really what struck me listening to this song today is that Pinch Me is the ultimate quarter-life crisis anthem. Take a look at the lyrics and you’ll see it’s about inertia and asking “What the hell am I doing with my life?” (I’ve copied the lyrics in at the end of this post, along with an awesome acoustic version of the song).

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Photo credit: Hernán Sánchez.

I wonder if this is how I was feeling way back in 2008. When I posted that status update, I was sitting in a little dorm room with creaky wooden floorboards in a baroque building in Madrid. I was halfway through a university exchange – my first time living overseas solo.

That semester abroad was a game changer, as you can imagine.

I can picture myself sitting there with a little print of van Gogh’s Sunflowers on the wall, battling with my painfully slow ethernet connection, reflecting on my sheltered Canberra childhood. It wasn’t that life was easy, per se – it’s just it was easy enough to put me into autopilot.

I could walk but I’ll just drive

I could leave but I’ll just stay
All my stuff’s here anyway

Perhaps I felt that prior to my time in Spain I had been asleep, had a notion there was so much more to life but felt stuck in Canberra, in uni. I didn’t want to be that guy singing this song at twentysomething, thirtysomething.

Sometimes that quarter-life crisis never really goes away and evolves instead into a third-life malaise.

The particulars might vary, but maybe that describes you and maybe you feel a sense of inertia. You could be mooching your life away at home trying occasionally to “see the world beyond your front door.” Or you could be successful in your career, get to travel, have nice things and people you call friends yet sometimes catch yourself thinking:

On an evening such as this
It’s hard to tell if I exist
If I pack the car and leave this town

Who’ll notice that I’m not around

Is this you?

You try to scream but it only comes out as a yawn.

It’s simultaneously hilarious and tragic.

Recently, I wrote this article about a guy who grew up poor in India and worked super hard to reach his dream of working in Silicon Valley. He got there, had all the stuff – but something wasn’t quite right.

He told me it took him two weeks to put in his resignation. He had the email drafted but he couldn’t get himself to hit ‘send’. One time he did click the button, but overcome by self-doubt, dashed over to the router and unplugged it before the email could land in his boss’s inbox.

He said, “Everybody has a ‘send’ button. But you have to leave somewhere to get somewhere.”

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Photo credit: Cris Saur.

I can think of a bunch of instances where I did that. A few times that involved physically leaving one place for another. Other times it was big and small – but significant – decisions to change the way I live or move in one direction and not another.

Fortunately I don’t generally feel I’ve been wasting my time, my life. I like to think I’m pretty purposeful in the way that I live. But every now and then I get the sense I’m starting to slip into autopilot, like life drives itself and I could microsleep my way through the week. Every now and then I’m conscious of not being as awake as I could be.

In a way this is something we have to do regularly, then. Daily, even. We’ve gotta pinch ourselves to bring ourselves into today – and hit ‘send’ on the things we need to leave behind in yesterday.

*

Pinch Me

by The Barenaked Ladies

It’s the perfect time of year
Somewhere far away from here
I feel fine enough, I guess
Considering everything’s a mess
There’s a restaurant down the street
Where hungry people like to eat
I could walk but I’ll just drive
It’s colder than it looks outside
Like a dream you try to remember but it’s gone
(Pinch me) Then you try to scream but it only comes out as a yawn
(I’m still asleep) When you try to see the world, beyond your front door
(Please God) Take your time, is the way I rhyme gonna make you smile
(Tell me) When you realise that a guy my size might take a while
(I’m still asleep) Just to try to figure out what all this is for
It’s the perfect time of day
To throw all your cares away
Put the sprinkler on the lawn
And run through with my gym shorts on
Take a drink right from the hose
And change into some dryer clothes
Climb the stairs up to my room
Sleep away the afternoon
Like a dream you try to remember but it’s gone
(Pinch me) Then you try to scream but it only comes out as a yawn
(I’m still asleep) When you try to see the world, beyond your front door
(Please God) Take your time, is the way I rhyme gonna make you smile
(Tell me) When you realise that a guy my size might take a while
(I’m still asleep) Just to try to figure out what all this is for
Pinch me, pinch me, cause I’m still asleep
Please God tell me that I’m still asleep
On an evening such as this
It’s hard to tell if I exist
If I pack the car and leave this town
Who’ll notice that I’m not around
I could hide out under there
I just made you say “underwear”
I could leave but I’ll just stay
All my stuff’s here anyway

Any comments, thoughts? I'd love to hear from you :)

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