Regaining My Edge Exploring the universal search for meaning and how through reflecting on one's past, one can move toward the future one desires

I have recently been engrossing myself in a deliberate process of identifying precisely what it is that I seek and desire in terms of my interactions with others. What spurned it on is the realization that I have found myself so occupied with working, living, and addressing a never-ending parade of immediately pressing needs that I had not engaged in that critical process in quite some time. When I finally did, I was shocked and appalled to discover that I had somehow allowed myself to neglect the very things that were critical to my self-identity. In other words, I suddenly found that I was losing my edge even though "I've never been wrong, I used to work in the record store, I had everything before anyone." "I was there" until I woke up one fine morning and realized that I wasn't there any longer...

Specifically, the previously constant pursuit and journey of discovering new music and other cultural artefacts, through which I had understood and discovered new aspects of my own self, had somehow fallen into neglect. Instead of prioritizing finding new music and being a part of the cultural circles composed of creators and associated fellow-travelers including critics, frequent concertgoers, and tusovshiks, I had become myopically focused on advancing my career and other surface-level materialistic pursuits such as attaining degrees and certificates, investing, and advancing my position in the world. The truly horrifying part of this is that I had always thought that that phase of my life was highly temporary, driven by strict necessity, and that I had not left behind that which was personally relevant and meaningful for very long at all.

In truth, however, when I finally took the time to take a step back and critically reflect, nine (9!) years had passed without notice since I had last been actively immersed in the world of art and culture in the genuine and direct sense. Indeed, the year was 2013 when I had last been truly in tune with that world. It is 2013 that is the last year for which I can say, without hesitation, that I was familiar with every major and significant record that was released. Since then, although I had naturally not stopped listening to music, I had settled into a pattern of comfort, of listening to what I already knew and loved. Consistently, year after year (x8), I failed to take the time and put in the effort to discover new records, and therefore failed myself in that I did not challenge myself and my tastes and thereby did not grow and develop throughout that period.

Naturally, it would be both rather dishonest and unfair to claim that that time was utterly wasted per se. It wasn't. During that time, I had achieved genuine accomplishments, things that I refuse to not assign their true value, but nevertheless, as somebody who had always held my cultural aspect to be a core part of my identity, it is an omittance of grave, great consequence. I have already resolved to right this wrong which I had wrought upon myself and have taken action to ensure that I both make up for lost time and do not allow useful distractions to ever again allow me to lose sight of what is most important. Meanwhile, time did not stand still and in trying to get back into it, I found that the universe has a funny sense of humor - somehow I went from being the kid with the borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered '80s that Murphy was describing to suddenly finding myself in Murphy's position, dumbfounded by the realization that the kids from France and from London were now coming up from behind me. And so it goes.

However, this same process of self-reflection also unexpectedly revealed to me with unexpectedly transparent clarity the specific aspect that I had been likewise felt to be missing in my relationships, interactions, entanglements, whatever term one might prefer. While I had indubitably met more than a handful of people that I value and hold dear, I had also, significantly, failed to meet a certain type of person which was undeniably a key factor as to exactly how and why I had found myself so unexpectedly distant from the cultural fountain-world in which I had once been entrenched, how I managed to find myself so parched from the absence of its nourishing and vivacious waters. As the people by which I had been by and large surrounded did not value nor prioritize the importance of art, I had, in turn, not been consistently reminded of its value. This is not an excuse; it is rather an attempt at a partial explanation.

In addition, my previously vague sense of discontent and dissatisfaction in the relationships that I had been involved over the past X years became starkly clear. In brief, I abruptly realized the cause of my then ill-defined feeling of near-universal distance from even (rather, especially) those that were, on the surface, closest to me. I unexpectedly came to realize precisely why I felt separated from them by a cloud of something that I could not describe nor put my finger on when I was discontinuing each interaction.

Particularly over the past five years, I have found myself repeating a pattern: meeting a woman, engaging her, and interacting with her closely, then feeling a cloud hang somewhere above and between myself and her, and consequently dissolving the relationship, sometimes getting caught in the resultant and rather dramatic thunderstorms. The reason why I highlight this is not in an effort to seek absolution or forgiveness, but because it never occurred to me until now that the underlying cause of this was always the same. Although the exact circumstances in which the dissolutions came to pass inevitably differed, the final precursor to me concluding that I had no option but to end things was always resultant from the same sort of deep-set frustration.

There was always this precursory feeling of deep annoyance, even aversion, that stemmed from the fact that I felt that each partner only engaged with the cultural elements that she did because I had mentioned them. She would only listen to a record because I told her to, would only read an article or a book because I suggested it, and so forth. This led me to feel like I was dragging all of them to things against their will, and it also made me feel like they were stealing something away from me, ironically because I can now see that I was, in times prior to that period, guilty of this myself. While I bring up things that I enjoy and value constantly, as I imagine any person who values culture does, I was perpetually doing this in efforts to find common ground, to have interesting discussions, and never in order to educate them. Therefore, them misinterpreting those actions aimed at finding commonality that derived from a desire to understand them better as a personal recommendation was not only exasperating, but even excruciating. What they seemingly could not seem to understand was that say, listening to an album because I had mentioned it was truly not the same thing as having something in common. As I once penetratingly said in the heat of an argument, that which is discovered due to somebody else's influence does not excuse nor alleviate one's barbaric mediocrity.

I found it impossible to not keep a mental tally of every single piece of evidence of their lack of cultural knowledge, which over the course of weeks or months inevitably and inexorably continued to add up. I firmly believe that there is a basic body of artistic works that one must be familiar with in order to be considered even a partially cultured person, and conversely, one that is ignorant of a sufficiently large number of such works is a savage, someone that has committed a crime, primarily upon themselves. The due punishment for it is expulsion, ostracism, exile, at the very least from the ranks of the people with whom I choose to interact. In my view, it went beyond taste, because while that aspect indeed ought to be accounted for, there are nevertheless fundamental monoliths of culture, ignorance of which definitively characterizes one an ignoble outsider. A related concept is the shibboleth - something that separates the in-group from the out-group, a simple but reliable method by which an intruder can be detected.

Thus, I abruptly came to understand precisely what underscored my desire to extricate myself from interactions with such people. However, I had also known those who were the antithesis to this type of person, and it was towards them that my ruminations took me next.

The nature of the feelings associated with this process was not of regret at all, as a surface-level interpretation might suggest. I did not and do not wish that I had done things differently. I had made the decisions that I made for a reason, and I did make them for good reasons, primarily because I wanted to discover myself independent of the influence of The Other. With that said, however, while I first established that which I did not desire, I now sought to understand what I want.

The past interactions that I continue to prize and have not come to subsequently rue were valuable because engaging with those women constantly inspired me to be more cultured, to be more involved in that sphere. They, without uttering a word, but merely by their existence and modes of being, led me to self-improve, to discover new music and art, to write more (including even this piece), and to grow in a meaningful manner. Each of them had in common that they always had something interesting to show me, were able to inspire me to further explore and discover my tastes, to delve deeper and to become more integrated in the cultural, alternative, and music scenes. After all, I have, for as long as I can recall, sometimes deliberately and sometimes subconsciously, sought to find a community of like-minded people, who shared alternative, underground views on culture and its application, politics. Thereby, if I neglected this most crucial life-pursuit, such a partner would, by her very effervescent essence, remind me of that which is truly important.

My greatest hesitation in terms of publishing this essay is not at all due to the fact that it is highly personal. As anyone who has followed my output over the years will certainly know, I have never been afraid of being self-revelatory, and the insights and catharses that I gain will forever outweigh any potential criticisms. Nay, my reluctance stems from a trepidation that most people would not be able to comprehend what I am trying to explain simply due to the fact that my greatest, highest, and most important desires simply are not desires that they possess.

To me it seems that most people are simply afraid of being alone and they begin to date, enter relationships, and subsequently marry people even if they do not like them, much less love them. They commit all of these acts in a state of perpetual desperation because they cannot face the terror that independence and solitude provoke within them. Therefore, that is the exact nature of my concern - that someone, particularly someone that I valued and held in high regard, would believe that I would want to reverse time and crawl backwards. Such an interpretation would obviously portray me in an unfair, inaccurate, and shallow light, and the desire to avoid such a misconstruing explains the great pains that I have gone to in order to be as precise as possible throughout this piece. There is also the secondary reticence which is simply due to the fact that I do not like expressing what I need or want, even if that is sometimes called maturity.

“Don't tell nobody what, what you really want because /
They can tell everybody else what you really want /
Then you're fucked”

A question that likely arises at this point is, "Well then, why does it matter to you that what you seek is acknowledged at all?" The question is indeed justified, but the answer is remarkably simple. It is important strictly because that is the nature of the type of connection that I seek, not in terms of somebody specific, but universally. If the self-perception that resulted from this reflection were not mirrored as true in the bright eyes of The Other, then that would cast aspersion upon both the premise of the thesis and the conclusions that I had drawn for myself. For instance, it could conceivably be claimed that, within my various interactions, I had failed to give anything back and inspire in return, that I sucked inspiration and cultural aspects out like a parasite, consumed, and gave nothing back.

I know, not to come across as braggadocious, that I am a highly interesting and exceptional person. However, what I am not completely certain of is whether I am able to inspire explicitly within the relationship paradigm. Conversely, if the aforementioned negative and horrible allegation were to be true, then that would imply that I have nothing to offer to that cultural, artistic, creative archetype of a person that I seek most. My desire to dispel that notion is far higher than the animalistic drive for intimacy. I know that I am able to fulfil that latter need, sure, but am I capable of inspiring The Other in the way that I want them to inspire me? If I do not, then why not? If I cannot, then how do I gain that ability? Ultimately, it is about a somewhat Randian desire for mutual benefit in any relationship, regardless of whether it is romantic, intimate, or platonic. I always want to give something back and have something valuable to offer instead of being a leech, to borrow her vernacular.

Finally, as much as I wish that this could be distilled down into a brief, enigmatic message, I have found that task impossible. Most crucially, I want this to be taken as closely as possible to how I intended and meant it, and not to be misunderstood by the myriad surface-level ways that it could be - as some kind of desperate, disgusting, and despicable cry of "I need you / I miss you / I want you in my life." I loathe and despise that attribute when I perceive it in others, and I would never forgive myself if that were how I came across to someone who had mattered to me.

Ultimately, I want whatever woman I engage with seriously and with whom I would eventually settle down, to be a cultural creator of some kind, and moreover, I want her creations to be made better due to my presence in her life. I can only respect someone who is utterly uncompromising in who they are, who proffers no apology for that which they are, and who understands and appreciates that I will give them the same in return. Although I want each of us to strive to become our best version of self and to push The Other toward the same goal with all our might, I nevertheless have never and will never tolerate anyone who expects that I change. Instead, I want each of us to strive for self-perfection for our own sake, enabling one another on that journey.

To give a concrete and relevant example, if say she were a musician, then I would want the records that she put out following the beginning of our relationship to be the best that she had ever made, and for each proceeding one to outshine the last.

Thus, in sum, this is what I want out of a relationship. For me: to constantly become more cultured and connected to the artistic world, not out of acquiescence, but naturally, just because that would be a fundamental aspect of how we interact. For her: to have her creations be made better due to my influence, or to be more specific, my presence, the essence of my existence and who I am. I want us to embark and eternally remain on a mutual, never-ending journey of perpetual self-discovery and self-improvement, intensified and improved by that aspect of mutuality.