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October 10, 2014 | movie reviews

Life before Boyhood

Victor Freeze

Life before Boyhood photo

I’m 23-years-old going through a mid-life crisis. Well, not quite mid-life considering I’m convinced I have less than seven years left to live. I’m not entirely suicidal or hopeless or anything. I just have to keep in mind how clumsy I am and how terrible my luck is. No matter how careful I try to be, with credentials like that there’s no way I’m gonna successfully climb my way too far up the aging ladder. In all honesty, I guess I always just assumed that I’d accidentally kill myself or get killed doing something stupid before I’d get to 3o. Life is just tough.

I was recently fired from my job. I re-entered the restaurant 3o minutes after closing to retrieve my phone charger that I accidentally left behind. I was under the assumption that the head chef or the GM would still be there filing paper work or doing inventory or something. I was wrong. I entered the key code to the back door like I always did to gain access and a fucking alarm went off.

The following day when interrogated by my boss I stuck with my story of not being able to hear the alarm because I was listening to this loud and heavy local punk band, Couches. My statement about not hearing the alarm was mostly true. Through my headphones I heard a faint ringing and choose to ignore it. But what was I to do; it was too late and the alarm had already been set off.

They were convinced that my phone charger wasn’t my only motive for entering the store after hours and were just waiting for a good excuse to terminate me so they let me go for: “Entering the premises w/o permission.”

I personally didn’t see the point of having a specialized key code if an alarm was gonna go off anyway but I digress.

Whatever. So they fired me. They were a bunch of up-tight phony snobs anyway. The General Manager, Susan is in her mid to late 20s and supposedly had several ulcers from stressful workdays if that’s any indicator.

So, if you’re ever in Charlotte, NC and you are in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood on Central Ave, do not go to a vegetarian/vegan restaurant because they serve expired tofu.

On top of losing my job, I haven’t had a concrete place to stay for the past three months. I’ve been looking for spots with two friends of mine but our financial situation has been hindering us. I’ve been staying on a couch at a friend’s house but they have two annoying dogs. One of which ate the whole front of my shoe and the other who takes on the role of my alarm clock at 7 a.m. by jumping on me and licking my face and breathing in my mouth. Their house isn’t the tidiest either but they are v nice people who allow me and my other “homeless” friend to stay there free of charge until we get back on our feet. I’m not sure how long that’s going to last though.

I also haven’t been in school for two years and I’ve been growing frustrated about my future and the world that I’ve been bred into.

So, I was jobless.
Homeless.
Misguided and lost.

I had hit rock bottom.

Apathy and nihilism had seeped into my thoughts and I couldn’t dodge the feelings no matter how hard I tried.

I didn’t want to live because there was no afterlife.
I didn’t see the point in struggling and being miserable if I was just going to die one day.
I hated that our lives revolved around obtaining currency in order to live a comfortable life.
I hated that the journey to obtaining currency brought me and everyone I know to stress and mundaneness.
I didn’t agree with the education system.
I despised that there was evil and evil people in the world.
The food cycle upset me.
The meat packaging industry upset me.
The concept of advertising with its stupid subliminal messages and terrible attempts to rouse people upset me.

I was blinded by the negatives in life. Bogged down six feet beneath the ground on the bad side of life’s teeter-totter covered in mud and shit.

To add to the shit pile, my friend unknowingly compounded my grief with a cynical anecdote comparing life in the US and life in oppressive and suppressed countries. He said, “At least they are aware and can see the cages they have been put into. The problem with the country we live in is that we cannot see the bars or the parameters of our cage. We are boxed into an invisible cage.”

Fuck.

Idk, pessimistic thoughts were consuming me. I was wallowing in my filthy self-pity and hatred which was causing me to question my existence. I needed to speak to someone about this and who better to call than the person who birthed me into this mess. We hadn’t spoken in weeks and right out the gate I asked her things like:

“Why did you want me to exist?”

or

“What was my purpose?”

and

“What were your expectations of me as human being?”

What the fuck was wrong with me? That’s the stupid kinda shit that you shouldn’t soberly be asking your mother at 2 p.m. on a Thursday. But in the moment it felt necessary and I spoke my mind to her. I spewed all of my worries and tribulations on top of her and I don’t think she was ready.

I could hear in her voice that she was worried about me. She tried to tell me things like, “happiness comes from within” and “be the change you wanna see in the world” but I couldn’t accept these things because it was hard to be happy when everything I saw outside of myself angered me. It was hard to be the change I wanted to be without getting arrested or killed or becoming a hobo. I was being an asshole and playing devil’s advocate and of course she couldn’t understand. She thought I was being overly dramatic and probably thought I was on the verge of a suicidal breakdown. But I wasn’t. I was just disgusted and disgruntled with dystopia.

I think too much.
I over-analyze too much.
It sucks.

By the end of the conversation her positivity had not helped me and she wanted me to return home and stay with her for a while until I got my shit together. She suggested a few months.

(We compromised on a weekend.)

So I boarded a train the next day, traveled three hours and my mother picked me up from the train station in Raleigh with my 12-year-old sister in the car and she immediately intervened into my smug mentality by telling me positive things and explaining that some things are just fucked up and that we need to focus on the good things in the world. She couldn’t understand how at my age I could even be contemplating things like this. I was having 4o-year-old thoughts at 23.

She compared my upbringing to hers in the '70s and '80s and said that my siblings and I had it easy. And by that she meant that she provided a bunch of materialistic things for us growing up; things like toys and television privileges—-shit that little kids want and love because they know nothing about the world. She said she never thought about the things I was thinking about when she was my age. I told her that I grew up in an age of limitless information and knowledge at my fingertips.

We have the capacity to learn whatever we want whenever we want and because of this maybe we just know too much. We spend a lot of time doing nothing but filling our brains so maybe we ultimately think too much. We’re highly exposed to what goes on around us in the world and we think we know how to process it and really it kind of just fucks us up.

She thought all of this was a bad thing and I kind of agreed but at the same time I didn’t. Even though I despised some of my negative thoughts, I don’t know if I’d trade it for blissful ignorance. 

The next day my mother wanted to hang out to take my mind off of things and I didn’t know of an activity that we could do together. She doesn’t drink so the bars were out of the question. She doesn’t do drugs either.

I checked online for any art galleries but I couldn’t find one that interested me. Then it struck me. What’s something people do all the time with their parents?

They go see fucking movies!

I hadn’t seen one in theaters in a long time. I didn’t even know what was in theaters. Wes Anderson’s latest was somewhat recent in my head but when I checked, it wasn’t there. There wasn’t anything out worth spending money on for a good “movie theater experience.”

Earlier in the summer my friend Kimber had introduced me to a film called Slacker directed by Richard Linklater and I ended up loving it. I heard that he had recently released a film that took like 11 years to make and I was sold. I had to see it.

My mother had surprisingly heard of the film and admitted that I would be the only person who would actually be willing to go see it with her. I found an indie theater that sold booze and we chose the ripe screening time of 8 o’ clock and it was date.

The decision was made in the morning and we parted ways after breakfast.

She probably sat at home watching television or yapping on the phone as I met up with some old co-workers from a deli that I used to work at and we spent the day freestyle rapping and pounding 40s. 

I returned home around 7:3o so that my mother and I could ride to the theater together. While in the car she complained that I reeked of body odor and booze and mentioned that I shouldn’t walk around smelling homeless. I told her that I was homeless. I also mentioned that it was natural for humans to smell that way. She warned me of drinking (like she always did) because my father’s side of the family had a re-occurring history of alcohol abuse. I told her that having such a strong lineage of alcoholics in the family made me immune to all of the negative side effects of alcohol. I've never been hung over. I've never blacked out (except for that one time Lysol interfered) and I have never turned into a violent or belligerent asshole while under the influence.

We were making good time on the way to the theater with the intention of missing the previews and I was playing The Growlers and King Krule through the radio fighting the urge to smoke a Camel Red as she called the cable company complaining about a technical issue with her bedroom television.  

When we finally arrived, we stood in line behind a bunch of hip college kids and a bunch of once-upon-a-time hip college kids. I saw a sign on the glass of the ticket booth that said, “cash only” and neither of us had any cash. Luckily there was a Food Lion next door so we ran inside to find something to purchase in order to get cash back. My mother bought Cheetos popcorn and we returned to the theater with our cash in hand. As we waited to get our tickets my mother was figuring out a way to hide that bag of Cheetos popcorn under her jacket.

 

Considering my recent contemplations about life and my conversations with my mother about my feelings, Boyhood was the film that the universe wanted us to see together. I think it was most definitely a relatable film for any competent viewer because it involved concepts of adolescence and parenthood while giving very logical perspectives from each point of view.   

As I observed the mother in the film I noticed how stressful she seemed trying to hold her family together. She was multitasking between responsibilities as a mom while still trying to maintain a life for herself. I felt sympathy for her. And then I started to feel guilty because I was sitting right next to my own mother who probably recognized a lot of herself in Patricia Arquette’s character. It’s pretty fucked up to admit but I never felt too much sympathy for what my mom had to go through as a single mother raising three children. 

The things my mother had to do all by herself to sustain a family seemed highly admirable. Unlike in Boyhood my parents weren’t separated by choice. My brother (who is three years younger) and I shared the same father and he died when I was five. 

After some time passed my mother eventually became lonely and returned to the dating world. I heard men’s voices downstairs sometimes after their night out but I never really met any of them because I guess she didn’t want us getting attached to a guy who probably wouldn’t stick around. 

Eventually she got serious with one dude and was accidentally knocked up and had my sister when I was 11 and she was 4o. It was her decision to keep it because she really wanted a girl. 

Thankfully she never married the asshole who gave her a daughter but it didn’t stop him from trying to teach me how to "be a man” whenever he was around. This guy had three different baby mamas so I never gave a shit about his advice.

Similar to the film, my mother saw him for the controlling and unstable piece of shit that he was and dumped him. Unlike the film, my mom had a kid with one of her serious flings so there was no escaping him fully like Patricia Arquette did with her two ex-husbands.

I guess from my little sister’s perspective her scumbag dad is kind of like Ethan Hawke (the father in the film) to her but not as cool obviously.

As I watched the movie and reflected and applied it to my own life, I not only learned to appreciate my mother, but ultimately I realized that the only way I could get rid of all the terrible feelings I was having over the past few days was to somehow regain my innocence that I once had in my childhood.

Before the film I had been under so much fucked up mental scrutiny. When I was a kid I was in such a rush to grow up and do fun adult shit. When I was finally introduced to the bullshit I was in such a rush to have, I didn’t even want adulthood anymore. 

Earlier I said that blissful ignorance was a copout but fuck that. I want my child-like innocence back. I want to tap into my adolescent mind state that once allowed me to be free and happy with no worries.

Lately, the only way I’ve been able to find such joyous pleasures have been through hallucinogenic drugs or MDMA and that’s nice for a while but it don’t last forever and that’s probably why they call it a “trip.”

I guess during the film one could say that I had an epiphany.   

If I relieved myself from 'negative thoughts' and allowed myself to feel utter jubilation then maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad. If I could feel that way on drugs then maybe I could feel that way sober.

I thought that if I focused on doing things that I enjoyed I’d be able to distract myself from the decay in my brain.

I’m fully aware that this solution may seem like an escapist route but by escaping and dedicating my time and energy into something positive like watching Boyhood (which made me feel happy to be alive) or a Woody Allen film, I can feel good again. By pre-occupying my mind I feel as if though I can find true happiness. I have to treat my moments of deprecation as an illness and my medicine is my hobbies.

My medicine is my favorite song.
My medicine is my alcohol.
My medicine is my drugs.
My films.
A good read.
My medication is the company of a beautiful woman.
My medicine is visiting friends I haven’t seen in a while who I love dearly.
My medicine is finding ways to secrete as much serotonin as possible.

 

And when the film finally ended I felt rejuvenated. I felt better about myself and life.

As my mother and I were walking out of the theater to the car I decided to tell her what was happening in my head. I told her, that in a sense, the movie had cured me.

As we rolled through the Taco Bell drive-thru I continued to tell her about my epiphany which really wasn’t much of an epiphany at all. It was her advice and the advice of others all along that finally began trickling down into my brain, saturating my grim perception of life.

When we were finally on the same page she responded with an overall “duh” tone of voice as if she had found the answers years ago and had been trying to tell me but I just wouldn’t listen.

I always make things more difficult than they have to be but after I accepted that most things are shitty and after I realized that I can be in control of the way I choose to view life, I understood that I didn’t have to be a sad sappy piece of shit all of the time. 

Sucks that it took me this long to figure it out because like I said, I probably only have less than seven years left to live. 

 

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