Memories of Things Nobody Cares About

Will Leitch, in his newsletter, spent most of it focused on his favorite movie of last year, The Worst Person in the World. The movie is about Aksel, a 43-year-old man who is dying of pancreatic cancer and reflects on his life. I have not seen the movie, but Leitch says the movie’s protagonist makes a realization that the things he cared about were meaningless.

Leitch quotes an Aksel monologue from the movie that feels revelatory in my own life.

I’d given up long before I got sick. Really. I just watch my favorite old movies over and over. Lynch, The Godfather Part II”… How many times can you watch Dog Day Afternoon”? Sometimes I listen to music I haven’t heard before. But it’s old as well. Music I didn’t know about, but from when I grew up. It felt as though I’d already given up. I grew up in an age without Internet and mobile phones. I sound like an old fart. But I think about it a lot.

The world that I knew has disappeared. For me it was all about going to stores. Record stores. I’d take the tram to Voices in Grünerløkka. Leaf through used comics at Pretty Price. I can close my eyes and see the aisles at Video Nova in Majorstua. I grew up in a time when culture was passed along through objects. They were interesting, because we could live among them. We could pick them up. Hold them in our hands. Compare them. Like books. That’s all I have. I spent my life doing that. Collecting all that stuff, comics, books. And I just continued, even when it stopped giving me the powerful emotions I felt in my early 20s. I continued anyway. And now it’s all I have left. Knowledge and memories of stupid, futile things nobody cares about.

Leitch chimes in with his own reflection on memories of stupid, futile things nobody cares about.”

Aksel is dying, so his memories have an extra urgency and sadness. But it can feel like dying sometimes, to know that everything you valued your entire adult life, and thought would last as profoundly important, has gone away. And nobody really noticed, or cared.

I remember when the mysteries of Lost were what everyone was talking about. I remember the transition from the musical domination of Sunset Strip bands to the Seattle sound and understanding a shift was taking place. I remember a time when I didn’t want an iPhone. These were fundamentally important things in my life at that time. Today? Not so much.

And then Leitch drops this killer paragraph:

Part of getting older is recognizing that the things you care about are not the things everybody else cares about, and being comfortable with that. Deep down, I don’t really care whether or not anyone thinks being a Wilco fan makes me washed,” or if you think the third greatest rom-com of all time is freaking You’ve Got Mail (????!!!!!), or you don’t like watching college basketball, or if you get bored reading. I love Wilco, I love college basketball, I love reading, those things provide me pleasure, and if they don’t do that for you, I can’t do anything about that … and it doesn’t take anything away from my pleasure. There was a time that I would have obsessed over persuading you that you were wrong, that these things are fantastic and that you should come be a part of them with me, all the powerful emotions I felt in my early 20s. But it’s fine now. I like too much salt on my french fries, I like Rhone running shirts and Tracksmith running shorts, I like to sit in the third row at movie theaters, I like my car seat pushed farther back than the length of my leg necessarily requires. I like things the way I like them, and I’m comfortable with that. I don’t need you to be. And you shouldn’t need me to be comfortable with whatever you like.

It’s good to like what you like from back in the day,” but time inches ever more into the future. Maybe I’m just getting old and set in my ways just like Leitch.

I like my own personal remembrances and what I care about others might not, but I guess one can get lost in the way it used to be and forget to focus on the here and now and the future.

That’s the trick, isn’t it? I like to strike a balance on enjoying what I like and embracing something new. It’s hard, but worth it. Because I don’t want to leave this world with just memories of stupid, futile things nobody cares about.”

April 27, 2022