I’m too young to be thinking this much about getting old.
Last Friday, I zoomed across the state to catch the emo icons Jimmy Eat World play a show in the Hudson Valley. I’ve never cared a whole lot for their music, but I thought I may as well go see them at least once.
Jimmy Eat World is known for their angsty but fiery enthusiasm which centered them in the turn-of-the-millennium glory days of their genre. Their straightforward and radio-friendly hits have remained a favorite to establish the time period in TV shows and movies, and the chorus of “The Middle” can still bring comfort to tweens desperate to figure out their place in the world.
Jimmy Eat World is verifiably middle-aged now, as all of the members are in their mid-40s. Their fans, too, have aged as they held onto the teenage angst they had when Bleed American was released in 2001. The age of the crowd averaged somewhere in the mid-30s on Friday, and they had noticeably lost something along the way.
Sometime between when their parents yelled at them to turn down the stereo in their high school bedrooms and their married lives without mortgages because of their extravagant avocado toast habits, their raucousness faded. I should have expected it, but I was unimpressed. One of the great joys had drained from the show, but more surprisingly, I was scared by it.
I have no idea what was going on in their heads, but many of the fans could barely bother a head bump at a band which they have presumably appreciated for decades. I have already seen the pure, awe-inspiring, life-altering, heart-stopping, bliss-inducing joy which teenage me felt at concerts fade to some extent, but is their still observance of the show the continuance of it? Have they lost much their joy, or are they just less performative of it?
I’m so scared that all of the beauty I see in the world and the concrete joy it brings me will slowly fade out until all I can do is nod to my favorite song by my favorite band being performed five feet in front of me.
Is it because they work a nine to five? Is it because they pay rent? Is it because they have decreased existential angst? Is it because they have increased existential angst? Is it because they have become acculturated to a socioeconomic system that commodifies and exploits their labor, depreciates their personal agency and constrains their ability to seek out and experience what will bring them fulfillment?
The place where art and entertainment come together — where an aesthetic appreciation and enjoyable experiences multiply their impact into something far better — is my favorite place to exist in. I think it’s just about the most exciting and valuable part of being a human. And it’s already barricaded in so many ways: exclusionary cost or location, competition for time that’s commodified and demanded by other aspects of life, biases in culture and politics. It’s surely a privilege to be able to worry about it instead of, you know, surviving and meeting basic needs. But I hope that, with appropriate care and thought, I won’t let it fade away as I find my way in the unsheltered adult world.
And maybe there’s hope on the other side. I’ve seen so many old people go hard. Have you ever watched an older person reliving their glory days at a classic rock show? They are experiencing the purest exhilaration there is. They dance. They sing. They embarrass their children and everyone else’s. It seems like there’s an age threshold above which older people decide that their inhibitions are no longer necessary, and just go wild. But do I have to suffer through a middle-age of boringness and self-moderation to get there? That doesn’t seem very punk rock.
Katie Sims is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Resident Bad Media Critic runs alternate Tuesdays this semester.