The Blog

The Art of Moving On

One can change their city. One can change their friends. One can change their job. One can change their hairstyle. What one cannot do, is change their experience.

Life is actually something that happens. It occurs. We like to think it is all about decisions, because it gives us more control. But we do not do Life. Life happens.

A person, as a matter of fact, simply exists for a period of time. Doing so as we must, we inevitably accumulate suffering. There are, however, glorious moments where joy takes its revenge, and without any precedent, we may find ourselves laughing at things. Sometimes I consider particular moments, these are moments where I say to myself, right there and then, I was so happy.

Christopher Hitchens, the late writer whom I so terribly adore, once attended a photography exhibition. Included, were old photographs of him and his closest friends. Something he wrote I have not forgotten. The only thing he had in common with the person in the photographs that were clearly him, is that they were the same person. I understand. Often, I glare upon old photographs of my dearest friends and me, and I ponder, who were we then? I ponder furthermore, not only of the way we were, but wonder who are we now?

One can change their city. One can change their friends. One can change their job. One can change their hairstyle. What one cannot do, is change their experience.

It is only in recollection that we appreciate the significance of our experience, we determine its meaning, we use our intelligence, comprehend emotional connections. Edna O'Brien, the Grand Dame of Irish letters, wrote that all each of us leave one another. We outgrow one another. We die. Sometimes, we indeed do grow closer. Sometimes too close. We reconnect with those from our past. I find that some people I was close to are drifting away, and away from them too, so do I. I am stubborn when choosing who populates my closest circle. I also distance myself from those who no longer feel right for me at any given time. This delegation is a most considerate and deliberate process deployed only when deemed justified. I am also delighted at the inclusion of new friends, the excitement, the freshness.

Amongst all of this, transactions take place. Anyone with whom one has ever been close, have contributed to whom one is today, and contribute to them also does oneself. We are not altogether trapped by who we are, nor are we as free as we would seem to enjoy.

We live in our own private drama. Surrounded by our closest friends and our family. Then there are those with whom we see only on occasion. Things branch out.

I left Dublin to go to New York. People who do this say they go "to find work". They do not. They go to find their own personality.

I grew up naively falling for this stupid romantic vision of New York. My Irish contemporaries, most of the ones that I know, do not understand what this means. They are totally oblivious to it all. They have about them no history. No understanding of the New York counter culture. I have friends that live here and don't know who Andy Warhol was. I am not exaggerating. I find it perfectly incomprehensible to live in a place ignorant of its recent history.

I spent years anticipating the New York that was full of junkies, porn shops and prostitutes, provocative night-clubs, dodgey characters, beat poets, drag queens and pier kids, factory people and artists. It's not like that now, and living here I am strikingly aware of that. I have come too late. Other Irish people my age come here oblivious to everything that ever was, all twinkly-eyed and full of shit, sending back unimaginative reports to their friends at home about the place they know nothing of, and how awesome it is, and how delightful is life. What I mean to say, is that they lie. Young people like to keep up appearances, that is why so many of them suffer from depression. I know I sound horrid and cutting, but I believe it.

I seen Paulo Sorrentino's most recent film, "Youth", just the day before yesterday. Paulo Sorrentino is, without a doubt, my favourite living director. His films are instilled and laden with the most immaculate beauty, capturing the moments when nothing much happens, which happens, to be life most of the time. There is a poignant scene where Michael Caine looks into a canary's cage and says, "I'm old now, but I don't know how I got here." I often wonder do we ever know how we've gotten here. What it teaches us, is that there are no cities, there is the internal life. It is all about what is inside, and that is universal. We were all young once, and we will get old. There will be some love, some envy, some illness, some loss, some desire, some ambition, some failure.

Living in a city like New York one cannot comprehend the immensity of all those around oneself. Each living a life as vivid and complex as ones own. I wonder about their love lives, their work, their losses, their mistakes, their home. I wonder, but I'm not sure how much I care.

So we return to our own private drama. Different people provide us with friendships we need at particular times in our life. Life, of course, happens. The more interesting - or interested? - one is, the more one will change with experience over the passing of time, so changes in friendships are a given. I am grateful to the ones that stayed the course. I also weep for those we lost at a young age. I weep in private, and, in all earnest, have done so too in public. My dear belated friends, you left us, though we shall not leave you. Once, I wrote that my friends are my oasis. This remains true.