In 2007 an Arkansas musician named Chris Denny recorded a song titled “Vacation.” The opening line is, “I need a vacation from myself, a little time out of my head.” The first time I heard it a few years ago, it resonated for me. I could really relate.
Truth is, I’m sick of me. I’ve spent way too much time in my own skin. I know all of my weaknesses, foibles, failures, embarrassments, and irritating habits. I feel guilty about all the dirty secrets of my life, some so bad I’ve never told anyone about them. (I’m not a psycho or anything. I’m probably just about average in my regrets.)
I don’t think I’m weird or even very different from most people on this. There is an unfortunate human tendency to focus on the negative. In journalism it’s called “If it bleeds, it leads.” If your front page choices are between a train wreck or a carefree picnic, which one do you think most everyone is going to read? So don’t tell me to focus on the positive. People aren’t built like that.
So I’m stuck with me. I can’t even get away from me for five minutes. Sure, there’s sleep, but even there I’m haunted with dreams that obviously spring from the most traumatic experiences in my life.
Think of all the movies that use the fantasy gimmick of people switching bodies. Think of all the books that put you in the mind of somebody else. Think of all the songs that let you live somebody else’s life for a few minutes.
I also believe many people use drugs to change and escape who they are at least temporarily. Of course, it’s just another version of you, even when you’re high, and sooner or later, you get tired of your druggy self too.
When my wife Ann and I spend too much time together, it often leads to hostility, because we get tired of each other’s company. But if she’s away from me for more than a few hours, I really miss her. That just confirms my hypothesis that I have met the enemy and he is me.
If I can tire of another person, someone I love, upon overexposure, just imagine how disgusted I am with me. The self-loathing sometimes reaches Hunter Thompson proportions. I try not to think about it, but how can you ignore something that’s with you all the time?
In a way, I envy those people with multiple personality disorder. I wouldn’t want to be afflicted with this, but wouldn’t it be fun to be able to be someone other than yourself? I’m no psychologist, but I suspect the pain of being trapped with yourself is what drives people into this state.
Reincarnation also offers some hope. I’ve always found the idea of having multiple chances at life as different people very appealing. Maybe I could get it right one of these days if I had enough shots at it. I hope reincarnation happens, but I don’t think so.
There’s only one thing I see I can do, and it’s more of an amelioration than a cure. I can try to be the best version of me I possibly can be, create less stuff to feel bad about, make fewer missteps, keep progressing toward a happier life. Of course, some of this is not under my control, but I do what I can.
Still, I long to get away from me, take a couple of weeks off, get some perspective. I’m pretty sure I’d come back liking myself a lot better.
Here’s a link to a video of a live performance by Chris Denny and the Natives of “Vacation.”