Was Mellencamp Right?

In his song, “Jack and Diane,” John (Cougar) Mellencamp wrote, “Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.” If I am honest, sometimes I feel that way. I’m 43, and there aren’t very many firsts left anymore. In fact, I think my next “first” to look forward to is my first grandchild. That’s probably some time away.

Music used to be one of the great loves of my life. But I have played music long enough, and listened to enough great music, that there aren’t many surprises left anymore. I find myself driven to increasingly complex music (Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and other prog bands) hoping to find something new. Even that doesn’t thrill for long. Most of the time music feels disappointing. The very thing that used to pump me up and excite me now causes what I sometimes experience as pain. When I was a kid, buying a new album was like sex — my heart would beat really fast, I would get this shot of adrenaline, and I was totally into it. Sometimes I’d spin the same record for months at a time. Now very few records ever “do it for me” for more than a couple of days.

Perhaps this is what it means to get older — to find yourself having been around long enough for a lot of what you loved to become old news. That’s certainly what it means to become jaded, I suppose, and I never thought this would happen to me. It’s not something I chose. I can’t help it. I miss those days when I was easily amused, easily entertained, less of a critic, less cynical, and had lived through fewer disappointments.

I think Mellencamp was right. Life does go on long after the thrill is gone. But rather than lapsing into hopelessness, I think one of the big tasks of the second half of life is to learn to find beauty in plain things, to be content with what one has, to settle into routine a little bit, to not demand new experiences constantly in order to be satisfied. G.K. Chesterton said it best:

A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, Do it again; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, Do it again, to the sun; and every evening, Do it again, to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Question: Has life gotten less appealing to you into mid-life? If so, what has your response been?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • paul

    I remember another song from years ago that asked, “Is That All There Is?” I envision a stage of our lives where we are the base of a spiral that is ever expanding out looking for “new”. Our appetite is voracious for the next thrill.

    I find myself in a new stage where the spiral is moving to the center. Instead of longing for the next new experience, things have slowed so the focus becomes finding all the present experience has to offer.

    • Great comment, Paul. It added a lot to my post. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Laura

    First I must say, “I love John Mellencamp!”

    Having a grandchild is just so special, you get to just enjoy them, you don’t have to raise them.
    I get what you’re saying, but I believe I’m getting mature and comfortable, learning to find beauty and peace in everyday life, which I am glad for. It isn’t sad we are older and less excited by small things, I find it to be a blessing , a gift, except sometimes I get bored, then I need to find something new to do. New hobby, change things up, maybe we all should make bucket list to keep from getting to comfortable:)

    • That’s what I’m looking to settle into, Laura. I must admit that the transition is a bit difficult, though. I’m sure I’m not the first, but it’s pretty real to me right now. I look forward to settling into life a bit more and just appreciating each moment as a blessing and a gift. Seemed like just yesterday my girls were babies. Now one of them is off at college.