Do you find that sometimes people you may have known for an extended period of time as friends or acquaintances change, or ‘fade away’? In which their vitality seeps away and they become something lesser. A poor grainy photocopy of an artistic masterpiece. This sounds of horrible but I find that some people I have known have lost what makes them special. Sometimes, I even feel this can be me losing that thing that makes me who I am.
What I mean by the term ‘Fade Away’ is similar to the concept of losing one’s moxie or ‘mojo’, that indefinable thing which is an individual’s essence of vitality. Some I find have more colour than others. Some are a vibrant Technicolor rainbow, full of life, quirks and oddities which make them peculiarly special. This could be anything. A wicked sense of humour. A cackling laugh. A killer wardrobe or sense of style. Supreme intellectualism or intelligence. I get along well with those that have a defining characteristic, whereas others are faded, washed out and drab, or entirely a scrubby black and white. It’s hard for me to describe this, but it’s a phenomenon that I’ve witnessed, as well as something that I at times notice in myself. I always need to be, or try to have some form of colour in my life; whether it be through friends, family, loved ones or anything I do.
I recently read a book by one of my favourite authors, the well-known, regarded and renowned Japanese author Haruki Murakami. His body of work is impressive, his stories and characters mix the mundane with the otherworldly and surreal. If you’re into fiction please give his stories a go. They’re thought provoking, yet understated and subtle. Many people find his books difficult to read as he really does capture what makes a life, life: those moments and empty spaces in time that we all inhabit or travel through, from one point to the other. Maybe it’s waiting in an office for an appointment for a doctor or job interview, reading a magazine to pass the time. Maybe it’s lying on your bed waiting until a friend calls to let you know they’ve arrived downstairs. Perhaps it’s a day off spent doing the household chores alone on a cool cloudy day. Or in front of your computer struggling to write a short blog post or continue a personal project. It’s these moments that Marukami captures in such a pristine and effortlessly real way. This is what life is. Lots of introspection, transience and moments in flux. With large dollops of life changing drama in between. Murakami’s stories always begin in a similar manner: a slightly dysfunctional [most of the time] male character most likely in his early thirties doing something completely domestic: looking for a lost cat, going shopping, preparing a simple yet inevitably healthy meal or travelling on a train. The hook is always that something unexplainable occurs. It could be a girlfriend disappearing without a reason. Or the character walks around a corner and realises they are no longer inhabiting the same world they were a moment before. I don’t want to give too much away, as I love reading his books and want whoever reads this to discover his stories for themselves.
His latest book, named ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki’ runs in a similar vein, with a dichotomy and mix of the use of simple narratives of the mundane and intrinsically average aspects of life enmeshed with the theme of unexplained and inexplicable change or loss. In this case we have the self-conscious [and in his own mind], dull and uninteresting Tsukuru, a 30 something run of the mill man who lives in Tokyo and works as a Railway station engineer. He was once close friends with a group of friends, two boys and two girls who went to the same high school. They would say that they formed a hand, as there were five of them all up. Each member a finger. Tsukuru’s friends names all featured a colour, as of course Japanese is a highly descriptive language. All of them except Tsukuru, whose name doesn’t feature a colour at all. Hence he began to create a self-constructed idea of himself as ‘colourless’ or being without a defining characteristic, and apart from his friends. He was the thumb of the group.
One day his friends unfathomably stop talking to him, and no longer have any contact with him. Tsukuru is simply cut-off and is given no further explanation as to why his friends stop the friendship, and subsequently moves away to Tokyo where he loses himself in study, depression and anxiety. Consumed evermore with the thought of being ‘colourless’, he exists in a narrow and limited world, and is left pondering as to why his once close friends simply and without reason let him go. So one day, a decade and a half later, spurred on by and with the aid of the woman he is now dating, Tsukuru begins a quest to find his old friends. What he finds besides uncovering the truth piece by piece is that his friends have all somehow changed, and ‘lost their colour’. What made them stand-outs and unique has been lost, only to find them lifelessly humdrum and routine. Hopes, dreams and ambitions have morphed into banalities. Dynamism transformed into listlessness. That special something has been irrevocably sent adrift into the ether, only to be replaced by a greyness.
I feel that this scenario has happened in my own life, both with others and myself. The person I was ten years ago, like Tsukuru, was colourless and grey. He went to uni, lived in a small, plain yet tidy apartment with a friend, smoked toomany cigarettes, worked in his uncle and aunty’s restaurant to pay the bills, and played Playstation. That is the short and long of my life back then. It was a very claustrophobic and limited existence, with no aims besides going to lectures and to work. The version of me back then thought about life far too much, was introspective to the point of isolation yet had some good friends, and was completely abstinent for years. There was even a point where he subsisted on McDonald’s alone for months. Which quite literally turned him yellow.
All of this was because of me going through a period of severe clinical depression, as well as not being out and open to friends or family, which created a very stunted and self-deprecating insecure young adult. As years went by, I grew into myself, and gained more ‘colour’ if you will. I’ve met many people in my life who I feel have either had a similar change, or the reverse. Some friends or acquaintances have unexplainably lost that special spark or colour in their lives and simply become colourless driftwood. You can sometimes see it in someone’s eyes, or the way one dresses. Maybe they once would dress outrageously or had cutting wit, yet turn into a more subdued individual. Did they grow up? Has life beaten them down to the point of defeat? Others have slowly gained colour. It’s either me who may be viewing them with fresh eyes, or simply them getting their groove back. How does this happen? Is there really an undefinable pattern of ‘fading away’ that occurs as we get older, or simply the banalities of life taking a toll on us?
I don’t feel that this is an age-related occurrence. I feel that some people have nothing that defines them. A friend of my boyfriend’s had a theory on this, that zombies in fact exist in this world, yet not how we know them on TV and in films. Instead of being the familiarly mindless undead that walk around slowly and aimlessly, they are mindlessly alive and live life aimlessly. The ones who simply work to pay the bills, sit in front of the TV or computer after work, eat bad food, never leave their comfort zones and have nothing that define their existences. I am afraid of this person, and I’m afraid of being this person now or in the future. I agree with my boyfriend’s friend’s sentiment that zombies do indeed exist. They are colourless and have no life essence to them. Like in Murakami’s book, they are colourless. It’s my aim in life to never be ‘Grey’, and to always have colour in my life. If it is through friendships, relationships, career or even hobbies and pastimes, it’s important for me to be colourful.
It should be for you, too.