“Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.” -Don Draper
“Half of life is fucking up, the other half is dealing with it.” -Henry Rollins
There is something very romantic about leaving it all behind and starting new somewhere else. Artists have engaged in metaphorical rebirth and image overhauls and anticipated comebacks since the dawn of expendable income. Bands have split, have reunited, have gone on hiatus, and have engaged in solo projects so often it’s practically a necessary cycle for emotional band-culture cred. Perhaps, more so than the leaving, than the indulgent, narcissistic dream of holing up somewhere in Paris or a remote nook of the United States, perhaps taking up a craft or learning a new skill or just lazing about reading books and visiting museums or having really long, indulgent conversations fueled by cheap beer and bad decisions or whatever your idea of “human activities” versus “artist activities” is, or the words you want to use for “not being held accountable for shit for a while,” is the coming back. Because somewhere in the leap between gone and not-gone is the illusory fable of cocoon-and-butterfly and the joyful embrace by eager garland-holders ready to be obsessively forgiving in the wake of your absence. The idea of starting all over again is enriched by the impossibly high standards thrust upon vacations and sabbaticals, created by those who are afforded the excesses of doing nothing in particular.
Our contemporary culture is filled with narratives of forged identities and reinventions, from Christina Aguilera, who doesn’t want to be herself tonight, to our own glamorized Don Draper, nee Dick Whitman: liar, cheater, and, to millions of viewers, overall bad-ass. Our books and movies are littered with small-town folk seeking greener pastures in metropolitan high rises and dozens of makeover shows that desperately seek to unite the outward metamorphosis with inward overhaul into a reconciled new and other. Better. Regardless, it always boils down to the single notion that in going away (physically, mentally, spiritually), one will come back different, changed, restored, whole. New.
And so, some sort of mythological restorative power has been granted the hiatus, nevermore so than for artists and other self-proclaimed creators. And why should Hikaru Utada and MEG be any less susceptible? Two highly successful women in their chosen labels (pop star, eccentric-electro singer cum fashion designer cum tweeter), both Utada and MEG probably have some serious questions about Life they’d like to go and think about without worrying about crafting the perfect crossover. In an ideal world, we’d all be afforded the luxury of going away, far away, and in that span of dead space, doing more than catching up on sleep, or sleeping to forget, or sleepwalking through all the important things we think we should be doing with our free time but are really just distracting us from the pain of coping and dealing and healing in any useful kind of way. Half-drugged on the hope of transformation, we yearn to return as corrected versions of our former selves and sometimes entirely different selves that look better, speak better, and write songs better. Dealing with it might be a little too far-fetched for us right now, not something we can handle; we’d rather just cover up or sweep aside and move on, step into our inner Sasha Fierces and accomplish all the amazing things the skin we wriggled out of wouldn’t let us carry out. We will put on costumes and become heroic, kick-ass vigilantes and then be disappointed that we’ve spent so long crawling on our bellies only to be faced with the reality of our navels.
But hopefully there is some sort of unspoken agreement on the disappointment when the alluring fiction of running away and not ever coming back reveals the catastrophe of our personalities have not become beautiful again, or even beautiful to the ones that matter, but just about the same to everyone but ourselves. Let’s not expect that this will somehow make us monumentally different or better human beings, that it will or should mean anything to anyone but ourselves. Let’s fuck up only if we promise to deal with it. Then let’s move forward like it happened.