When it comes to the things I like, I historically have no chill. One might be tempted to call me “obsessive.” My hyper-focus on whatever my latest “thing” is, whether it’s a hobby, a band or TV show, or any other thing I take an interest in, has a tendency to fire up an enthusiasm on which I cannot turn the volume down. I’ve always been this way. As a child I couldn’t just take a dance or drama class for fun, I’d make it my entire life’s work: decking my room in ballet art, only reading books about theatre, wearing out my VHS tape of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. In college, I went an entire year listening to nothing but The Beatles. I once decided to reread the Harry Potter series but to take notes this time, so I didn’t miss anything.
Part of this was undoubtedly caused by my ADHD, which I was blissfully unaware of until my late 20s. But another reason behind it, I suspect, is a pretty universal experience. Think back to being a teenage girl and wearing a cool band t-shirt. You’d feel great looking in the mirror but then, leaving the house, you’d brace yourself for someone, usually a boy, usually older, to give you a pop quiz to determine your eligibility to wear such an item. “Do you even listen to that band? Can you even name three of their songs? Oh, so you only know the hits?”
Who was that guy? And who made him President of Liking Things?
To combat this, I always felt the need to arm myself with an encyclopedic knowledge of anything I dared to like at all. “Yes! I have permission to like The Beatles! My favorite is George! The best album is Rubber Soul!” or “Yeah I love Wes Anderson, have you seen Bottle Rocket?”
I’m so glad that now, as a parent and in my 30s, I feel free from the self-made prison of trying to meet the requirements of the ubiquitous 20-something cool guy that I’ve let live inside my head. I have given myself permission to enjoy a movie and learn absolutely nothing about the director. I can hear a song, enjoy it, and add it to a playlist without needing to know the personal history of everyone involved in the recording. Life is SHORT my friends, and I will no longer apologize for listening to Greatest Hits albums because, you know what? They are the greatest hits for a reason!
It is a long road! Yes, occasionally I will still get in too deep when something really lights a spark in me, and that’s okay too. I contain multitudes. (Walt Whitman said that, and no, I cannot tell you another Walt Whitman poem. And I’m fine with that!) I am still a deeply enthusiastic person. The important thing is that when I get all caught up in something new that I love, I can go on a deep dive of exploration because I want to, not because I feel like I have to in order to identify it as “something I like” over “something I’ve heard of.” I’m proud of my newfound ability to sometimes just like things casually. I am happy to say I liked Harry Potter without feeling like I’m lying because I don’t know Dumbledore’s birthday. I’m confident in my ability to still be a perfectly likable person even if I’ll never correctly pronounce “Bon Iver” on the first try. I am absolutely fine with cranking the volume up to 11 every time I hear Bohemian Rhapsody knowing good and well I do not know the names of any members of Queen beyond Freddie Mercury (Full disclosure: I have to admit that a few nights after writing the first draft of this post I awoke suddenly with the words “BRIAN MAY” in my head so, apparently, I can name another guy from Queen). I am at peace knowing I don’t have to know absolutely everything all the time in order to be accepted.