“but you should never be embarrassed by
your trouble with living
‘cause it’s the ones with the sorest throats, Laura,
who have done the most singing”
Serge Gainsbourg once wrote “I’ve succeeded at everything, except my life.” It’s a quote that resonates strongly with me. I find it especially interesting, coming from someone who was pretty much the epitome of chic European cool: a rumpled, avant-garde, chain smoking poet and cabaret singer who looked like he was coming off a perpetual red wine and cocaine bender, and who dated Bridget Bardot. That’s some serious savoir faire. So, taken in one way, I suppose the quote could be seen as a bit of a downer. After all, if he couldn’t feel satisfied with his life, how can anyone?
I like to think of it in a different way, though. I mean, he had achieved international stardom by doing what he was passionate about, pushed artistic boundaries and generally didn’t give fuck one about what anyone else thought; yet he still apparently felt like a failure. So, just perhaps, feeling like a failure at the game of life, far from being something to be ashamed of, is a sign you are on the right track. The very fact that you are willing to make an honest appraisal of your emotional state might just mean that you are not one of those douche-nozzles who insist on pretending that everything about themselves is flawless. Take Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms as an example. They are filled with people who claim to be leading the most perfect and exemplary lives. Does anyone among us actually believe that? I didn’t think so.
Maybe, after all, it’s the very fact that we can feel the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune—can point to the bruises that our shortcomings and our failures have left on our skins and our souls—that is our most profound evidence of a well-lived life. Is it possible that all our disappointments, failed relationships, broken promises, missed opportunities, and lost hopes are the scars and wrinkles that give quality and character to our faces? As poets well know, the sorrows and misfortunes of life have their own haunting magic. Take one heartbreak, add one dark night of the soul, one steel guitar, and you have a song capable of sending a shiver down your spine.
From my own experience, the most beautiful people I have ever known have been those that have ventured across the roughest of terrain. Beaten. Lost. Betrayed. Again and again finding themselves in hell, but somehow finding their way back to the land of the living with a story to tell. I have far more time for people like that than some trust fund kid, some picture-perfect influencer. It seems to me that our lives, as Lemony Snicket would have it, are a series of unfortunate events. We are imperfect creatures, living in a perilous and capricious world, and it is the most charming and of human qualities for us to honestly acknowledge this fact, and embrace the unlikely redemption that lies therein.