I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die
The Long Journey from Teenage Dread to Adult Dread.
Teenage Chase, filled with existential dread that he did not yet have the words to label the feelings with, listened to this song with a mix of emotions. It is a song that I seldom seek out specifically but also never skip if it comes into the rotation on my favorite They Might Be Giants playlist.
I once went camping with my best friend to Wallowa Lake in Oregon state. Of all the places his family took me camping, this was the first that had a campsite-wide gathering filled with local stories and sing-a-longs.
Melodies and Memories: Wallowa Lake
“Waltzing Wallowa, waltzing Wallowa, you’ll come a waltzing Wallowa with me,” is forever etched into my memory. If you can’t place it, the campsite song is sung to the tune of “Waltzing Matilda.” Oh, what’s that? You’ve never heard of that either? You would have fit right in with teenage Chase and David.
For the life of me, I cannot recall a single other song from that trip (I wish I couldn’t recall the one that I do) but a number of those camp sing-a-longs gave me a similar vibe this They Might Be Giants classic - I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die.
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Death has been on my mind long before this song crossed my path. If you’ve ever read my other newsletter, Succulents and Cactuses, you’ll know that I still think about the concepts of death, existence, infinity, and my role in it all to the point that it became unwanted and intrusive to my life. Currently, I am taking Citalopram to help me not think about it so much and to turn down the feelings volume on my existential dread.
Facing the Inevitable: Thoughts on Death and Existence
“I think about the dirt that’ll be wearing for a shirt and I hope that I get old before I die.”
That lyric struck me to my core as a teenager and does to this very day. In essence, its a lyric declaring that the singer does not want to be dead. When they think about it, they realize that it is coming. Death, afterall, comes for us all. Hopefully, in spite of this mortal knowledge, the singer grows old and lives a good long time. Has a song lyric every given you existential dread?
From its opening whip cracks and metal hammering, this song tells the story of a hard exhaustive life that ends in an absolute state of non-existence. A difficult world full of fun and beauty but also tragedy. Death is just waiting to hang us all. “It’s a long long rope, they use to hang you soon, I hope.” The longer the rope, the longer it will take to fall and hang.
The Weight of Existence
It’s a feeling of dread that resides in people like this singer. Like myself. “We’re doomed and we’re drowned by this feeling we surround.” The harmonies in the chorus of this song are incredibly fun to sing along to. It’s a song that I have picked up my guitar and strummed along with for years. It’s a catchy classic TMBG tune. It is also a song that brings with it, heavy feelings in the pit of my stomach and intrusive existential thoughts. A reminder that one day, I am going to die. As Keanu Reeves once put it, the ones who love me, will miss me. At that point, I would miss them right back if I even existed at all.
For now, I am still alive and able to listen to music, laugh with my friends, and love my kids and wife. I’ll consider myself lucky if there are many many more years ahead of me before this all comes to end.
I hope that I get old before I die.
Your Stories of Music and Mortality
I am inviting you, dear reader, to to share your own experience with music that has shaped your understanding of life and death.