At what point does life reach its peak?
Last August I bought Third Eye Blind’s new album, Ursa Minor, on the day it came out. And while I love it tremendously, I realized several years ago that nothing they ever do will top their 1997 debut album with “How’s It Gonna Be”, “Semi-Charmed Life”, “Jumper”, “Graduate”, “Motorcycle Drive By” and “I Want You”. They keep making good music, even if I’m the only one still listening. But they peaked 11 years ago.
Michael Jackson experienced his peak in 1983 with the success of Thriller, personally haunted by the fact that he was never able to commercially or critically top it. And as much as I love Dave Matthews Band, I find it scientifically impossible for them to top their 1996 7x platinum album Crash, featuring the flawless “Crash into Me”.
Not that it’s an awful thing to peak early in a career. Not everyone can go out with a bang like George Burns, or remain relevant after several decades. It happens to plenty of good actors and comedians too: they continue to make movies after people stop really caring. Steve Martin. Jim Carrey. Will Ferrell. Robin Williams. Tim Allen.
A sign of a once-relevant comedian officially being past his peak is when he appears in a family movie in which he gets thrown high into the air, then lands abruptly but suffers no major injuries, then looks up at the camera with this expression that says, “Ugh, that’ll leave a mark…” (I have a visual right now of Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen when he gets catapulted out of the Gymboree.)
Gone are the days of Steve Martin’s classics like The Jerk, Father of the Bride, Roxanne, Parenthood, and the legendary Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (which I refer to in about 23% of my writings). Now we’re stuck with The Pink Panther. I’m sure it makes him millions of dollars, but it doesn’t make anybody laugh.
While I don’t have a career in acting or music where I have to keep reinventing myself to please fans in the business of entertainment, I do live a life in which I am sometimes tempted to keep looking to the future for my vindication, contentment, or perfect stage of life. When those thoughts cross my mind I have to remind myself of some corny forward that someone e-mailed me a few months ago that said: These are the good old days.
Whether or not I am living in the peak happiness of my life now or in 30 years, it doesn’t matter. Because I’ve learned it’s not the bad, boring, or annoying memories I keep going back to. It’s the good ones. Those are what I keep close to heart: These are the good old days.
“I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.” -John Mayer (“No Such Thing”)
“And I’ve never been so alive.” -Third Eye Blind (“Motorcycle Drive By”)