There was a time when I considered 12-hole Doc Martins, a hippy skirt, a Pearl Jam t-shirt, and an expression of complete disinterest to be the only things one should ever wear anywhere. The must-have accessory of that phase was of course, a deftly rolled doobie. My friends and I were that sort of age, and being that sort of grunge, where the pot just seemed to follow us, and we were clearly obliged to do our part and smoke it.
Sometimes I yearn for my pothead days. Not every aspect of them mind you. The fashion, as mentioned, isn’t something I was sorry to see go. The ironically apathetic angst isn’t something I miss. The time I was in an impoverished student house and got the munchies so bad that I ate a 500 gram bag of brown sugar with a teaspoon isn’t an experience I need to relive either. But there are definitely some other factors that seem attractive from this distance.
By no means am I defending or glorifying the use of marijuana here – that would be foolish. However, given that the drug-use has left me a little slower than the average bear, I am going to say that there were advantages to being a little light-headed: Firstly, I was known to be nothing short of hilarious when everyone around me was stoned. When everyone around me straightened up “hilarious” became “weird” and finally “dumb”.
The second, and perhaps more important advantage, was that every tiny thing you did was a major accomplishment. Managing to speak a whole sentence was something that you could really pat yourself on your back for and expect your friends to marvel at – if either of you could be bothered.
One example of this lowered-bar of achievement began in my Newtown bedroom. A bunch of my fellow grungesters and I had been discussing the relationship between the school system and fascism (one of our favourite topics). To really get to the nitty gritty of the subject we had needed to smoke some pot, clearly – because it helped us “open our minds” or some equally pioneering justification. Anyhoo, I recall that I’d been staring off into the distance thinking about the politics of education and how weird thumbs are, when I realized I needed to go to the bathroom. I considered how long I could ignore my bladder and remain in the hazy comfort of my room with my hazy friends. I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be long. With a dramatic groan I announced to the entire room, “Oh maaaan, I need to go to the bathroom!” The question of why I would announce such a thing can be left aside for a moment while we focus on the more endearing point: My ever-sympathetic friends all let out sounds of the most heart-felt commiseration you ever heard. One friend actually turned to me as I stood up and said, “I’ve been busting for ages – can’t be bothered to go all the way downstairs and the ALL that way back here”. Everyone nodded.
I remember the whole latrine visit being an ordeal of gargantuan effort. However, when I finally got back to my room, I was greeted with an earnest round of applause from my supportive mates! Some of them were clapping me because they couldn’t believe the achievement of bothering to go all the way to bathroom. Some were clapping because they didn’t know what was going on. Others were clapping because they hadn’t realized I was there in the first place. But all of them applauded me. One friend piped up and said, “What a MISSION – Good on you.” And honestly, it did feel like I’d achieved an impressive overcoming-of-odds – something we could ALL be proud of.
The last time I smoked a joint was a few years ago when I decided that “Yeah, a spliff in the backyard after that dinner party is a great idea!”. On that I’m-still-groovy impulse, I got so paranoid that I excused myself from the group of people I was with to “check something in the freezer”. Once I was out of sight from the group I ran and hid under the bed, where I remained for what felt like hours, while I tried to work out how to operate my mobile phone so I could call my mother. I’m sure I could’ve masked my total inability to handle the drug had I not been at someone else’s house – where they had to talk me out from under their four-poster before they could retire for the evening. Nevertheless my days as a pothead are clearly behind me.
What I miss isn’t the being stoned and ridiculous so much as it is The Mission! Even more than The Mission itself, it’s that feeling of real pride in achieving something that couldn’t be more basic! … Something as simple as “YEAH! I went to the SHOP!” and I would be entirely satisfied with the arch of my day. I’d consider my day a success. And I’d smoke another joint while I thought, “good on me”.
Feeling that I’ve Accomplished anything is now something that seems to happen far less frequently. Being someone who is placid and makes it to the toilet just doesn’t elicit the same pride as it once did. Whilst I don’t care to reclaim my marijuana habit, I have to admit I wouldn’t mind celebrating the mundane victories like I did back then. These days I look around at my successful friends and wonder when the secretly got fabulous careers, amazing marriages, and beautiful babies. At this point in my life, when being A Success feels like something I forgot to do, I really would like a little clap when I get back from the loo sometimes. Even if it is only because you didn’t realise I was here in the first place.