Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Mid-Life Crisis Songs #33: Yesterday, When I Was Young

I had one of those moments yesterday. One of the moments when you realise something about your life.

Yesterday, when I was young
The taste of life was sweet as rain upon my tongue
I teased at life as if it were a foolish game
The way the evening breeze may tease a candle flame
The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned
I always built to last on weak and shifting sand
I lived by night and shunned the naked light of the day
And only now I see how the years ran away

I have been a part of the working world now for 30 years. I started my first job (as detailed here in my early Radio Song posts) when I was 16. I've been working for 30 years, and I've probably got another 20 to go.

Yesterday, when I was young
So many happy songs were waiting to be sung
So many wild pleasures lay in store for me
And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see
I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out
I never stopped to think what life was all about
And every conversation I can now recall
Concerned itself with me and nothing else at all

This all coincided with hearing a song on the radio that I hadn't heard in years. The song has been recorded by many people, and has kept cropping up in my record collection over the years. Here are just a few of the versions out there...

It was, of course, originally written by Charles Aznavour, under the French title Hier Encore (Yesterday Again). The lyrics were translated into English by Herbert Kretzmer (the man who wrote the lyrics to Les Miserables) and the song was re-recorded by Aznavour... who also apparently recorded versions in Italian, Danish, Spanish, Japanese and Finnish. Or so says iffypedia, and who am I to doubt? The reason I heard it played on the radio was obviously as a tribute to the man Terry Wogan always used to affectionately call "Charles Az-no-voice", but hearing it again yesterday, I might as well have been hearing it for the first time.

Yesterday the moon was blue
And every crazy day brought something new to do
I used my magic age as if it were a wand
And never saw the waste and emptiness beyond
The game of love I played with arrogance and pride
And every flame I lit too quickly, quickly died
The friends I made all seemed somehow to drift away
And only I am left on stage to end the play

30 years in the world of work, another 20 to go. The thing is, I'm terrified of the prospect of another 20 years as a teacher. I've only been in the job seven or eight years, but it gets harder and more pressured every year. I'm aware that in another 20 years I'll look back and wish I was 46 again rather than 66... just as I wish I was 26 again, knowing what I know now. And 46 may well actually be the best years of my life, because I'm getting to watch Sam grow up and nothing else in my life has even come close to that. I'm trying to cling onto that, to appreciate every moment of it, because I know how fast it will go and the loneliness that will follow... I just wish everything else was easier so I could appreciate it more.

There are so many songs in me that won't be sung
I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue
The time has come for me to pay for
Yesterday, when I was young

Still, we'll always have Charles. RIP, sir. Thanks for the song...


  1. I think everyone wishes they were younger while knowing the things they do when they're older. Hindsight is always 20/20. Sinatra may have had very few regrets, but that was just the words of a song.

    Almost 40 years ago my life was drastically altered by being diagnosed as manic depressive. Over the years I've learned to cope and these days, I really don't give a toss about what life might have been like if things had worked out differently.

    Treasure your time with your wife and son. THESE are the good old days. Nostalgia's way overrated.

    1. You're right, of course - and I do, I am. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees though, as Huey Lewis once sang.

  2. I can vividly remember my Nan pulling me close after struggling up the stairs one day when I was young (I must've been all of 10 or 11) and gasping '..don't ever get old...' The very notion seemed so preposterous to me at the time, as to be almost laughable. But, in the blink of an eye, here I am at 58 - 58!
    It's not often you'll find me paraphrasing Queen, but these are indeed the days of our lives. As FurryBootsCityBoy wisely says, treasure every moment.

    1. Who has the best philosophy towards aging... The Who or Robbie Williams? A question for another post, perhaps.

  3. Oh those lyrics! I think we all feel the same. It's just the way it is and there's nothing we can do about it. Except.... well, it's not always the thought of *working* for another 20 years or whatever that is a big thing, if you can find a way to enjoy what you do, and make it a fairly rewarding way to spend time. So (without wishing to sound too simplistic) I'm just wondering if a change of job/career might be something to aim for now? I absolutely know it's not easy, but have found that focusing on the idea of change really can make it happen.

    1. The thing is, C, there are parts of my current job that give me great satisfaction (although not as satisfying as I found writing... Though sadly, the only writing I could make a living out of was commercial writing, which I hated). But the rest of the job just leads me to despair. I had a massive change of career 7 or so years ago, retraining and everything, but the implications of doing that again are just too severe. I'm stuck with this, I fear, but I may have to find some aggravating place to do it. If such a place exists.


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