You wake up in yet another crappy hotel room. The walls are covered with dark, flowered wallpaper. There are cigarette burns on the bathroom vanity. A section of the carpet is stained by something purple – maybe wine, maybe something else.
In the hotel restaurant, your table is greasy and your eggs are cold. Taxis are few and far between. You arrive at your business meeting twenty minutes late.
You do your best to be on top of your game, but your sentences come out fragmented. You wonder if your younger colleagues see this as the beginning of senescence. You decide to keep quiet for the rest of the meeting.
On the way back to the hotel, you think about what has happened. Maybe you should give in to the inevitable. Maybe you should retire. You’ve done just about all you could have hoped to do in your career – and there is no longer any fun in it. You are tired. You are bored.
You call your spouse, hoping for some consolation. You recount, without much energy, the disappointments of the day. You hear yourself saying, “I don’t really care whether I live or die.”
Your spouse doesn’t take your comment seriously and you have mixed feelings about that. You end the conversation, hang up the phone, and lie down, staring at the ceiling.
It’s a curious feeling – this ennui. You’ve been depressed before but you’ve never felt so apathetic. You realize that you weren’t exaggerating: You really don’t care if you live or die. That surprises you. You’ve always been a passionate person. You’ve cared about your work, your personal relationships, your beliefs. But now none of it seems to be important. What happened?
Somehow along the way the great love you once had for life deflated. Aspiration, which used to be such a big part of your personality, has disappeared and nothing has replaced it.
What’s next? What’s beyond ennui? Complete psychological exhaustion? The feeling terminally ill people have when they say, “I’m ready to go now.”
You fall asleep.
An hour later, you wake up feeling a tad better. You change into khakis and a lightweight sweater and go for a walk. Headed for a nearby park, you pass a small museum that you hadn’t noticed before. A banner at the entrance announces an exhibit on the films of Federico Fellini, the great Italian director. On impulse, you step in, pay the entrance fee, and are pointed towards the Fellini rooms.
In the first room, a dozen large-screen TVs are showing clips from La Dolce Vita, Satyricon, and Amarcord. You have forgotten how much you liked those movies. The images are dazzling. You are swept away by them.
In the next room, hundreds of Fellini’s drawings hang in frames on the walls. They are illustrations of his story lines. You are amazed at the skill. You never knew he did his own storyboards. You think that must be why his movies are so visually intense.
In the next room, you find original drafts of his scripts displayed under glass. You spend a happy half-hour reading the edits he made with his own hand.
You walk out of the museum transformed. The empty feeling in your chest is now filled with fire. You want to buy every book you can find about Fellini. You want to rent and watch all his movies again. You want to write scripts. You want to hire actors. You want to make your own movies.
You hope that you can live another hundred years.