Those Burnt Out Crazy Children

By Aretha Uamai |

This piece stems from thoughts that were sprung upon me by the one and only Billy Joel. It was no surprise when Vienna came up in my shuffle, what did come were the lyrics, or the effect they had rather. Having listened to this song many times, during the climax of 13 Going on 30 or on my own accord, I’ve become quite familiar with them over time. Maybe it was the lack of company on my walk or the fresh air putting me through a thought renewal, but that day those exact same words I’ve listened to for years were exposed to me in a new light.

Joel’s words made me wonder about the time he was living in and its relation to my own 21st century world. Particularly the “crazy child.” Who are these crazy children, these ambitious juveniles? All we know is that they’re dreamers who are advised to slow down, take a step back and cool off. Is that crazy child still around today? 

They definitely are, myself included. 

It’s more than safe to say we, as a generation, are ambitious. Almost to a fault. There is a large desire among young people to achieve, achieve, achieve. 

Almost every young heart in my life, whether that be friends, siblings or the average peer, is filled with some sort of dream, desire or passion. Usually one that will take them far financially, socially and externally. In the world of today, and evidently the 1970s, there’s a rush. A career rush, An academic rush. A social rush. Everyone is heading to one place or another, figuratively and literally. Leaving us with little to no time to sit back and recollect ourselves. Or sit back and look at the work we’ve done, appreciate it.

We young hearts of many are evidently after what has been the pursuit of man since the beginning of time. Happiness. Profit. Fulfilment. But at what cost? 

What happens when the desire to achieve achieve achieve clashes with that desire to live live live? 

You’d better cool it off before you burn it out.

He is not wrong.

Burnout happens easily and quickly. You may not know you are burnt out until looking back and realising why you couldn’t muster up the energy or discipline to do anything for that certain period of time, even something that you once enjoyed. This has been my own experience with burn out for a long time – looking back those times were usually exam periods. I have been able to identify when I am burnt out or falling into that state, but have not quite figured out how to prevent or navigate it. 

After searching up the song and looking into its analysis by Genius, I found out that the words are those of Joel’s father. He was speaking to a younger Billy who dreamt big about a career as a singer-songwriter while battling the natural insecurities and daunting fear that he will not make it. His father reminds him that not only does he have so much time, but it might be in his favour to use it. It did not even cross my mind that this could be Joel’s recall of someone else’s words to him. The power of interpretation. 

However it did loop back to my initial thoughts of the crazy child. We exist now and did then – Billy Joel was one himself.

Vienna poses as a metaphor for the rest of our lives – how it’s always there. No matter what you do, how fast you get there – the rest of your life is always waiting for you. 

No matter the dream or desire, how fast you get there.

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