30 October 2013
At work, today, a song came on the radio. It was the end of the day: I was washing up the dishes and waiting for Andrew to finish up so that we could go home. In fact, it just happened 5 minutes ago, but it’s easier to put things further into the past, to distance things sometimes, isn’t it? For me at least, in this instance.
I was walking back to the desk when I heard it on the radio, like strains of a ghosted conversation, like the content of a past life. It was a song from high school, that my boyfriend had given me: This is you, in a song. This is exactly what you are to me. I listened to it on repeat for years, like an obsessive cycle of things. After we broke up, I stopped listening to most of the music that reminded me of us: Iron & Wine, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Alexi Murdoch, The Who. Some of that music was more his taste than mine, but some of it we had discovered together. I left all of it. It wasn’t until years, years, later that I finally went to see Iron & Wine in concert in Edinburgh, and Alexi Murdoch happened to be opening for them, that I finally started to reclaim it all again. I’ve even listened to Rosie Thomas since then, flipping through my iPod and finding her albums there.
But not [this] song — it left an absent hole in the song list of that album. I actually had to permanently delete it, eradicate it. I never intended to listen to it again.
This evening when I heard it, I started back to the beginning, listened to it all the way through. I’m listening to it again now as I write this. I would include it in this post, but I’ve definitely hit my limit for being able to hear it again. It’s not that the song is triggering, per say. It’s just that I’ve spent so many years actively not listening to it that I forgot everything it involved.
In listening now, I can see it. I can see the me that I was, the me that he saw, the me that I left behind in an American teenage life somewhere. The young girl determinedly going her own way, strong, but so fragile. It was the illusion of independence, I realize now. The kind of qualities that an outsider would label independence, but that I know at the core was fear and shame.
It makes me think about the perspectives we hold of ourselves, how the 16-year-old me had a completely different reference point for “When I was young/I did it my way/I did it my way, and I still do”. There was no when I was young. I was young. It’s that double-edged sword of youthful enthusiasm and blind bravado. The world was a certain way, and I was a certain way in it. All absolutes, no subtlety. I had to laugh tonight listening to the verse: “When I finished school/I took the highway/I took the highway/looking for you.” It’s the kind of thing I dreamt of for my life, but I was still in high school when this song was relevant to me. I was looking out on my life and back on it at the same time. I desperately wanted something to reminisce about.
And where am I now? Not where I envisioned my future, but I think that’s a good thing. When I thought about it, it was a rebellious future, with cigarettes and wine and hammocks and Jack Kerouac types of adventures. There was no accounting for responsibility, or how minds change and hearts evolve. Now, my future is clear, calm, and settled. It is considered. In a TV show I was watching yesterday, someone was accused of being “the silent type” when actually, he replied, “I just like to reflect on what I’m about to say before I say it.”
I’ve spent the evening jumping back and forth between these parallel lines of what I thought my future was and what I am building my life to be. It’s just intriguing: how the view looks from here.
I saw this house when we stopped for pizza on the way home, and I thought, What a great place? Who would live here? Which part of my life would I have liked to spend there?