Sweet Symphony

s-l300

 

In college, I stayed single for a long time. I had a fair amount of boyfriends and dates in high school – and I really enjoyed kissing. I enjoyed kissing a lot of different gentlemen. It was fun.

Not the pinnacle of my life, but I’d like to think it shaped me to be who I am now. An interesting person with interesting stories. Plus, I think people with tarty pasts make for well rounded people.

But I am totally biased.

Come college, I thought it would be fish in a barrel again. Which was completely inaccurate. Also, college did not come as easy to me as high school had. I ended up getting serious about making “just friends” and enjoying life. The pursuit of those with the Y chromosomes would wait.

Then I met my college boyfriend. I had gone over to a guy friends’ house off campus, where he happen to live. What I remember about that first conversation was his humor and that he was keeping up. I took notice.

My wit, jokes, and personality can be difficult to keep up with – but he was there, beat for beat. I remember leaving and thinking “That guy is cool. I hope we get to be friends.”

Spoiler alert: We dated. It didn’t work out. We broke up. Twice. Still a little salty with myself about that.

I don’t remember where I was when I first heard “It Never Entered My Mind” – Miles Davis. I, obviously, have an obsession with music. In my years of endless free time (waddup 4 hour naps in college), I would spend most of it scouring the Internet for new music.

I teared up like the absolute cheeseball that I am the first time I heard that song. It’s funny, isn’t it? Music, art, etc. how anything effects you emotionally.

But then I forgot about it, because Coldplay came out with a new album.

Viva La Vida, in case you were curious.

Somehow, the song came back around. And it meant something more than it had originally. The sweet, easy tempo of the song seemed to reflect the ease of our relationship. The relationship was relatively easy and peaceful, when all I had previously known was the tempest of teenage romance.

Sure, there were challenges. I’m opinionated, stubborn, needy, passionate and a little jealous. He had things too. But it just felt. . . Effortless. Until it wasn’t anymore. Then, it ended.

I always listened to my iPod on my walk to classes, and this damn song would come on shuffle. It would make me mad. Frustrated. Annoyed. But mostly just sad. Sad that there was nothing there anymore. It was a difficult time trying to figure out what to do now that this person wasn’t there anymore.

But I did figure it out. I became more open to adventures I had closed off, because I was waiting for our relationship to become the main adventure. But the end gave way to more.

I see that relationship as a gateway to better things: moving away from my home state, traveling the world, going to grad school – doing things that I wouldn’t have been able to do without the swift kick in the ass that the break up was.

It’s nice how things don’t work out, isn’t it?

Advertisements

Kids These Days

music_box_mariah_carey

I grew up in the 90’s.

Born towards the end of the 80’s, the first President I remember is George H.W. Bush. I rode my bike around my neighborhood, with a portable radio branded with oil company my dad, at the time, worked for. It had a nylon wrist-strap, which I used to hang the radio from the pink handlebars on my hand-me-down bike. I listened to the radio, while biking around the suburbs. I remember thinking nothing would ever be better.

Fortunately, I was wrong. Because talk about peaking early.

One of the many songs that was popular was “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey from her Music Box album. I would easily go to bat and say that is still one of my favorites. Not even sorry about it everyone.

It’s probably not surprising that I am very sentimental. I mean, look at this blog I’m writing, for Pete’s sake. I’m sentimental and was (am?) obsessed with the commercial love I heard in pop songs.

Commercial love is sweet, but it’s not real. It’s like that line from Sleepless in Seattle: “You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.” That basically frames my entire music collection. Who wouldn’t want to be in love in a pop song?! . . . Well, there are some questionable pop songs. But overall, you get the picture.

Not even 10, much less into my teen years, I was in love with being in love in a pop song.

I wanted to hustle through my childhood. The youngest of three kids, I spent most of my childhood wishing I was older and cool enough to be play with my siblings.

Mariah Carey fit the bill perfectly for my desire of being a much older, cooler, woman who was totally in love. What was it like to be an adult? Obviously, I knew everything about it, because Mariah told me what it was like.

Duh.

I still struggle with speeding through life. The excitement for what comes next will always appeal to me. Now, I’m actively trying to enjoy moments. . . Being quiet in the moment, enjoying the company of friends, taking in new views – just savoring the everyday.

But, to be clear: savoring the everyday does include overly sentimental listenings to Mariah Carey and failing hilariously to hit her top notes.

Party Hardy Har Har

tingtings3

My college boyfriend broke up with me. Twice. While I might still be a little resentful at myself for the blindsided reality of being dumped twice by the same guy, it did lead to a more interesting period in my life.

I’m a list maker. I make pro/con lists. I make to-do lists. I make grocery lists. I have spontaneity, but I enjoy being organized. An administrative achiever to my core, I like plans.

Then my senior year of college lead to the disintegration of said plans. One of the things that broke down the plans was the exit of said boyfriend. I grew up really believing that whomever (whoever? Does anyone actually know this grammar rule? English is so complicated, y’all) I was dating in college was who I would married. This is a pretty common ideal for those of us that grew up in the Southern, conservative states. When that didn’t happen, I really did wonder what I was going to do next. How my plans to attend grad school at Vanderbilt, become a counselor, get married. . . How this one guy saying “No thanks, boo” to me caused me to really examine if any of that was what I wanted.

My plans of becoming a counselor for kids, going to grad school, getting married after college were all made when I was 17. I am extremely driven, and I had stuck to the plans for a long time.

Ultimately, I scorched it all. I tossed the plans out and forgot about it all. All the things I thought were good choices or positive were so obviously dumb, because it only caused pain.

My frontal lobe wasn’t developed yet. Cut 21-year-old Liz a break.

The plans would take a different form later, but at the time I had no plans. I was terrified and exhilarated. Which led to going out on a level I hadn’t done before. Which means “That’s Not My Name” – The Ting Tings was everywhere. It seemed that everywhere I went out to was playing this song. I’m probably exaggerating, but I remember one night hearing it in every place I went.

Or maybe it was playing on my iPod the whole night and I never realized it. All likely scenarios.

In my ongoing search to figure out who I was or what I liked, I dated a guy from my hometown. It was a complicated, on/off relationship. Not complicated because I was terrible and he was stubborn. But complicated because we were both in transition – not sure of what was coming next or what the time table of life would bring. It was incredible how aimless I felt, that I was willing to try anything to see if I actually liked it.

So I did what any girl with no plans or future does: I drank, danced and straight up swung from the chandelier.

Well. Not really. Because that seems very dangerous and who knows what the weight limit for those things really is.

But you get the idea: I went out almost every weekend, and come holidays I went out every night. I didn’t pay a dime for a drink or cover. I was ten feet tall, and bulletproof. With the intense vulnerability and pain I had felt after being told “I don’t love you” by a guy I had loved, I chased that bulletproof feeling everywhere. I craved having my confidence back.

I can’t reiterate it enough though: I felt so unsure of everything I had chosen. Was this the life I wanted? What did life look like after college without plans? It felt like everyone else had these life journeys and events planned. . . And I had tossed them all out because it just wasn’t right for me anymore.

What I didn’t realize was everyone was unsure. With the closing of a big chapter of life, no one leaves without doubt. We chain ourselves to a destiny, without realizing we cut the chains whenever we want.

For me, I pulled out the bolt cutters after tequila, a night of dancing and pandering around like a newborn giraffe in heels. While it was fun, I knew my achieving type-A list maker was not cut out for it. It was enjoyable to entertain the idea of someone and that this could be a high I chased for the next few years.

But ultimately, it’s just not who I am. I make goals and lists because I like them. I like achieving.

Anytime I hear this song, I think of that 21 year old girl. That story in my life is a reminder that everyone isn’t sure. That the destiny I’m not sure about, it changes. You change it. You get to decide if you want to travel. You get to decide if you want to pursue another degree. You decide if you get to move.

You.

So that’s what I did. I moved away. I traveled. I got a master’s. And I owe it all to The Ting Tings.

Well, The Ting Tings and tequila.

Transitory Transit

fjm-iloveyouhoneybear

I have a sentimental relationship with public transit.

What I mean is, that I romanticized a group of strangers sharing a piece of space, for a brief time, to get to a next destination. What I really think that means is that I have never lived in a city where it is required of me to actually use public transportation.

Whatever. If that makes me a tourist I don’t care. I like it.

At the beginning of 2016, I went to Washington D.C. for a work trip. Initially, I just volunteered as tribute because I like D.C. In a previous iteration of life, I probably could’ve made a go of living there. I like history. I like monuments to dead people. When I retire, you will probably find me as a docent at your local museum that highlights the history of the usage of limestones for building facades or telling people “And on this spot on this day in history. . .”

Obviously, I was willing to go to D.C. if it meant visiting monuments to relics, and riding public transit.

In context, it was a very interesting time to be in our nation’s capitol (or is it capital? I can never remember the rules). Supreme Court Justice Scalia had just died and there was an rare mood in D.C.

I warned you. I like history.

I ended up taking the train to my work conference everyday. On the train ride, I felt very metropolitan with earbuds in, messenger bag strapped and coffee in hand. An album I was really digging at the time was Father John Misty’s I Love You Honeybear. On what felt like my nth listening to the album, I somehow ended up becoming obsessed with “True Affection.

I have no idea how some songs just strike you. There’s something that happens in the context of your emotional or geographical state that it’s as though a lightbulb flashes.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t super satisfied with my job at the time. I was part of a national service/federal grant. And we did the same thing every year. There was part of me that wanted more, some sort of difference. As an achiever, I was striving. Bumping up against my limitations within my current career trajectory, wondering what I could do differently.

The conference I was attending made me wrestle with the question: “Is this what I want to be the expert in?” The content of the conference was great, and there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with my job. But I began to wonder if this was something I could do for another year; was this something I wanted to continue to pursue?

Those train rides back and forth, I would listen to this song on repeat. I was obsessed. A song manifesting itself into what was next. The same back beats replaying my obsession with change. I obsess with change, and the abhor it once it comes.

It was a weird moment, for me. Trying to figure out your need for something new within the facet of career that had mostly been good. I hadn’t been in that position very long, but I was loyal to the job. I believed in what I was doing.

But my sense of loyalty felt betrayed. My completely natural desire of wanting to do something different, was convoluted by my own introspection. Because I had given so much to this part of my career, it was my guilt. I felt like even the thought was betraying something that had been good to me.

Why should I dare leave something that I had worked so hard for? How could I leave when it had given so much? What am I thinking throwing away all that work?

These questions rolled in my brain. A spinning metal cage of uncertainty, my thoughts pinging off the sides.

All of these things are trademark “Liz” moves. I question everything. I parse and fine tooth comb all decisions, sometimes to my detriment. Occasionally, it works out in my favor. Mostly, it makes life difficult.

Fortunately, I didn’t self sabotage as I tend to enjoy doing. I had an opportunity fall in my lap, but that’s a story for another time.

Anytime I hear “True Affection”, I think of all the space I shared with strangers on the train that week. How I doubt, and they all probably have some doubts too. It makes me wish I didn’t hesitate so much. How different would my life be if I ran head-long more often than not?

I wonder how we all get anything done when we’re all out trying to stab our desires to death. At least we have Father John Misty to soothe us as we contemplate how to prevent our own happiness.

Silver lining!

Master of Time

51-ehbrpdjl

Music filled my childhood home.

Not in an overly elaborate, graduation goggles type of way. It truly was filled with music. The daughter of a collegiate level drum major and a choir singer, I knew who John Williams was way before that was socially acceptable.

I distinctly remember listening to The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack on our family stereo and feeling really stoked to participate in the French and Indian War. Or at least run around in our backyard. Same thing, right?

Music has always had the ability to illicit emotion for me. I can listen to a piece and be moved to tears. I can listen to a piece and want to run until my lungs explode. I can listen to a piece and be transported to another time in life.

One that I can recall with such clarity that it’s intense is “Split Screen Sadness” by John Mayer. Heavier Things, his second studio album, it came at a very well timed portion in my life.

As any 16 year old young woman is wont to do, I totally dug John Mayer. When I first heard of him, I instantly swooned. It was a time and an age where guys with acoustic guitars really did something for me. I’ve since moved on, and brains, old timey manners and sense of humor rule. Which is spoken like the true adult I am. But I digress.

His soulful pop tunes and boyish looks, who wouldn’t swoon?! Plus his music was good. There wasn’t any denying it.

When Heavier Things came out, it was a couple of months after the end of a very intense relationship.

Sidebar: I know what you’re thinking. Because I would be thinking it too. “Intense?! Weren’t you like 16?” Yeah, okay. Maybe intense isn’t the right word. But it was the first boyfriend I had said “I love you” to, the first boyfriend that you get butterflies with all the time. That giddy feeling that is a hallmark of young love.

But with that intensity came feelings of jealousy, and pain that felt endless. It burned so hot that it burned. Not to say if the gentleman in question had asked me back – whoa, Nelly. I wouldn’t have hesitated. Because I would’ve wanted it back.

Ultimately, I ended the relationship because it had reached what felt like a natural ending. Nobody was really to blame, it just. Ended. It was that slow, sneaker upper of an ending. It was like Monty Python & the Holy Grail. It was all of sudden, but not really once you went looking for the obituary.

Being 15/16, and feeling those first breaths of love. It’s just overwhelming. The idea that someone did actually love you – the real you. Whoa. It’s intense. . . Maybe I did pick the right word.

I remember going to Wal-Mart down the street from my parents’ house. The Disney movie Sleeping Beauty had just been released for the first time ever on DVD (that dates me a bit). I always loved Sleeping Beauty because she sleeps through MORE THAN HALF THE MOVIE AND STILL GETS THE GUY. Someone get me her life.

I perused the CD aisle (remember when that was a robust area of the electronics department? Also dates me a bit) and realized John Mayer had just released a new album. Naturally, with my affinity for John, I bought it.

When this song played, it’s opening softness got my attention. It caused me to take pause and flip through the liner notes to read the lyrics. I immediately cried.

Because that song put into words what I was feeling. Wondering if I had done the right thing, when it had felt so. . . big. Was something wrong with me for chucking a relationship that had brought so much joy? There had been so much love, and we still couldn’t make it. That no one was to blame, it just wouldn’t or couldn’t work. It had been so much work for so long, that I don’t think either of our hearts were even in it anymore. We cared deeply, but when it is full of work for so long. . . It just ends.

Still, listening it to it now – I can remember that moment. I can still feel those feelings. That sweet, wounded, in love young woman. The uncertainty of being young feeling so sharp, but filled with so much passion for what was next.

That’s what great music does, no matter the age or stage of life. It captures those grainy edges of time as it slips like sand between your hands.

While listening to it now does bring all these memories back, it still makes me smile.

Smile at life. Smile at the intensity of those 16 year old feelings. Smile at knowing a piece of you, that feels long forgotten, still exists somewhere between the notes.