Most of my friends (and, subsequently, most of my readers) are probably aware that I was laid off from my job with no warning last week. I won’t bother taking the time to rail about the SUPER AWESOME ECONOMY right now, as people with actual mortgages and kids are undoubtedly feeling things even more thoroughly than I am. However, in the immortal words of Martin Lawrence:
It’s hard to know what sort of culture to turn to when you’re feeling sticky and depressed and just generally unhappy as all hell. As I rode the 10 bus home a mere half an hour after disembarking it for my office, the music I kept hearing in my head was the tinny tin-pan clacks of Modest Mouse’s “Wild Packs of Family Dogs”: My father quit his job today / Well, I guess he got fired, but that’s okay.
At that moment, I think I really did want the dogs to come and take me away.
I put on the album, to distract me from my sniffling self and from all the people who were staring at me. And I listened to that song, and it was just as hollow and painful as I remembered. I wallowed in the sharp sting of recent memory, fingered my meager severance agreement, wondered what I would do next. The album kept playing. And through the fog between my ears, I could hear Isaac Brock singing: It’s our lives / It’s hard to remember we’re alive for the first time / It’s hard to remember we’re alive for the last time. The album I had put on to wallow in had grown up and gotten perspective without me. And even though I’d heard “Lives” a million times before, it seemed to have come to me in that moment, irrevocably right.
Music does that to you sometimes. The things you put the favorite song or record on for, hoping to achieve a bit of catharsis, don’t always touch you the way they’re supposed to. And new meanings fall out of things previously parsed, like fruit from the top branches of a barren tree. There’s no doubt that we listen to music in order to complement our emotions: miserable songs and singers for moping, ebullient ones for the best days, loud punk to fuel our workouts and soft jazz to put us to sleep. But I wonder how much of our instincts are also drawn there to unconsciously listen for the part that gets the better of our intentions, whether it’s the sadness and vulnerability behind the screeching guitars or the piercing trumpet that breaks the piano lull.
So my hope is that my life will be more like my albums: even at the dark moments, the track inevitably changes. Brighter things, or reminders of them, are always lying in wait. And the things you think are stable, for better or for worse, will always possess the power to surprise you.
Besides, if you could be anything you wanted, I’d bet you’d be disappointed, am I right?