I used to know you when we were young
You were in all my dreams
We sat together in period one
Fridays at 8:15…
I spend a lot of time waiting. It’s probably the thing I do the most. I wait for inspiration to strike. I wait for people to write. I wait for days to pass along, so I can go back to where I belong. The refrain of this song “But I will wait for you / As long as I need to / And if you ever get back to Hackensack / I’ll be here for you” is fixated on the removal of that unforgettable someone. When you spend as much time waiting as I do, you can’t help but wonder just where everyone has gone to. All those people that, once upon a time, kept your days and nights full and longing-free. It’s hard, and confusing, to lose touch with so many that I love and care for. And worst of all – it makes you boring. Even to yourself.
You see, in the past six years, I have moved across the ocean a total of five times. It’s hard to maintain friendships when you’re not present, and it’s even harder to maintain close friendships when you’re never there for anything. My friends on both sides of the Atlantic lead busy lives, and so it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Which isn’t an attempt to blame anyone, or to extract unwarranted sympathy. It just is what it is. Which I suppose is why this song seems to so perfectly encapsulate the feelings that I have about my own situation. The first verse (partially-seen above) recalls the days of brightness and promise that existed when things (and people) were young. But by the time we reach the second verse, we get a different sort of juxtaposition:
I used to work in a record store
But now I work for my dad
Scraping the paint off of hardwood floors
The hours are pretty bad
Sometimes I wonder where you are
Probably in L.A.
That seems to be where everybody else ends up these days
There’s a resignation about the change of employment, but a restlessness about the whereabouts of that special someone. That feeling of having missed the boat is something that everyone in grad school can relate to at some point. “There goes the world, and I’m just sitting here,” we might say to ourselves. Which, of course, leads back to that chorus. There’s a certain romanticism to that pledge of willingness to wait, but it’s also a touch pathetic. (1) That desire for people to return is often linked with a desire to have the world spin backwards (2). The hope that you’ll get a sort of metaphysical mulligan. Naturally, this isn’t going to happen, but it doesn’t stop us from hoping.
And then there’s the problem of my own weirdness… I’ve long known that I don’t make friends the way everyone else does. Growing up, I had an exceptionally weak and fractured family structure, and I moved to replace that structure through a sort of clan-ish attachment to my friends. I like to jump right in to the middle, and pretend that I’ve known my new friends for ages. I’m pretty open about things from the start, and I am legendarily impatient with the “getting to know you” phase. I like to think that it’s because I’m willing to trust my instincts about people. (3) Now, most people are happy not hearing from each other for days and weeks. I, sadly, am more needy than that. I worry that out-of-sight really does mean out-of-mind. (4) And so, I guess I can be a bit pesky. A touch clingy. I work on it. (I do.) But it can be difficult when you’re used to attrition, you know? Which, I guess, is something that I’d really like to learn to overcome.
Is this a quarterlife thing? Sometimes, I really do worry that these concerns are largely irrelevant in the context of graver social issues. My feeling more secure in my relationships isn’t really going to stop hunger, cure cancer, or finally get Britney Spears off the television. (5) Is this the sort of song that only appeals to people who are in situations like mine? Is the sensation that your life is losing focus – lacking context – a function of grad school, or of watching everyone get married and have kids? Is there really a window where you have to get these things done, or else risk being lost? These are all debatable questions, but they’re hardly simple to answer.
Which, I guess, takes me back to the song. Despite its pathos, I find an almost zen-like beauty in the desire to simply wait for that special someone to return. A faith that things could turn around, almost to the point of delusion, is, in a strange way, almost beautiful. Maybe I look at it that way because I’m a natural pessimist, and I find it remarkable that people can have such optimism. (6) And it is an up-tempo arrangement, sung in such a way that we sense that the speaker knows just how much of a long shot this whole deal is. There’s a sense that the person has found a way to make things work, despite setbacks, and is simply willing to take life as it comes. In a way, I think that’s the best we can aspire to.
Have a listen.
- As a Pumpkin once sang: “It meant the world to hold a bruisÃ¨d faith, but now it’s just a matter of grace.” [Back]
- Never a Superman around when you need him. [Back]
- Unfortunately, to most, this can come across as misanthropy as my instincts tell me that most people are creeps. Um, sorry, everybody. [Back]
- Except, I guess, with you. I just assume that I’m out-of-mind to start. ;-p [Back]
- As an aside, don’t you think it’s telling that “pop stars” never really succumb to their wretched lifestyles? Britney, no doubt, will one day go on to be a guest judge on some sort of talent show. (Hi, Paula.) Respectable musicians, sadly, almost always die as a consequence of their excesses (This, actually, is why I’m still on the fence about Amy Winehouse). [Back]
- Even now, my cynical self suggests that hope is the only thing left once all else has failed. Thanks, Pandora. [Back]