I’m sitting there lost in thought when above the swarm appears one phrase louder than all the rest. I sub-vocalize the thoughts screaming to be said and out comes song verses that sum up exactly where my thoughts have explored. It goes beyond what I could have described that I have learned and deepens my understanding and connection of what I am feeling to the world in its entirety.

I am picking a major. I had a discussion with someone the other day in which I made the realization that I have never had to make such a difficult life-changing decision before. Everything has been designed so that I could make these decisions in the future or so others could make the decision for me. But now I must decide and as I ask for more and more advice, I see that I am more and more alone in this decision. I fell asleep exploring the possibilities, woke up once in the morning to reprocess and evaluate my decision, and the second time I woke up, that’s where those swarming thoughts began again.

Above the swarm came “Everyone’s afraid of their own lives… If you could be anything you want I bet you’d be disappointed I’m right…” -Lives, Modest Mouse. The lyrics continue to explain a feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction with life and the relationships that make it up. While the undertone of it is very negative and this wasn’t my exact felling at the time, the words stood out as significant. The amazing part of this voice was that the words that came to me first was the part about fear. Then in my working memory I discovered the second verse that may be more relevant than the first.

Never before have these lyrics meant so much to me. I understood it to be deeply cynical and from a perspective far removed from my own. Now I understand it to mean that the endless choices, decisions that make up our lives, are overbearing. They crush us down to feel lost, to feel disappointed for fear of missing out on what’s left. In reality, there are a great number of people out there that are completely satisfied and fulfilled by the life path that they have chosen for themselves. Yet at the same time, the number of lives stuck in disappointment and dissatisfaction always seems to outnumber.

Another element of this meaning is the underlying reality of privilege. I have realized recently that I have been privileged all my life to have the ability to choose what I want to do with my life and where I want to go, all because of my birth lottery. I have been given all the resources I need to survive and thrive, and as a result, I have the ability to sit here and ponder what I can do to maximize personal utility in my lifetime. Most people don’t have that good fortune. They are bogged down by the expenses of college, stigmas of races, family problems, handicaps coming from left and right. It certainly makes them stronger if they come out the other end choosing exactly what they want, but they become victims of circumstance, something I have had the privilege of never facing. This song too, fails to see the position of power and privilege as a positive.

These lyrics were so pertinent in every way that it is almost as if they were my own lyrics. Song is a mode of expression that communicates exact universal feelings. It connects and uncovers a wealth of knowledge and insight on the world. It can even come in the most surprising of times and enlighten you with the ahah moment that you have been searching for for so long.


Painting: Michael Carini “Boy in the Box”


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