You don’t need to dig the pit. – “Do You Feel It?” by Chaos Chaos

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Most of you who watch the utter perfection that is Rick and Morty know this song from that moment. I won’t spoil it, but this song comes at an incredibly dark moment in the show – darker than what most fans were expecting.

The song works perfectly for the scene because of the song itself.

The deep chords are contrasted by the falsetto vocals. They’re mixed with the echoey, double-tracked percussion to give a sense of intense melancholy. The kind of music that Rob Gordon would probably, if not like, at least appreciate.

I listened to this song for the first time last month in the wake of my housing woes. It was a hard month because I was physically and emotionally working to get over that chaos. I needed something to distract me from the intensity of moving and settling; this song would help me let it out from time to time.

When things are changing and unexpected and sometimes beyond your control, ah, what a comfort brooding is. It’s a pit that’s very easy to climb down into and stay. The darkness from the shade of your negative thoughts keep the light at bay. You start to get lonely, though, sitting in the dark alone, so you try to bring people to your special sad place. This doesn’t tend to work too well, considering people have jobs and lives and friends and relationships, too. You find that you sit in the dirt by yourself for a long time.

It’s a feeling that is very prevalent in a lot of post-grad twentysomethings – even when things are going well. Maybe you don’t have a job. Maybe you do, but it’s not what you want. Maybe you do and it is what you want, but you’re worried about fucking things up since so many people look up to you. Maybe it’s school or relationships or friends or trying to move to a city and not knowing where the fuck you’re going to live or what you’re going to do. It’s sad, though, that despite the fact that so many of us are climbing down into our respective pits, we’re alone in them. Then again, if we were all were in the same, big, mud pit, it wouldn’t be so bad. We could have mud fights.

Some people didn’t dig their own pit – the pit was already there to begin with and they know how to climb up. Some people don’t know how to climb up still and you cannot blame them for that. Some people created their own pit with every doubtful musing, every self-pity, every body-shaming thought. Some of these pit-diggers think that the pit is a bit of a refuge, that they can climb down and back up any time.

“Stop doing that to yourself,” their loved ones will say. “Do you really want to be down there?”

I admit, I’m a pit-digger. Sometimes I like feeling sad for the sake of feeling sad. There’s a great Doctor Who line about that: “Sad is happy for deep people.” And, with the sort of self-inflated/ self-deprecating flip-flop mindset that I have, I sometimes make difficult – but not always bad – situations more dramatic than they need to be.

Change is a hard time. It’s hard if it’s a good or bad change. Change is this set of monkey bars that you like to climb on the playground, but the bars are greased this time around and your hands slip away from them. Instead of knowing where you’re going to land, you wonder if it’s going to be soft grass or mulch.

It’s important for us pit-diggers to not be tempted to go down there. We know our own strength and our own abilities. We also know that it’s hard to keep an upbeat attitude all of the time and it’s nice to sometimes get away from that positivity. To believe things aren’t worth it. It’s easier.

But the problem arises if things actually aren’t okay. Do you want to be sitting in a pit when things are?

Every time you have your friend tell you to knock it off or your sister try to change the conversation, listen to them. Every time you’re tempted to sit and put off calling the doctor for a mole you’re scared to get checked, call the damn doctor. This cycle of worry and immobility isn’t very fun.

You don’t need to keep digging this pit. You do, though, need to figure out a way to keep yourself from getting like this. It’s healthy to feel sad and to recognize your emotions in response to things in your life. But exaggerating the scary parts is only going to make it harder for you. Make it easier for you, you deserve it.

How do you stop digging? Well, I’m not too sure myself. I need to figure out what works for me. But, something I do know is that everyone is different. Whether it’s learning how to allocate your focus or making a lifestyle change, any sort of progress is a step forward. Any time you put down the shovel and walk away from the hole in the ground, you’re doing yourself a huge favor. That small act is so big and important. Here’s the best part: it can be a small act. It can be easy. Remember that sketch you told yourself you were going to draw today? Do that instead of refreshing your Twitter to see what mindless notifications you receive. Didn’t you tell me that you wanted to learn how to code? Maybe save listening to that sad song from an animated show on Adult Swim for later and open up AppCoda.

You can’t control everything and don’t tell yourself that you have to make it perfect, but see what you can do. See what influence you have on your day. See if you can make someone laugh, even if the joke is really stupid.

And then, in those moments when you’re stressed and you do need to cry, listen to that song from that show and move on with your day. By then, it’s just a release. You don’t even own a shovel at this point.

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Know where you’re going to sleep – “It’s Around You” by ANR

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The “oh, let’s just see where I turn up next” idealism that I carry has acted as an armor against the stability and commitment that I see so often in this young life that my peers and I lead. Some people have found their path and can see into years; they know what they’ll be doing, at least one aspect of it. This idea of foresight scares the living shit out of me. No wonder I don’t know how to have a long-term romantic relationship.

My vision is three months. I can see what I’m doing in three months and that’s it. That’s how it’s been for awhile now. I was used to just going and seeing what happens in every out-there place I ended up. I still don’t believe what my life has been for about two years now. It’s like I’m reading one of my books, but I’m living it. I’m creating the stories that I devised in my head for eighteen years while in my suburban schooling. When you have that much time to focus on literary theory, it’s easy to figure out how to carry it into your life. My steps are calculated, but not predicted, if you will. I’m still my own main character. Long story short: I’m a bit messed up.

The problem with that, however, is that you can end up in the situation that I was in last month.

The end of July was brutal. Maslow’s hierarchy of God damn needs. The guy was right. You need that base. You need to know where you’re going to live. Every other day I was living with friends in Brooklyn or Hoboken and most of my day was either working, messaging strangers on Facebook to see if I could live with them, or traveling via bus, subway, NJ transit, walking to wherever the hell I needed to be in some place at some time and oh Christ, it’s 5:30pm and I forgot to eat and I only drank a quarter of a water bottle.

Physically, I had never felt so weak – a weak sensation that I brought upon myself. I wasn’t focusing on the whole, you now, food and water thing. I would be talking to someone and feel a cloud, hoping that what I was saying was making somewhat sense and being able to stand without wobbling. I was propping up my body with my elbows to convince myself that I could focus when really I needed to rest. I couldn’t though. I didn’t know where I was going to live in five days.

Luck saved me, I swear to God. I was on the phone with Mom, hearing encouraging words and I was saying, “You know what, I haven’t checked Airbnb in a few days… wait… wait there’s a place in my price range for a month. I’m going to see it now.”

It worked. Two days before August 1st, I found where I was going to live for a month. Two days. It makes me throw up a little inside when I think about it.

Things needed to change. I couldn’t throw caution to the wind. Adventure and spontaneity is important in general, and still the way in which I try to see out the next stories that I live out in my life, but God, I wanted to know that I had a bed.

I hit the ground searching for my next place the week I moved into the new place in Hoboken. I visited a few places at the beginning of the month and then I found someone and a place that really clicked. I have a week and a half left at this current place I’m in but, Oh my God, I mercifully don’t have a repeat of last month.

I get to have a place that I can call my home, for however long I want, and it’ll probably be longer than three months. If not, then that’s how the cards will be played. I don’t care. I don’t care because I don’t have to drag suitcases through subways or sleep on an air mattress wondering if I can keep my promise to my friend of, “Yeah, I’ll only be here for a few days.”

I still like this idea of discovery and finding yourself and trying new things and being adventuresome. But I also like being smart about things. I don’t have my life mapped out, but just because I have a stable place to be able to sleep in doesn’t mean I am relinquishing my energy. It’s giving me the chance to focus on how I want to adventure and not worry about “wait, where am I living again?”

This song could be about anything, I don’t care, but it’s this one lyric that stands out to me: “keep your toenails on the ground, put your fingers in the air.”

That’s how I need to start living. I sometimes feel like I am in the clouds, floating and floating, above consistency and normalcy. Sometimes I am proud of that, sometimes, as of late, it becomes a hassle. If I can have my toenails on the ground, enough to keep me sane, then I can still reach my hands up, way up, to the sky and the clouds. I can think of the world and how, God, I really want to see my friends in Jerusalem one day. What would be like to live in San Francisco? What if I one day go to grad school? What would I study? What if I write that novel that I have been wanting to write my whole life?

And I can keep my hands up, way up, and I don’t have to let them down. I can reach, reach, reach, because I won’t get carried away into oblivion because, yes, I know where I’m sleeping tonight.

Eye of the Needle by Sia: God, get out there

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Obsessed with the story, but since when was that a bad thing?

Please, geez, just go out and explore. Just go explore. You need to live away, you need to travel the world.

Oh my god, please, just go out there.

Yes, I know it’s difficult. But really what is it? Just a couple of weekends when you buy one less beer. You can do that.

God, I want to see Boston again.

God, I think of all of the places that sink into my heart and the mind. I think of Grand Central, Stamford, Bedford, Wooster, Shoreditch, Queensway.

Ah, I think of those cities that woke me up. London, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago.

Sleepy, sleepy suburbs. Sleepy suburbs for eighteen years. And then a place like Amsterdam shook me to my core in the best way possible. Those canals taught me what the future could be.

I remember telling being told that I do is work and that this was awful.

Well.

Here I am. The workhorse that guys have been criticizing me for ever since. But… not every guy. Not everyone sees my passion as a depletion from my life.

And, man, was I ever so individualistic. Did anyone else go to London, LA, Chicago, New York and Syracuse with me? Who could possibly know the scope of my adventures? Of my change? Of the worlds that I learned? There were few who did. And I try to hold them close.

God, I think of London and Faraday and Breaking Bad and of Shakespeare’s Pub when I walked in and there they all were – the guys I spent the rest of the semester with and grew to cherish. I think about that moment a lot, actually. One of my friends had invited me, and I only sort of knew the other guys. But I walked in with confidence I didn’t even know that I had, and I knew that these people would stick with me.

And I just went everywhere. I didn’t want to latch down. I liked being in the clouds.

And senior year was familiar. Senior year was school.

But now I am where I wanted to be when I dreamt it as a senior in high school. When I longed for the scope of life as opposed to the suburban clock of Jamba Juice and Starbucks espresso.

God, friends, you need to get out there. I know it is hard. But, my God, you can do it.

You can do it.

Run fast and angry – “Cradle” by the Joy Formidable

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I don’t like admitting when I’m angry. In fact, it’s probably the thing I am worst at doing. I don’t like when I’m pissed off at someone and I don’t like when I’m pissed off at myself. I’m always so worried about keeping the status quo and it sometimes comes back to haunt me.

I’m still trying to get better at expressing anger, but when I was in New York City during the summer of 2013, I found something out that was vital.

I could run.

I could be angry when I ran.

No song better explained my feelings than when I listened to “Cradle” during my morning run through the city. It wasn’t so much of a run-to-a-park kind of a run, it was let’s-not-get-hit-by-cars kind of a run. It was a run to over-wrung my already wracked mind. I wanted to be distracted, and I wanted it to be difficult and something that I could accomplish.

“Cradle” was my anger, “Cradle” was me coping. “Cradle” was my way of breaking plates or screaming or crying. “Cradle” was me letting out the emotions, letting it flow out rather than smack someone in the face who didn’t deserve it.

And something that it taught me was that I was angry much more than I originally thought.

Fare to the well – “Kindred” by Passion Pit

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What do we say to something or someone that changed our inner being?

What do we say to those with no access to context, yet all we can do is talk miles of exposition, of our backstory, of our history? What do we do when we find someone and all we want is to unlock the secret of their significance in our lives?

What do we say to those that can never know what we become? What do we do when we ache as we wish that we can take them with us?

What do we do when the same smile falls from person to person over and over again when we leave? What do we do when we get used to seeing that blankness? What do we become when we start to throw caution, brevity and social graces out because we’ll be a memory soon enough anyway?

Where do we go to feel relevant? Where do we go to stop living in the past and exceed beyond what is expected of us?

What do we do when we find the ones that we love more than the sky above and yet we know we have to let them go? Why do we have to learn to let go so early on when these presences have only just woven into the fabric of our lives?

When should you stop and look at the ground to notice the worms wriggling? Will these lost moments haunt us when we look outside of office building windows onto the pavement that are stories below?

Why do we wonder? Why do we allow ourselves to think into so many holes, into so many crevices? Why do we forget that we’re so unabashedly, unequivocally loved, so intensely present with people here? Why do we think we’re alone? Why is there sludge in our minds?

When is the right moment to part? When is the right time to smile and say the words that we dread? Will we make those we leave happy with our actions? Will we inspire those who have time to catch up to us? Will we overdo it? Will we not put enough effort into it? Will we ever feel satisfied or fulfilled?

When we are sitting on a summer day, when the lightning bugs are flittering around and everything is sweet in the air and droopy, drowsy smiles seem to hang on everyone’s faces, will we think of the beauty of this moment? Will we think of you?

Will we still wonder what we are wondering now?

Why do we have to leave?

Why do we have to say good bye?

A sense of holding your breath – “Broke” by Modest Mouse

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Every morning I wake up and I am terrified. I wake up and I am frightened and scared and worried. About everything.

Please, spare me the comments about self-pity. And spare me your pity.

I wake up afraid because I am so committed to what I do. To an extent, I want this. I care, people, is what I am saying.

I take this fear as a challenge, as an invigoration, as a way to remind myself that I am on a path that I am attempting to carve. We all take this challenge.

In the morning I wake up and I am alone but that does not make me cry. What makes me cry is when I stop being the individual that I am. You can be yourself with someone else just as easily when you’re not, I have come to find, so I am not as averse to the idea as I once used to be. It can be nice with someone that makes you smile. Quite nice.

The trick is when there are those that blot out your sensibility. Your presence.

So being alone in my bed, with the streaming light making the room musty with dust particles, my mind going in three thousand different directions and the silence of morning surrounding me, I am happy.

But yes, maybe I could do without the fear. Or some of it. I’m not sure.

There are so many people that tell me that I need to stop worrying. They try to do things for me to “calm my nerves,” like their actions are oh! Charity! Oh how generous of you for trying to change me!

I know that not everyone is trying to change me. Sometimes I use that excuse as a defense mechanism that I have built up over the years. I get annoyed, frustrated, irritated. You want me to find a diagnosis so I make your life easier? So you can follow a little booklet in your mind?

But there are those that understand, those that know where I am coming from. They know that yes, this is difficult on me. I’m part of the pressure. I sometimes play a tug o’ war with their offerings of insight. But those who do care have a way of exposing their genuine nature. I know when you mean it.

It’s just addictive to push yourself. I know I can do it. I just know.

But it’s when I look up into the sky to forget about the scuttling about on the ground when I realize that I’ve been holding my breath; I didn’t even know that I was doing it. And I just stop and I lazily let my eyes drop and my shoulders fall and I breathe in, breathe out. I look at the clouds and I feel so much bigger than the screened devices we put our souls into, our eyes glued to them.

Something I have to stop doing is to keep apologizing, apologizing, apologizing because that’s another excuse. Why am I saying sorry? Laziness? I know how I am, so when my hands feel like pins and needles and I waver on my emotional scale, I can immediately offer up my actions as a grievance. It puts the weight off, just for a little bit. But it’s not helping anything in the long run.

My favorite Modest Mouse songs are “3rd Planet” and “Broke.” I’ve been listening to “3rd Planet” since about junior year of high school. “Broke,” though, I found last semester and, man, not a better time. It’s so easy to think of yourself as broken, so in those moments in which I wanted a blanket of melancholia over me, “Broke” satisfied some weird anguish I have to find the most depressing songs, like, ever.

But it’s not helping anything to think of yourself as broken, even if you are, even if you’re not. Don’t ever let yourself think there is something fundamentally wrong with you. You’re supposed to be living as yourself for the rest of your life, right? So you’re just going to keep letting yourself think that you’re a force of distress, that you can’t quite do anything right? No wonder you don’t breathe often.

Let yourself be human because that’s what you are. You’re a person, and there’s a lot of different types of people out there.

Wake up and don’t be afraid. Wake up and be alert for the opportunities you have to change your life. Or, there is a simple grace in consistency and healthiness that cannot be overlooked. That alone might be the change enough that you need.

I wake up and I am afraid but I’m working on being less afraid and more just a force of energy. I want my compassion to not make me sick to my stomach from thinking about everything I could be doing wrong. I want my compassion to be my thruster, let me leap out of my bed and I jump to! Here’s the day, and here’s all I can do.

Here’s what I can give back.

The Climb: Raglan Road by Luke Kelly

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At this point, it’s another climb, so you’re okay with it.

The first time that you ever had to climb the hill, wow, that was really tough. It was back when summer blanketed the world with temperatures of ease and normalcy. When 70 degrees was cherished. But man, that hill. You didn’t want to go over it alone. So you didn’t, but people told you to not be afraid of going over it alone. But you were still wary. Because every day? You were supposed to go over this every day?

Ah, but you grew up where bravery was contagious. Where adventure was a treasure to be won because you were looking to find the challenges that would enhance you. That first time you went over the hill by yourself, oh gosh, look at you go! It was such a relief. You could do it. You could trust yourself to push yourself over it.

There were some days where your mind just didn’t let you go there. You had to take the long way so you didn’t have to shorten your breath or think about the strain of doing it. Not everyone thinks like this. This fastidious attention to detail. But there are many that do, so you knew you weren’t alone.

There were days where it was so hard. So hard to just push yourself. To just keep going. Why didn’t everyone just understand that just being this way was sometimes difficult? You weren’t trying to act against anyone, it’s just that sometimes you felt like you were putting extra weight on your shoulders. And you still had to do the climb.

The climb started to numb you, though, and you didn’t even mind after awhile. It was quicker to walk over the hill so you were going to do it anyway.

And then you were invigorated by the hill. Every day you exerted yourself. Every day you tried, even if at the very base of it all it was just climbing a nasty hill.

And maybe you made mistakes. Maybe there were things you shouldn’t have done or maybe there were people who didn’t love you back the way you did. Maybe you took awhile to find your footing. But you loved. You loved and loved and loved and loved and when it wasn’t people, it was at least art. It was at least nature and beauty.

The best was when you were at the top and looked all around and saw the world’s pockets of houses and miniature trees. Where you looked at the Dome the same way you did when you first got there. A look-out point you could experience every day.

There are times where you can worry about the little things. Then there are times where the weightier ideas creep into your everyday thinking process. It’s in these periods of your life where you can’t just assume someone’s going to make it go away. A tissue in the bathroom during class – it’ll help. But you can’t be a kid anymore. You have to help. Or at least do your part.

So you keep going up and down, up and down, up and down. When there are other things in the world, one hill isn’t going to stop you. In fact, it’ll define you. And your strength will only increase.

Because you keep having energy. You keep having persistence. You keep going.

A Sensation of the Softness of the Snow: “Watering Hole” by The Apache Relay

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As you drink your coffee, your tea, what have you, you think about how there’s just so much shit to do. There’s just so much to do and you’re not sure how it’s all going to get done. But really what this self-talk shows is that you’re entertaining your self-pitying side of you. But why judge yourself? Everyone does it. You’re just not as sure as you used to be, and my God, this snow just is not letting up. It’s colder than Antarctica. Antarctica! You’re not a penguin. 

And you’re also a little sick, which is just zapping your sense of good vibes in the first place. It’s like your lungs are balloons you filled up with squeaky air and you’re holding that little opening to the balloon and then when you finally let go, the balloon (your tears) just ends up flying everywhere, noisy and breathy and just cumbersome to the people around you (or at least that’s what you tell yourself, but really you know that people are willing to help out).

The weirdest part of it all, though, is that deep down you’re so, so happy. Is this, like, some weird part of you that likes to punish yourself? I like to challenge myself is what you go with when people normally point this out. It’s all about positivity, man.

But yeah, you’re really happy because it is all about positivity and perspective. Where else in the world would you be able to do these things? Where else in the world would you meet these people? And oh, the people. With their little smiles and hugs and pokes and you know you’re going to be okay because look at who you’re with right now. My God, they like you! My God, you don’t need to wonder about being weird or silly or strange because we’re all just little balloons floating around, bumping into each other every now and then.

The snow, as cold as it gets, is soft when I touch it with my fingertips. And I look at it sparkling and I walk every day to get to the life that I chose. The life that I got to create. Maybe it’s just for a few more months where I’m the author of this particular story, but man, I couldn’t have asked for a better cast of characters.

Irma Thomas and the Future – British Television Pretty Much Rules My Life

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This past winter break, I pretty much just watched television and it was glorious.

It had been about two years since I had a complete month off. There were periods in between each destination in which I was resting, sure, but a lot of that particular time I was gearing up for the next step, the next hop, the next task. This time, though, I just relaxed.

I listen to Local Natives’ “Breakers” to think about that kind of thing a lot – my constant motion, constant thinking. I have that tendency to always move, rotate, run. It is easy for me to run myself thin. I like to do everything, but the problem occurs when I try to do everything-and-a-half. That’s why the act of running itself has sprung up in my exercise routine. If my mind can’t do it all, maybe my legs will help.

Fortunately, I was able to be lazy this break (with some bouts of productivity of looking into job prospects and activities that I wanted to dip into before the SU exodus began). With this laziness, I didn’t work on creative projects, I didn’t read many books (despite the fact that I do still want to finish these projects and novels). I allowed myself to fall into my natural state of being the self-proclaimed television aficionado; specifically, I worked (oh yes, worked oh-so-hard) to find the best British shows that were available for me to indulge in.

I also was wanting to go back to the root of what I liked. British shows, classic rock, drawing. I had branched out so much that I wanted to remember where it had all started.

I had the help of my fellow British-television-fan compatriots (and I always love to find fellow British television lovers at any point in time) to guide me to the best. Instead of finishing Peep Show (which I still need to do), I found myself drawn to the suggestions for various dramas. Luther was the one that I focused on – with the blend of amazing acting, writing, soundtrack and location spotting (there were many moments in which I thought, “Hey! I was on that bridge!”), I fell into a rhythm of, yes, binge-watching.

But before I delved into Luther, I treated myself to the best new sci-fi anthology series that just premiered its Christmas special: Black Mirror. I had watched the second episode with a fellow sci-fi friend a few months before – for fans, you know it as “Fifteen Million Merits.” Haunting, harrowing and compelling (all of the film bloggers’ beloved buzzwords), the episode shook me. I didn’t pursue the other episodes at the time because I was thinking of a variety of other things and because it really cut through me. I am such a proponent of technology and progress and here was a scathing, yet loving, view on what technology could do to us. Was I, along with other tech idealists, a propellant of this catastrophic shift?

I got over this show-watching hesitation when I watched the rest of the episodes the latter weeks of December. They were difficult to digest and often times had horrifying (“White Bear”, anyone?) story lines, but they were riveting (again, another buzzword).

When I watched the Christmas special, I couldn’t help noticing that I had felt like I heard the karaoke song from the scene in the bar before… looking it up, I saw that, yes, it was indeed the song from “Fifteen Million Merits.”

I finished the show and I watched Luther and I finished that and I started watching Archer to get my mind off of the intensity of the dramas but that ethereal, mystical feeling never left me when I listened to the song from “Fifteen Million Merits.” Looking it up, it was Irma Thomas’ “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is.”

I liked that feeling of mystique. The song represents how I feel whenever I look up at the clouds and I look through the sky and try to imagine how stars look in front of me. The feeling of the impossible and the never-knowing, but thinking that maybe one day people could get close to the craziness of the universe.

Whenever it snowed my freshman and sophomore year, I liked listening to The National’s “England” because it made me think of the future – that one day I would go abroad. Now that being abroad (at least as a SU student) is a thing of the past, “England” represents a rich history that I created in my junior year. It no longer was the song of the future.

A few days ago, I was at my friend’s house and I was leaving and it was snowing. Flakes were flittering down, just the way that I liked it when I would flip on The National. I was drawn, however, to Irma Thomas. The snow swirling, the lamp posts glowing a hazy beige, I walked down the middle of the street. I breathed in my solitude – I was the only one outside, peering down the road through the flickering lights and snowflakes.

I stopped. My reverie ended. I had forgotten my charger.

Being extremely attentive to my belongings most of the time, I was irked by the fact that I had forgotten something that I used so often. I went back to go pick it up. I was such in the mode of thinking of how big this universe was; really, though, it was just me enjoying being lost in my thoughts. But maybe my “daydreamer” self leads me more than I know.

I picked up my charger from her and I restarted the song and went to carry on with my evening. I was still thinking about the future, but in a different way from “England.” Instead of thinking of all the ways that life could be, Irma Thomas’ powerful, soulful lyrics represented all the ways in which I couldn’t even predict how life would turn out.

The year of the anthem: “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder

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During the first semester of my sophomore year, I took a class called “Race and Gender in Pop Music.” Fortunately for me, this didn’t simply just mean pop music, but also extended into the breadth of rock and roll. I loved it.

One day, our professor gave us this task at the end of class:

“Next time we meet, I want you to think of what your anthem is – like a song that really represents you.”

And she gave us a week to think.

By next class, I hadn’t thought of a song – I couldn’t choose. I told the class “White Flag” by Dido was my anthem because it was the first song that I felt like I ever “got into.” After that song, I became a Dido fan and that’s how I became the music-geeky person you know today.

Since then, I always liked pondering about what my anthem was as sort of a thought to get entranced by whenever I was daydreaming. Would it be “Thunder Road” by the Boss? Would it be “Falling Slowly” after all of those times that I watched Once? For awhile, I thought it was “England” by the National, but I believe that “England” is my favorite song. That is different from an anthem.

Two years later, this year, I created my anthem.

I first listened to this particular song after I watched High Fidelity for the first time. For a long time, the song always had this sort of romantic connotation to it. I mean, if a young John Cusack made a mixtape for me and this was on there, who wouldn’t be smitten?

I had always really liked Stevie Wonder growing up, but his music was always in the background for me. I don’t know if I would even really consider myself an official fan either – I’ve hardly gone through his discography. However, I was always, at the very least, a casual fan because I always loved playing the Stevie Wonder trumpet parts in band.

“Sir Duke” was always so much fun to play and I’m pretty sure I started playing “Superstition” when I was a freshman in high school. I’m particularly fond of “Sir Duke” because the first time I listened to it was in the car while I was waiting for my mom to pick my sister up from a friend’s house. I, unsurprisingly, was hiding from social interaction and listening to music. This… song came on, and it was so optimistic and upbeat and happy and I had to dance. I had no way of telling what the song was (it was before the days of Shazam), but I didn’t care and just simply danced. I knew that the song would come back into my life again. And it did.

But it was High Fidelity and this power of such emotion that seriously drew me into his music. It played to the melodramatic entertainer in me. Oh, reveling in such vocal prowess! I started listening to more of his stuff and got more interested in other soul and funk artists as well.

It was this year when “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” became my anthem.

It was first when I was starting to finally feel better about everything in LA. I had been able to get back into the swing of driving after my accident and I was being a lot more cautious. I was starting to be less mousey and anxious at with the people I was meeting and thinking of myself with the mindset that yes, maybe this isn’t a fluke that I’m here.

Cognitively, I was in a better place.

I liked the routine that I established. While I still was dealing with my anxiousness, I could find periods of happiness that were becoming less of pockets of time and more breadths of stability. I didn’t automatically expect upheaval – things could be normal and I would be all right with that. I was getting to know people better and was happy with the wonderful closeness that I was developing with new friends.

Amoeba Music was part of that routine. It was quick to drive there from the apartment and if I didn’t have much homework or if I was done, why not go? Why not just walk among all of that music, all of that history, all of that sound? The life of the place boosted me whenever I walked in and it felt like home.

One day, perusing the CDs, I found the High Fidelity soundtrack. I always loved the music in the film and it made me think of Chicago. Despite feeling more comfortable in this new city, I couldn’t wait to be home again. The bridges, the river, the lake. So, of course, I was going to buy the album.

Driving back, there was a moment in the car while listening to “I Believe” where I finally let go.

I can be really hard on myself. It’s annoying to my friends, family and myself. Not so much because we’re all heartless. It’s because we all know that I don’t need to be like that to myself and that it’s debilitating to always hear about my self-criticisms. My self-deprecations. A spiraling sense of drama of something that doesn’t exist but something that I feel.

When the semester started, I went into LA a little physically heavier than I’ve been that the last few years. Not extremely noticeable to other people, but because I used to weigh even heavier, I’m very vigilant about the way my body feels. I remember packing for the LA semester and crying because I kept trying on all the clothes that used to fit me just three months before. I couldn’t even pretend to button some buttons or make some zippers work.

With that, I went to LA with a critical look on myself. This reflected in how I interacted with people. It was like how I used to be in high school – I was more subordinate, quieter, timid, less confident. Certainly not the pub-strutting version of myself that I grew into while I was in London. The previous semester was also different because I was going into London with a better sense of self-worth. LA, I was already feeling like I was tired of dealing with my problems.

When you have a negative mindset about yourself, it makes your way of interpreting events more difficult. You tend to pick out the bad in situations a lot more easily. I let my feelings of discomfort rule my head at times. Reaching back to the past – calling home, reaching out to friends that I missed at school and from home – was a coping mechanism. It was sometimes healthy, but sometimes it was excessive and took me away from the present.

Despite this, I had traveled too much to let a city rest on its own without me. I felt best when I explored.

My screenwriting professors at the end of each class would always tell us to “Keep going.” I’d think about that whenever I had to drive places or do tasks at work that I had no experience with beforehand.

I started to work out more and I ate well considering there was a gym in the apartment complex and that there were eighty thousand grocery stores within a five-mile radius.

It was the routine.

It was working hard.

Knowing how to do those two things makes me feel like I’m on track even when I’m having a moment where I’m being hyper self-conscious. In the corner of my mind, even though I was overwhelmed, I knew that if I worked on focusing on those two things, I would feel better.

Once some of the initial anxiousness ebbed, I loved being in the moment of working. I was able to enjoy myself more during class and I certainly loved studying at my favorite coffee shop. I was beginning to allow myself to feel happy because I knew that I deserved to at least give that to myself.

So it was that moment, in the car, listening to “I Believe,” when that feeling truly settled.

And I realized that it wasn’t a love song.

Relationships and romance can be incredibly stressful. Of all things, it is very easy to get caught up in the minutia with those experiences. It’s not until later when you think to yourself, “That didn’t work, but I feel wonderful that at one point in time, someone felt that close to me.”

When you do finally take it in, it just makes you feel good that you were that good to yourself and that someone else noticed. And it’s not like you even were trying to be anything, you were just feeling so good about doing your own thing and that made another person, even with their own walk of life, be drawn into you.

That’s self-worth. That’s confidence.

It was with that mindset when I was listening to “I Believe” when I realized it wasn’t a love song but a song about overcoming those feelings of self-doubt and being above tormenting yourself emotionally. Why are you doing that to yourself? You don’t need to do that.

You have so much and so much to offer.

When Stevie sings “I believe when I fall in love with you it will be forever” I saw it in a different perspective – it wasn’t to anyone specific. It was the fact that one day, you will find someone who will love you.

And you’re always knowing of break-ups and divorces and all of that. But that hope is so powerful, that optimism is so uplifting. Because we do live in a world of break-ups and divorces, so why not put yourself out there because then you’ve at least tried. And you’ll meet people and some of those people will still be in your lives; they’ll just take a different shape. And at very least, why not feel let yourself feel good to believe in that hope?

Apart from relationships, why not put yourself out there in the world? The world is a cold and hard place but that’s why people are so grateful to find all the good that’s in the world. That’s how people get over crippling diseases and traumatic events and feeling depressed because thank God for the things that makes you feel good.

It was that moment where I started belting along with the song. Like comically.

You know what moment I’m talking about. When he’s saying that “God answer my prayer.”

I grew up in a church that was so wonderful to me but to be honest, my religious views are murky right now. But I felt so relieved to know that I would be able to allow myself to let go of my self-criticism, that I wouldn’t always be so trapped in my mind, so I sang along.

Despite the beautiful revelation that I had, of snapping myself to as I pulled into the parking garage, despite returning to that song in a new light up until the plane ride home, I thought that it was as simple as that. That I would never allow myself feel bad again because I had already learned my lesson.

Your mind moves with you no matter where you go.

I was very content and solid this summer. I had a fantastic internship that I loved. I was video editing again, and, oh my goodness, I missed it so much after a year. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it. But being someone that is fastidious about the correct placement of things (not my clothes in my room, rather the posters on my wall), editing is a grand sense of relief. That eagerness to create and edit is all right there on the timeline.

I was feeling content. I was feeling solid.

I allowed myself to forget that it was temporary.

There was one night in the summer where “I Believe” was a blast of reality. I didn’t listen to it with the right mindset.

I had just had an absolutely wonderful time in the city with a friend that I had met up with at a coffee shop. I had a great day at work and I had plenty of time to make the train at Union Station. I walked along Wacker Drive with the sunset glimmering on the river, walking next to the bridge that Rob Gordon milled around on when he was contemplating on his love with Laura. I let the dialogue from the film flitter around in my brain, switching back and forth from pretending to be Rob and imagining what it’d be like to be loved by Rob, to be his Laura. The buildings, beige with the glow of the lampposts, looked like river facades of Amsterdam. The L car routinely rattled on auburn tracks as I passed underneath its bridge. I kept walking, feeling as if I was stepping into a perfect moment. Or maybe that was just the caffeine kicking in.

I had reached the archways of the Lyric Opera, the lights hanging, illuminating the sidewalk below. The beautiful, grandiose buildings across the street created a cubism portrait of the skyline in front of it.

What a perfect place, I thought, thinking of how a city, once again, made me feel at home, no stressors in any part of my mind. I want to spend an eternity here. I want to find love here.

The song had swelled to when Stevie was singing about prayers. I crossed the street and looked down, the road and the future suddenly seeming so long, so vast, like when you stare at a diagram of our solar system for too long.

This is all just temporary.

A nasty feeling crept up from my stomach to my brain. The freeing feeling, the summer, this moment – that’s all it was, just a moment. And it was going to go away. One day soon, I would be back in a place that I had left behind. I had left people behind.

And my mind menaced me.

The rest of the train ride home I sat shaking, listening to nothing, watching people walk up and down the aisle. I told myself that it was because I drank too much coffee.

I didn’t listen to the song for awhile. In fact, for a variety of reasons, it really hurt to listen to it. I became afraid of my own anthem because I was allowing myself to dwell. I was allowing those negative thoughts to come back.

Especially when I went to back school.

Seeing people that you befriend nearly two years prior and then expecting to have the same friendship again is like having drunk goggles on. You’re pretty sure you know what you’re doing, but every now and then things get a bit wobbly. I fortunately did have a lot of good people that I relied on, at school and at home and other places where I had met people.

But I had changed. And it’s not like they were going to know exactly how.

I had reset the cognitive clock and I was the early-February version of myself again. Unsure and nervous. This time, I had been in Syracuse before, but everywhere I walked, I remembered so vividly what it was like to walk next to those beautiful beige river facades, those glowing lampposts. I had become petty about looking at trees instead of skyscrapers.

I worried that I had become ungrateful. I was acting spoiled in some respects, but I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity instead of acting against my neurotic tendencies. My high school habits were easy to rely on because they were that – easy.

To be honest, I still at times revert back to that sort of thought process. That wariness, that search for the negative. Creating scapegoats, crying for no reason. When I was in LA, I thought it was all going to go away but I hadn’t allowed myself to admit to myself that I am harder work than that. I’m smarter than that. I’m so smart that I can manage to trick myself thrice times over.

But you know what does help? Learning to own it.

I am very intelligent and I have always considered that my greatest strength. That is always what I rely on, which is why I am at such ease when I work, when I create. In a way, I have made myself so strong that even though I could be pulling myself up from some dark emotional hole that I dug for myself, there is no way in Hell where I am going to give up on what I am working on, what I am working for. At my center, at my core, is perseverance and diligence. Even if I can’t always reflect that emotionally, I will always reflect that in what I do with my productivity.

I thought that I would be a better person if I were less of a control-freak with my own mind instead of accepting who I am. Because even if I am allowing my mind to branch off in a thousand tiny spindles, at least I know who I am, truly. And that takes courage.

I got this feeling in my gut when I began to listen to “I Believe” again.

I was walking up the monstrosity of the hill that I have to climb each day to get to class. It was the second to last week of school. I was preparing to go into finals mode and my brain began to compartmentalize the hours in the day, the techniques and tools that I needed to use for each final or project that I had to turn in. My mind was at its most productive and I was feeling vibrant.

I was walking up the hill and seeing my breath in front of me and dared to listen to the song again. Instead of being bombarded with nostalgia, I remembered what I felt in the car, belting, and used that to push me up. Lift me up into that feeling of power, that feeling of surety. This semester was an emotional rollercoaster but by God, at least I was going to destroy my finals. And I did.

So here I am, on the cusp of a New Year, as we all are. There are many, many people who have felt the things that I have felt, have been on the roads that I have had to cross. It’s just taken me until now to join the variety of collective experiences, the good and the not-as-fun, shall we say.

I’m going to graduate this upcoming year, as many of my friends and my peers will do as well. We’ll be searching for something, be it a job or a home or a network. Or something simpler, like truth. Or grander, like the world. And as we do, every now and then, it’s nice to drive around, listen to Stevie Wonder, and just let it all out.

Because in the end, it’s okay.