Friday, September 2, 2011

In which Jenny Lewis leads to greater self-awareness.

"You Are What You Love" - Jenny Lewis
With the Watson Twins

This song popped into my head this morning, after a few years of almost forgetting it existed. It's one of those songs that reminds me of a specific time, place, or feeling. A certain Neko Case song is reminiscent a difficult goodbye. Most Liz Phair songs remind me of what it was like to be in a sexually and emotionally confusing relationship. Play me the right Belle & Sebastian song, and I am transported to a dimly lit room in a moment so exhilarating and exciting that I forget about the coffin in the corner.

With this song, I remember, clear as a bell, being 19 years old and heartbroken for an entire summer. I had experienced two romantic flops in less than 2 months' time. These duds followed startingly identical trajectories: Meet guy. Slowly flirt and bat eyelashes. Make out. Flirt more. Fool around. CELL PHONE SILENCE. For someone as young and inexperienced as I, this double-feature of lameness devastated me. I would hole myself up in my room and listen to the same songs over and over again, this one being featured heavily. After spending many nights smoking Marlboro Lights and sneaking malt beverages on my back patio, I became convinced that I was experiencing the worst heartbreak and that I was destined for a lifetime of unrequited loves. I took the pain and ran with it, catastrophizing everything.

Years later, I don't take it so personally when flirtations fizzle out. I know now that it's very common and typically for the better. I know that not all romantic entanglements have to be novels; most are short stories and some are just blurbs. And, hello? It's totally his loss. The point is, when this kind of thing has happened to me recently, I brush it off and move on. I can say, "No big swig" to something that would have caused me indescribable pain only five years ago. That right there, is proof of lifetime progress. I have learned how to survive pain and disappointment. Better than that, I am much better at seeing things for what they are. It could have just been the product of more life experience, but it's also possible that at some point I made the conscious decision that feeling like a victim is simply not an option, especially such a trivial issue as boys. I grew up, forged on, and survived the perils of my hormones. 

So when I thought of that song, I could remember feeling such a painful association with this it, but I could not, for the life of me, recall why I had identified so strongly with it at that time. I've had similar crummy situations since then, as recently as this summer, and I just can't see myself responding with such pain. When something like that happens now, I brush it off and walk away. I take a moment to acknowledge the disappointment and move on. There are much greater heartaches to endure, much higher mountains to climb.

This disparity of response is reassuring to me. It's reassuring to know that the pain, frustration, and confusion I currently feel towards my personal life is completely tolerable. In five years, it might even seem trivial and laughable. It sucks right now, but I have to fight through it. I was obviously able to do it in college, as I stopped caring about those two lame boys by the end of that summer. I moved on. I forged on despite my heavy heart when I was 19, and the light at the end of that tunnel was the absolute brightest I had ever seen. It can happen again. I will find a new light at the end of this tunnel, too. I just have to keep fighting, keep surviving. The reward that is waiting for me will be...unimaginably wonderful.

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