About five or six years ago I used to go to and from school while listening to Suzanne Vega a lot. I remember walking in the brisk cold and thinking how beautifully and perfectly the music was written. Once I went online and looked up not just the lyrics but what Vega had to say about her songs. I was surprised that not only had she written about them but she had extensively described the process of how she came up with song ideas. I found it fascinating.
Beautiful music leaves me despondent; especially music that I find evocative, music that reminds me of stuff I’ve been reading or of stuff I’d like to write. I feel a sort of impotent desperation when hearing music I feel a particular affinity with: Suzanne Vega but also Yann Tiersen, Mumford & Sons, sometimes Ed Sheeran, lately Lord Huron…
When I was a teenager, I would write a lot while listening to The Cure. Frantically I’d put on Wish or Disintegration and try to write out all the emotions and images that came with the music. I always used to associate certain songs, certain bands with characters, with stories I was conceiving. I remember very clearly how my discovery of The Smiths coincided with the crystallization of a character in my head who I always imagined as a sort of sociopath. Morrissey’s apathetic melancholy, his cry of “I was only joking when I said, I’d like to smash a gritle in your head” in a sweet, tired voice made me excited. I thought: “There! That’s the character as I’ve always envisioned him! That’s the core of him! Not just the words but the music and tone, the tired, helpless cheerfulness with which he says it. I’ve caught him!”
It feels like I’m getting old. Thirty-two and I haven’t written any books. Thirty-two and still no degree. Thirty-two and there’s so much I want to do and haven’t done.
What used to elate me now fills me with anxious dread, as if I half suspect I’ll never get to write the book or finish the degree or see the world I want to see. I’ve been working so hard and I still feel woefully inadequate. I still long for so many things I haven’t done yet.
Five or six years ago, when I listened to Marlene On The Wall it used to haunt me even when I knew my favorites were World Before Columbus and The Queen And The Soldier… it must have been a sort of prescience, seeing myself in the lyrics, in her song, as she sees herself in her poster of Marlene Dietrich. I feel a little like that now “but the only soldier now is me, I’m fighting things I cannot see, I think it’s called my destiny…” She speaks to a lover as so many songs seem to… I have no lover now except past ones, but sometimes I feel I am in dialogue with the future ones.
During these last couple of years I’ve told most people I have no interest in falling in love or finding a partner and that is and isn’t true. Falling in love… building a relationship, dreaming of a future… it all takes a certain level of effort and work that I’m not willing to put in at the moment. I am unsatisfied with myself… the truth is, I’d like to become the sort of person I would like to date, or else how will someone I fancy, fancy me back?
No degree, no books, no traveling…
I have to fix that. I have to look for the things I want and dream of. I have to be the person I aspire to be… if I wish to demand all this of someone else, how can I not demand it of myself?