The Art of Letting Go
When I recommend a song to someone else, I am sharing multiple variations of myself: the piano solo that shaped me, words coming out of the overall sound, only heard because of their swift intimacy. To me, sharing a song is an incredibly vulnerable experience. I desire the knowledge that others can feel just as deeply about a single thing. I crave this admission of openness, to even for three and a half minutes let someone into my pulsating world. I curl up in anticipation of response: it’s okay, not my thing, though, or I like it, or I love it, why has it taken so long for you to show me this! The unspoken subtext to this last reaction is, of course, just like me. You feel just like me.
I have a friend who has tried to introduce me to the band Rush for years, and for years, I have revolted in earnest. I clung to the belief that their work was just not for me. When my friend sent me their song titles, I promised I would listen to them later and, inevitably, never did.
So much of my life is about clutching onto stability. After moving so much as a child, after having lived across the country from my family and everyone I love, I want to hold onto some small worlds that are of my own making, safe and made of the musically familiar. I am the same with relationships—if I don’t necessarily have a hard time letting go initially, then the problem lies in the fact that I recur back to people. When I am lonely or unsatisfied with the present, I fall into those from my past, though this is rarely fair to them. This friend I talked about earlier is one of those people. After years of on and off romantic interest, our relationship has always been unstable, one loss of fantasy away from falling apart.
And the thing is, sometimes it does fall apart. We go weeks or months without speaking to each other. But somehow we always find our way back: when we fell out of touch recently, he broke the silence by sending me a Snapchat video of a song he was sampling when making beats. We were back once more.
Through the years I’ve realized a crucial difference between the way we approach listening to music, he ardently to the lyrics and me to the melody itself, the lyrics hitting me just as straight pure sound. Maybe it’s odd to be a writer who doesn’t listen closely to song lyrics, but I want to feel the internal pull of the strings, the buildup to the chorus, how even after the song ends it remains in my head. There’s always the possibility that this tendency might be picked up from my habit of listening to music in other languages, where the feelings still make sense because the sounds of the words themselves sift into melodies of longing and hunger, disgrace and regret, forgiveness and love.
Recently, my friend asked me to listen to the Rush song “The Analog Kid”. These lyrics were his favorite of all time, he said. Of the current moment, these were the words he related to the most. Just all of it, the idea of ambition, of never knowing how far you can go. And despite myself, I did listen.
you move me / you move me / with your buildings and your eyes / autumn woods and winter skies / you move me / you move me / open sea and city lights / busy streets and dizzy heights / you call me / you call me
I was also struck by the lyrics, so open to a young person’s experiences and confusions moving through the fast-paced nature of life. The reverie in this music astounds me. And still, within this dreamworld, ambition is a humanized force, always changing shape, the sky or skyscrapers, the water and the forest. The images all move into each other, like flour sifted in the morning. Because I’m young and I’m confused, and I don’t know what I want. I don’t yet know how the shapes of things are supposed to be, the edges of my relationships, when to stay, where to go. The aspects of myself shifting and clashing against each other, between stability and impermanence, between vulnerability and guardedness, and still the song reaches into the world, from my friend to me, from me to you. You call me. You call me.