rejection

Exit 154. I don’t want to be the kind of guy that old country songs are about.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a very large and diverse music collection.  I haven’t taken the time to learn my way around streaming music services, for a variety of reasons, but that’s another discussion for another time.

Earlier this month, I made an overnight trip to visit some relatives I don’t see often, which resulted in me spending a lot of time in the car with my six thousand plus songs playing on shuffle, and this song came on.

(The song is “The Girl From Yesterday” by the Eagles, with the late Glenn Frey on vocals.  Apparently, this is one of their lesser known songs, and there is no official YouTube video, so if in the future someone is ever reading this, and the link doesn’t work anymore, let me know and I’ll try to fix it if I can.)

I started listening to classic rock radio (among other things) in my late teens, the early 1990s.  The Eagles, one of the most recognizable bands of the genre, broke up in 1980 after an argument between Glenn Frey and Don Henley.  After both of them had successful solo careers in the 80s, the Eagles got back together in 1994, toured, and released an album with four new songs (including this one) and some live songs from their tour.  I got that CD as a Christmas present my first Christmas home from college.

But for a while, this was my least favorite song on the album, and I would often skip it.  It took a while to grow on me, because it was too country for me.  The Eagles have always been known for blending rock and country music influences, but as I’ve written about before, I didn’t like country music until much later in my life, and this song is about as country as songs come.  The topic of the song is pretty stereotypical of country songs as well: a woman whose man left her, and she is never able to get over him or accept the fact that he is gone for good.  (This song did grow on me before the rest of the country genre as a whole did, but I don’t remember if there’s any big story to that.)

It was in 2005, during my travels across the USA and back, that I realized that country music isn’t so bad sometimes.  A friend who I visited during that time let me copy a bunch of her country CDs to my laptop, and one of them included this song, which also came up on shuffle earlier this month:

Lyrically, this is another pretty standard country song: a guy is determined to get over a woman who left him.  I hadn’t heard this song in a while, and one line caught my ear when I heard it this time:

I heard that old Jones song just the other day
About a man who took a broken heart to his grave
But I’ll be dammed if a memory’s gonna lay me down

As one would expect, old country music isn’t my area of expertise, since I mostly ignored it.  I didn’t know what Dierks was referring to the first time I heard this song in 2005.  But I have learned a little more about old country music since then, and I’m pretty sure the “old Jones song” refers to this:

 

(Again, not an official video, let me know if it ever stops working.  The song is “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by the late George Jones.)

I don’t want to be the kind of guy that old country songs are about.  (Of course, in the case of The Girl From Yesterday, the genders would be reversed.)  I’ve spent decades carrying around the burdens of memories of rejection and relationships that didn’t work out.  They’re not coming back.  They’re not going to change.  It does me no good to keep carrying around these memories.  I don’t know how to do this, but I have to figure it out.  Maybe it means doing new things and spending time with different people.  Maybe it means I’ve come to some bridges that it’s time to burn.  But I will do this.  I will move on with my life.

Exit 130. An outside perspective.

A friend of mine who lived in California until about a year ago, and who has been known to call himself a music snob, recently made a Facebook post in which he said something like “Since nobody else is saying it, I will: Lynyrd Skynyrd was just okay.”  They’ve never been my absolute favorite, I only have a greatest hits album of theirs, but I still think they’re better than “just okay.”  I made some snarky comment, probably a little more rude than I should have been, about how nobody else is saying it because everyone else has good taste in music.

One of his other friends said that he is only saying this because he is not from the South.  He replied something about how sometimes you need an outside perspective on things.

And then I realized that he’s right.

Lynyrd Skynyrd formed in Jacksonville in the late 1960s.  I once heard someone say that Florida is the upside-down state, in that the farther north you go, it feels more and more like the South.  Jacksonville is about as far north as you can go in Florida, just a few miles from Georgia, and the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd has often been considered one of the major examples of the “Southern rock” genre, blending classic rock with blues and country influences.  My friend’s point was that Lynyrd Skynyrd is so iconic in Southern culture that many Southerners never think to question whether or not their music is actually good.

I’ve had a few outside perspectives in my life.  I started college the same year that a TV show called Friends premiered on NBC.  Friends was huge among my peers and classmates.  It was the show that everyone related to and aspired to, with their groups of people they hang out with at home and at the coffee shop, sharing each other’s lives and gossiping about their significant others.  But not me.  I tried to get into Friends, but I came from an outside perspective.  I didn’t have that kind of group of friends in real life; having friends in the first place was new to me in my late teens, and I still didn’t have much of a social life.  All six of the main characters of Friends reminded me of the kind of Cool Kids who bullied and rejected me all through childhood.  I don’t want to watch a show about them, unless it’s about them dying horribly painful deaths.  And I couldn’t even relate to the coffee shop thing, because from my perspective, coffee tastes like crap.  I always felt that my social life was stunted being a university student in the Friends era who did not drink coffee.

A couple years ago, I also remember having a conversation with an acquaintance in which I said that I don’t particularly like romantic comedies as a genre, although there are a small few that I’ve enjoyed.  (Like this one, even though it’s not real.)  She asked why, and I said because I can’t relate to romantic comedies.  She said something like, “Really?  I would think that love is something universal that everyone can relate to.”  Maybe everyone she knows, but from my outside perspective, love is something that only happens in movies and books and other people’s lives.  I’ve experienced all of the heartache associated with relationships with very little of the good times, and even the few good relationship moments I have experienced have not usually involved the awkwardly sweet giggling, long walks on the beach, or having sex with someone you just met a week ago that seem to characterize romantic comedies.

So maybe an outside perspective is necessary.  And a good thing, so that people who aren’t living breathing stereotypes don’t get forgotten.  And if my friend from the first paragraph is reading this, I’m sorry for insulting your taste in music.

Exit 129. I wish you wouldn’t worry, let it be.

Friday night, I was home, doing nothing, and I broke down crying.

It wasn’t completely out of nowhere.  It happened while I had my music on shuffle, and this song came on.

If you are anti-country music and don’t want to click the link, look up the lyrics; if you’re not willing to do that, then the TL;DR version is that he is singing about all the things that he wishes he could go back and tell his teenage self.  As with many works in this genre, the general tone is along the lines of “everything will be all right, life gets better.”

And I started crying because I feel like everything is not all right, and life has not gotten better.

Now there are certainly some specific situations for which I could tell my younger self that they aren’t worth getting worked up over in the long run.  Like in elementary school, pretty much everyone, even random strangers, made fun of me and called me names, but if I could, I would tell my past self that there would come a time a decade or so later when that wouldn’t happen very often.  I can’t say it never happens anymore, every once in a while I get random jerks driving by and yelling rude harassing comments out of their car windows, but this is definitely the exception rather than the rule, and I have real friends now too.  And in high school, regarding one of the times I told a crush that I liked her and she didn’t feel the same way back, I would tell my past self that it wouldn’t have worked out anyway, because she would come out as a lesbian in her 20s.  I don’t know if that would have made me feel any better back then, but it’s true.

But, for example, the Brad Paisley song contains this lyric:

You got so much up ahead
You’ll make new friends
You should see your kids and wife
And I’d end by saying have no fear
These are nowhere near
The best years of your life

I can’t tell my past self to get over rejection by a crush because “you should see your kids and wife”… I’ve never had a wife or kids.  And sometimes high school and college do feel like the best years of my life, because life was a lot less complicated then.  I had a lot more in common with the people surrounding me simply because of my place in life as a student, and I didn’t feel like an anomaly everywhere I went.  Yes, it’s true, things may get better in the future, and I may have a wife and kids someday.  But at the time the song was written, recorded, and released, Brad was younger than I am now.  It’s easy for me to expect that it should have all happened by now.  And all of that just came washing over me like a flood on Friday night.  That is why I started crying.

The song ends like this:

I wish you wouldn’t worry, let it be
I’d say have a little faith and you’ll see
That’s what I need.  Don’t worry, let it be.  There are a lot of circumstances I can’t control, and as I’ve said many times before, I need to find ways to accept what is and make the most of it.  And there are many people who have things a lot worse than me.  Things aren’t so bad after all.

Exit 106. It’s only holding you back.

During the course of my life, I seem to find myself getting rejected by women, in both platonic and romantic situations, in progressively more unbelievable and outlandish ways.  Whenever I think I’ve been rejected in a particularly shocking way, a few months later someone comes along and rejects me in an even worse manner.  By the way, I’m not being sexist here.  I’m sure that other combinations of genders have just as many outrageous rejection stories.

The other day, I was having a conversation on Facebook with a close female friend, regarding a guy she likes, and whether or not it would work.  I said, attempting to be snarky, “Well hopefully he won’t do this,” and then proceeded to describe a scenario in which he behaves toward her in the same hurtful way that a former love interest once behaved toward me.  My friend knew exactly what I was trying to do; she replied, “Did you just put me into one of your past situations again?”  I said yes, of course.  She replied, “You’ve got to stop doing that.  It’s only holding you back.”

She’s right.  It’s a harsh truth to hear, but she’s right.

Why is it so hard for me to let go of past hurts?  I think it comes down to the lack of justice.  The people who have treated me wrong (men, women, friends, love interests, acquaintances, strangers, everyone in general) get to move on with their perfect happy little lives, leaving me bruised and wounded, lying on the side of the road like a piece of trash.  What they did was wrong, and it’s not fair that they can get away with it.  I know this is a vastly oversimplified perspective, but on the gut reaction level, it feels like I’m doing everything right, and I’m miserable, whereas those who do everything wrong reap all the rewards of life.  I told something like this to someone else recently, not the same friend I mentioned above, and she pointed out that those people who do everything wrong probably aren’t as happy as I think they are.  I just don’t see the consequences of their decisions.  However, even if I did, that would not change the fact that I’m miserable.

Life isn’t fair.  Some people are jerks.  And there is nothing I can do to change that.  If I am going to interact with other human beings in any way, I am going to leave myself vulnerable to being hurt.  There are times when I have seriously questioned if it was worth it, or if I should just go become a hermit and live in a cabin in the forest.  But I don’t think that is the best solution either.  I just have to find a way to let go, a way to stop allowing these past hurts to continue to destroy me from within.  Everyone walks a different path, and it is up to God to deal with those who, from my limited human perspective, appear to be rewarded for doing everything wrong.  And it isn’t like I’m claiming to be perfect either.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the past, even if they aren’t the same kind of mistakes as the others in my circle.

It will take a lot of hard work to change almost forty years of this kind of thinking.  A big part of it will involve prayer and Scripture.  I will need to place myself in more positive situations.  I may have to have some difficult conversations with people still in my life who have hurt me, and I may have to cut others out of my life entirely.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution.  All I can do is keep taking steps in the right direction.

Exit 91. Oh, @#$%, I do know her.

Last night, I was at a friend’s birthday party.  When I got there, I scanned the room to see who was there.  I saw some people I knew, some people I recognized from previous birthday parties (I’ve been to all of her birthday parties since 2013), and some I didn’t seem to recognize at all.

The party was in an older house in an older neighborhood in Sacramento, and there is only one bathroom in the house.  About an hour and a half into the party, I was waiting in line to use the bathroom.  The bathroom door opened, and out walked one of the people I had spotted in my initial scan of the party and identified as one I didn’t know.  I smiled and said hi, as I usually do when I come face-to-face with party guests I don’t know.

“Hi,” she said, with a strange look on her face as she walked off.  By strange, I mean it wasn’t the friendly hello that usually comes when I’m about to introduce myself to a guest at a party whom I don’t know.  There was something significant in her response.

It hit me about two seconds later, as I walked into the bathroom and closed the door.  Oh, @#$%, I do know her, I thought.

I didn’t recognize her until I saw her face, because she has significantly shorter hair now, and I hadn’t seen her up close in my initial scan of the room.  I met her at this same birthday party two years ago.  Over the next few weeks, we started exchanging long Facebook messages, which then led to two dates.  On the way home from the second date, I asked her something like “what are we,” and she said that we were casually dating and seeing if things could work out.  Four days later (and this was right around Valentine’s Day, I should point out), she dumped me by text.  (I told this story in more detail here, in Highway Pi #42.)

I think it hurt so much because I felt like I deserved at least a phone call or a face-to-face conversation, not just a text.  In particular, I didn’t understand what had changed in those four days.  I suppose I was fortunate to at least get a text, though, because apparently the trend these days is to dump people by not saying anything at all, just refusing to answer communications and disappearing out of the other person’s life.  That’s just immature and cowardly to me.

I didn’t say anything to her the rest of the night last night, and she didn’t say anything to me.  I hate being in that awkward position where I don’t want to talk to someone, or someone doesn’t want to talk to me.  But I think that’s just part of life.  There have been times when I was able to reconcile with someone who had hurt me (I wrote about one in Highway Pi #19, for example).  But I can’t expect that to happen every time.  Everyone is different, and every ending friendship and relationship is different, and I can’t change people.  That’s okay.  The best I can do is move on.  Sometimes I’ve been in awkward situations with people, and I can’t always figure out if I want to stay friends with them or not.  That’s okay too.  Healing takes time, and usually it depends on the other person as well.  I just hope all of these situations sort themselves out in time.

The rest of the birthday party went really well.  To this day, I still don’t know if my friend who was having the birthday ever knew that her friend and I went out a couple times, or that she dumped me by text.  I didn’t bring it up.  There was no point.  I was having too much fun with other people who are actually fun to be around.