Whenever my discontentment rises to the surface—which it has to from time to time so that it can sink again and dry out and I can go back to remembering what I do have—I find myself gravitating helplessly around the same thoughts. I begin to dream of visiting a faraway place—one that sadly doesn’t really exist. I become hopeless about ever finding Thunder Road.
See, me and my main man Bruce Springsteen are dreamers. I am pretty sure our souls are made of the same stuff. Bruce’s early music is obsessed with youth: the intense anger and the constant searching for somewhere you belong. The desire to run away, to search for a magical place you aren’t even sure exists. At least that’s what it has come to mean to me over the past year. His music is a world that I can retreat to, where daydreams don’t seem so silly.
But my dreams and desires so often embarrass me. It’s the most personal thing you can reveal, I think: what you desperately want, what you want so much that it pains you to imagine its never happening. Sometimes it hurts to listen to Bruce’s music because it’s filled with the life and vivacity that I want eventually for myself. It sows the seeds for the kind of path I want to follow—and I am terrified I won’t be able to follow it. I am still not even sure what I want is what I want or if it’s just what society has TOLD me to want (e.g., recognition, power, success). Am I being truthful to myself? Am I being realistic? My imagined future changes according to what mood I am in that day, or what has caught my eye or what cloud my head is stuck in. It’s like I have two parallel lives, the one in my head and the other one that involves crappy stuff and is sometimes boring and disappointing.
So after bottling it up for a long while, I bared my soul a little to my friend Kathleen on Sunday. We agreed that the intensity of being a teenager means you can sometimes love something and hate it simultaneously. We listened to “Born to Run” and suddenly I didn’t feel the need to punch the wall—it’s just THAT GOOD. As we looked out of her bedroom window at our town, we both decided that our place in the world probably won’t be found on the suburban streets of Birmingham. To share that feeling with another human being is a comfort.
Maybe it’s Thunder Road I think about at times like this because it’s also the journey to that place. Maybe there isn’t a particular place to be. Maybe you carry it with you. And the song has that endless sense of possibility: “These two lanes will take us anywhere.” ANYWHERE. I want to go anywhere!
Whatever my future anxieties may be (exams, new school, etc.), I am proud to say that I am in a much better place than I was this time last year. Like, miles ahead. So yes, there is more I need to do to get to where I want to be, but where I am now is an achievement in itself!
And when I get so sick of neighbourhood that I can’t stand the sight of it, I can just close my eyes and listen to Bruce singing about desperately wanting to get out of town and find his own place in the world.