Theme music for my life: 2003

We all have songs that we associate with certain periods of our lives. Maybe “In Your Eyes” reminds you of your prom while “Borderline” makes you think of junior high and hanging out in the parking lot of Stop ‘n Shop on Friday nights (maybe that’s just me).

Some songs give me a visceral reaction – I hear it and it’s like I’ve traveled back in time.

Back in 2003 I was still married, and had been for about three years. I was happy off and on – my husband and I were comfortable with each other, and had fun sometimes. But I also worried a lot. I felt like I wasn’t meeting a lot of expectations, from not driving more to not making enough money to buy a house.

I don’t know why I hate driving. In high school I developed a phobia, then going to college in New York and living in Boston afterwards, I just never really had a need. My husband HATED that I didn’t like to drive, and put tremendous pressure on me. Once he tried to teach me to drive stick in a parking lot, which was a disaster. I was very sensitive, and he interpreted my sensitivity as stubornness and just pressed harder till finally he lost his temper.

In 2003 I was still a secretary making about $50K, which to my ex wasn’t enough. By then, he thought, we should have had enough to buy a condo or townhouse. I thought saving some money every month would help, but he thought somehow we should have a big chunk of change all at once. He wanted me to switch careers into something with more upward mobility, like going back into publishing, although I didn’t want to do that and wanted to focus on my writing.

“You’d be happier if I gave up my writing altogether,” I said. He didn’t deny it.

So I tried to write a best seller. The experience was awful. It took a toll on how I approached and felt about my writing. I hated the pressure, and when I kept getting rejected, I felt at a loss as to what I could do to make money.

It was all about money. When one of my short stories got accepted by a literary magazine, my ex’s first question was, “How much will they pay you?” I had a feeling they wouldn’t, as most lit journals just can’t afford it, but still I asked and felt like such an asshole when the editor answered that most authors are happy to simply be published.

At the gym in the mornings they’d play this Jimmy Eat World song again and again. It’s sort of vapid, but the words would make me want to cry:

Hey, you know they’re all the same.
You know you’re doing better on your own,
So don’t buy in.
Live right now.
Yeah, just be yourself.
It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough
For someone else.

It just takes some time,
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride.
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be alright. (alright)

And listening to the song on my iPod on the bus this morning still brought a tear to my eye. Not so much in a self-pitying way, but like who I was in 2003 was someone else, a girl I want to tell that everything will be all right.


  1. I don’t do the driving thing so well either. As in I don’t do it at all. Boston and NY (and SF) will spoil a girl that way.

  2. How come I can’t leave a comment here under my WordPress name?

    Oh well — I know what you mean about how some songs just take you back in time.

    It seems like you’re the sort of person who focuses on lyrics, too — sometimes, all I need is that one key line to make me feel like someone else out there understands me and that song gets slotted into the soundtrack of my life.