A friend sent me this Slog link. Elliott Smith would've been 40 yesterday. There was a time during law school when I listened to his music every day, on repeat, all day and night. When I walked to Brownie's to see him. Once, I met him backstage at Bottom Line at a Mary Lou Lord show, mostly watching them talk. I think I handed him her set list.
But the other day, Saturday, when I'd spent all day covered in dirt, looking for my keys, hating being in New York and not Minneapolis, hating myself, I thought of him. Thought of "I don't think I'm ever gonna figure it out." I was looking over his lyrics and remembering what I related to so much about his music. It wasn't so much the despair but the gut honesty. The not prettying it up. The voice that would sound choked up even when it wasn't, necessarily.
But the more I think about him, and depression, and despair and my own innate pessimism, the more I think that, to go back to Elliott's songs, that's the "easy way out." It's what infuriates me about other people, when they complain about being stuck but so clearly are not. I have to actively remind myself that I have choices, that all the mistakes that have gotten me to this place, well, not that they can be undone, but that I can work on them, find a way to at the very least, apologize for them, and at best, not make them again. It's like this cheesy but so true magnet I sent my ex, "Always Make New Mistakes." That's a far cry from the thought that ran through my mind, the Elliott line, the truth, on Saturday: "I don't think I'm ever gonna figure it out."
With me, I keep getting reminders that people believe in me, believe in my writing. They have faith where I don't and they use it and their power to advance it. Sometimes I so want to argue with them. I don't see it, don't get it, can't conceive of being the one who sees it through. I get so mired in my own fear of failure that I don't even try and looking back, that's what happened with law school, that's what's happened more times than I can count even if I'd wanted to.
So the Elliott Smith song I go to is Independence Day." I remember talking about it right after he died with a friend who knew him. We were trying to find some solace, some something, and we did, mostly in that line I quoted in the title. It's so amazingly easy for me to forget that, to get so caught up in, say, my own defeatism, or worrying what someone else thinks about me, or whatever, that I completely lose sight of what I'm doing, where I'm going, what my goals are. I get so bogged down in the depressing details I forget that there is brilliance now, and, I hope, tomorrow.
For something interesting on Elliott by one of the writers I think has done the best work on him, Corey duBrowa, see this Magnet piece on his most overrated songs (I think he is trying to say these are overrated). Yes, "Independence Day" is on there, plus MP3s and links to their cover stories on him.
Labels: Elliott Smitth