Back when I was commuting to College Park for school, the only thing getting me through long, terrible, traffic-riddled drives was the soothing sound of John Mayer.
Though his antics in recent years may have colored him in the public’s eye, perhaps, John will always be my main man. I can’t remember my young adult years without thinking of “Clarity,” “Bigger Than My Body,” “Something’s Missing,” “No Such Thing.” As John grew and released more sophisticated, blues-inspired tunes, so did I. My early years at Borders were marked by the release of “Continuum,” the 2006 album that served as a definitive change in his sound, and it became the soundtrack to my college days.
Sometimes I have these moments — crystal, perfect — that fill up the soul. Soothe me. Comfort me. Remind me that, no matter how disjointed and afraid I may feel some days, I’m on the right path . . . and everything is going to be just fine.
I often have John to thank.
Some of my best thinking gets done in the car. Despite all the chaos in the D.C. area, I usually find cruising around to be pretty relaxing. I don’t mind being alone — especially with music or books along for the ride. When the weather is nice? Windows down, hand in the wind. Just going.
Last night I’d just finished an audiobook and was digging around for something to listen to when I rediscovered “Where The Light Is,” John’s two-disc live album from 2008. “Stop This Train” began to play. The simple guitar intro took me immediately back to the spring of my senior year of college — the time when I realized, in a few short months, I’d be done with school forever and officially “an adult.”
I didn’t have a job lined up. Didn’t have a post-graduation plan. Was still living at home and already pondering ways to end another relationship, which pained and scared me — because at the time, he was my absolute best friend. Though far from being my great love, it’s always hard saying goodbye.
I remember driving on the Beltway on a warm spring day, the sun filtering through my cracked windows with “Continuum” on repeat. Graduation was probably weeks away, based on the knot in my stomach, and I was taking the exit that would lead me back home. Happiness and freedom should have been sitting right in my passenger seat, soothing me, but I’m nothing if not a worrier. I just remember feeling scared.
Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?
The words — the words. They hit me like a brick wall.
Oh once in a while, when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you won’t miss a thing
Until you cry . . . when you’re driving away
In the dark
How did John slip inside the darkest corner of my heart and pluck out every scared thing I was feeling? I can’t listen to that song without thinking of that day . . . which is exactly what happened last night.
And then I realized: I got through it.
My fears about getting a job, leaving home, making new friends, finding someone to love who would love me just as much . . . entering “adulthood.” All of that. It hasn’t been easy and it’s certainly not over, but I did many of the things I was once so afraid to do. They came to pass, and I’m still standing.
Indebted. But that’s okay, too.
I drove slowly to the new house, the one stacked sky-high with boxes. Breathed in the muggy air. Watched the fireflies twinkling in the trees.
It’s the most unshackled I’ve felt in months.