Adele drops the first song of "25". Where were you at "21"?
Adele dropped her newest single "Hello" yesterday, and if you don't know it by heart already, you probably weren't one of the millions of individuals that have been waiting impatiently for this moment for 4 years with "21" playing on repeat. I vividly remember going for the $12.99 iTunes store purchase and downloading what would become the soundtrack for my next several years of life. I was in London traveling solo during the Summer of 2011; it was a very different time for me, but Adele's music kept playing throughout my changing years. I first heard "Someone Like You", the most infamous track on "21", during a yoga class in which the teacher pressed play on the sob-inducing classic during Savasana. Never before and never again has my heart beat more quickly in that final resting pose than it had during the entire class. I was floored. What was this haunting song I'd never heard before? Who was singing it? How did they find the words that countless heartbroken lovers had tried but failed to say before? Like an evangelist, I told everyone I knew about "Someone Like You." Six months later I would find myself in love with someone whom I reconnected with during my summer in London; I had little awareness of what the song would really come to mean to me.
I'd studied vocal music in high school and while my "pipes" had grown rusty and dusty since then, I decided to enroll myself in private voice lessons during my senior year of college. When my new teacher asked me what I wanted to sing that semester, my answer was obvious. She nearly rolled her eyes when I said "Someone Like You", partly because of the predictability of my choice and party because her new voice student that hadn't sung a note in five years wanted to take on the ballad of one of the greatest vocalists of our time. Still, if I could only learn a couple of songs that semester, it went without saying that I would pick "Someone Like You" to be one of them.
My then-love (calling him an ex-boyfriend seems an awfully casual and unbefitting title to give someone you shared your heart with) had come to the states for a visit during that time and I was putting the finishing touches on the song I'd been working on all semester. As classes continued during his visit, he attended a few of them with me. Voice lessons were in a tiny practice room that three people couldn't fit into, so he passed the time and came back as I was wrapping up and listened outside the doorway. After going through my song for the final time that day, I walked out of the room when my lesson ended and saw him sitting outside with small tears in his eyes. We weren't breaking up yet, but he seemed much more in touch with the fact that an end between us was near. The song he overheard me singing felt like foreshadowing.
We sat outside on a bench after my lesson and talked. What would it be like if that was us someday, he wondered out loud. We lived in two different countries and it was starting to get more and more obvious during his visit that we probably wouldn't be living in the same one anytime soon. There wasn't a big blow up fight on the horizon. Sometimes, you just know it when things are meant to come to an end.
We were both right. No more than four months later we would both be sitting on opposite ends of the phone (and the ocean) saying our final goodbyes, knowing we not see each other for a very long time...or maybe even ever again. I would listen to that song but it seemed like the bulk of my mourning was actually done while I was learning and singing the song in voice lessons. I knew what he knew back then, too. More quickly than I realized, the song became about something I'd felt in the past.
Our break-up was the first time I really understood that bitterness and tragedy aren't the only ingredients for separation. It's possible to know that someone isn't meant for us forever, and that doesn't mean they weren't still meant for us. If permanence were our only measurement for meaning, it would be hard to find any meaning in anything at all.
And so I felt lost, for what felt like a very long time, because aside from "Someone Like You", there are very few songs out there that don't make a criminal out of the person on the other end of your heartbreak. I learned it's much more challenging to have pain without an enemy than to create an enemy and disconnect ourselves from our own vulnerability. Sometimes there are no "reasons" we can see with our own eyes.
But what of our pain then? If there's no one to blame, and no "reason" for it to speak of, then what are we to make of it? How do we make it end? With no real "logical" way in, it's impossible to find a logical way out. And that's it, I realized. That's why so much of our music and so many of our books and movies are about blame and criminalizing and victimizing people when heartbreak strikes. If we don't do any of these things, we're left without a band-aid for all of our pain. And who really wants that?
To state the obvious, not many people. But if we show up and decide to feel it all (maybe with a side of Oreos and Godiva) a la Adele in "Someone Like You", we get a real gift out of it. We realize that by feeling all the pain, it's the only way to get to feel all the good stuff again, too.
Because sometimes (most of the time), there is no criminal, no logical reason. It's much more simple than that.
"Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes, it hurts instead."