I live for words. Chalk it up to the writer in me, but there is nothing more powerful than how words when strung together can pack so much meaning and power. Add a melody, maybe even some harmony and suddenly words can be given such hypnotizing potential.
I can get lost in a book, just as I can get lost listening to the radio. In fact, I tend to drown out the world when I drive. I turn the volume up to a moderately-high decibel – don’t worry not enough to be distracted or not to hear, sirens, horns or the like. I let the words and the beat dance in my ears and captivate my brain.
Recently, I went to a OneRepublic concert with my friend, Alison. We have become obsessed with the band and have even used some of their songs from anything between campus retreats to study sessions in the library. What we have found to be common in both our likes of this band is that their music is catchy and the lyrics mesmerizing.
While I found each song to get better than the next, I picked a few of my favorites that packed a punch when it came to personal meaning.
1.) I Lived
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah with every broken bone
I swear I lived
This song is by far my favorite from the band and is my new life mantra. “I Lived” I learned was written by Ryan Tedder for his four year-old son, but the meaning goes beyond a father-son relationship. The words when blended with an upbeat tempo invigorates me to want to start living. To accept the challenges, obstacles and mistakes as learning experiences, but even more so the fun, spontaneous, hilarious, adrenaline-pumping moments as life’s blessings that allow us to make the most of our time on earth. No matter what the circumstances this song reminds me to take life for what it is: how one and only shot to learn, love, laugh, and live.
When I was a kid
My grandfather was a preacher
He’d talk about God
Yeah he was something like a teacher
He said, “God only helps those
Who learn to help themselves.”
He was a million miles from a million dollars
But you could never spend his wealth
This song for me particularly hit home for me. I lost my grandpa in 2013, who happened to be my mentor. The way he lived his life was very much like a preacher. His faith was was defined him and was the greatest gift he has given me. He never valued money, but instead valued family, work and love. He was a rich man indeed but not because of a paycheck, but rather his happiness. This song, with its simple, quiet melody brings any listener in to reflect on the mentors – or preachers – in their life. Each person that we meet is one who gives us such a special gift that we take with us as we learn what really makes for a happy, purposeful life.
3.) Feel Again
Heart still beating but it’s not working
It’s like a hundred thousand voices that just can’t sing
I reached out trying to love but I feel nothing
Oh, my heart is numb
But with you
I feel again
This was the first song off the “Native” album that I heard and it captivated me. The numb feeling can be all too common, but what is even worse is not even realizing that you are numb. It can come at an upheaval in your life, or simply falling into such a mundane routine that you are more like a robot than an actual human. But every so often, a person, or people come along and shake things up. They get your heart beating faster, they make you out of breath and you suddenly realize that this is what it’s like to live. This makes me think of all the friends I gained through high school and college. But most importantly the ones from those years who stuck by and have brought something substantial to my life. Be it showing me how to be present in the moment and not worry about the past or future, follow my passion and let it take me where it needs to, and being support in times of need and comrades in times of celebration. I have never felt more alive than when I reunite with friends, whether they are from my Frannies Brotherhood, or my Golden Griffs. They have certainly been the best examples in how to feel and be present, and be reminders when I occasionally fall back into a rut.
4.) Counting Stars
Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Yeah, we’ll be counting stars
I see this life
Like a swinging vine
Swing my heart across the line
In my face is flashing signs
Seek it out and ye shall find
Old, but I’m not that old
Young, but I’m not that bold
And I don’t think the world is sold
I’m just doing what we’re told
I feel something so right
By doing the wrong thing
And I feel something so wrong
By doing the right thing
I couldn’t lie, couldn’t lie, couldn’t lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive
This song, the most popular from the album, for me as a mix of everything. It’s slow then fast; dark then light – a perfect representation of ups and downs that come with being a dreamer. I have more dreams than I can count, but right now there are so many obstacles that are preventing me from fulfilling those dreams.
I’d love to hop on a plane to Los Angeles and start my career as a writer, but I know that it is not practical, nor could I afford it right now. I have the responsibilities of school and work, and the constraints of little money and a nearly broken down car. But as this song suggests, there will come a day where I won’t need to worry about counting dollars, but instead will be able to pursue my passion with full force.
What strikes me is the line “I feel something so right by doing the wrong thing / And I feel something so wrong by doing the right thing.” The previous lines suggest that young people sometimes get stuck being told what to do instead of doing what they think is right. Going against the grain and following your heart is usually looked on by others as something foolish. A person should instead go to school get a well-paying job, get married, have kids and live the rest of their life in perfect routine. It’s basic and it’s deadly. Instead, doing what is “wrong” may just be the right choice. The choice that really does allow us to put the unimportant things to the side and really focus on our dreams.
Be it rock, country, rap, pop, opera, or anything else, allow yourself to really delve into the music you listen to. The words and the melody can give so much more meaning to your life whether you’re jamming out in your car, singing in the shower, needing to get through a run, or need a little rhythm to help get you through work – it can even make those simple things a bit more beautiful.