As I walked home from the train tonight, I ran down my list of podcasts and randomly started listening to NPR’s recent “Live in Concert” taping of Amanda Palmer at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival. And suddenly I was in love. As the first song in her set, “In My Mind,” began its jangly ukulele strum, I immediately started kicking myself for not having discovered this artist sooner.
This song. This song SPEAKS TO ME. And surely to all 20somethings struggling to make something of themselves in this über-recessional, über-ironic world of ours. And to anyone who’s ever made goals for themselves! Or looked ahead, or looked back! And thought, “Who the fuck am I? Why is it so hard to get what I want?” She says it better than anyone:
And in my mind
When I’m old I am beautiful
Planting tulips and vegetables
Which I will mindfully watch over
Not like me now
I’m so busy with everything
That I don’t look at anything
But I’m sure I’ll look when I am older
These lyrics, under a guise of wistful nonchalance, examine the difference between settling and compromise, between what you want and what you have, between self-identity and self-awareness. Palmer questions who she is and who she wants to be, and after some charming examples illustrating that divide, she comes to a conclusion I can’t help but envy. By the end of the song, she’s surprised to discover she’s “exactly the person” she wants to be. It’s more than cutesy self-acceptance, it’s a sense of balance for which many people strive, especially those of us taking on the questionable title of “adult”. I find myself “so busy with everything”, and I don’t feel like I can “look at anything” sometimes, and that sense of oh-well-I’ll-get-there-eventually often feels like dumb, blind faith.
Thank you, Amanda Palmer, for singing to me during a dark walk home, and showing me sometimes we don’t get around to becoming that ideal, well-rounded, perfect person. And that’s ok. For someone who’s just turned 24 and doesn’t have a “real job” and just learned the family dog died, I’m pretty happy with my messy, haphazard New York life. I’ll definitely go back and forth with each soul-sucking subway ride, but as my new favorite song points out, it’s possible I’ve already become the person I want to be.