Last Friday, my best friend visited my apartment equipped with lilac wine and Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” on 180g vinyl, a re-release nearing the album’s 20th anniversary. I provided the turntable, comfy couch, plush blanket, and space heater for the experience. Once we were both mildly inebriated, I placed the album on the platter, put the turntable into motion, lifted the tonearm, and lowered the stylus. My best friend’s intention was to listen to the album to gain inspiration for a personal essay she was in the process of writing. While the lilac wine left something to be desired, the album did provide my best friend and me with some fuel for creativity.
We managed to listen to the first few songs of the album without major incident, relating our individual adolescent experiences to the songs that provided the soundtrack to them. As children of the mid-to-late 80’s, we talked about our experience buying “Jagged Little Pill” on cassette tape, listening to it on-repeat, not relating to the lyrics until years later, when they anger of adolescence was in full force. We both cited “You Oughta Know” as our anthem following our first high school breakups. We both experienced some visible sadness while listening to “Perfect,” hearing our parents’ voices in our head and finally being able to fire a quick-witted reply, many years after the teenage argument had actually occurred.
My ability to share stories with my best friend came to a halt as I listened intently to the fourth track of the album, “Hand In My Pocket.” My friend and I had been relating the songs to our past experience throughout the evening, but this track spoke to my story, my here-and-now.
After being fired from my job in July and being denied unemployment benefits shorty after, it became increasingly hard to relate to anything or anyone. I didn’t have the convenience of using my job as a conversation peace and as a result, I stopped contributing to conversation altogether, becoming a bit too reclusive and agoraphobic. Nothing was changing for the positive; job applications were fired out to no avail, I was (and still am) hustling to make money for gas, cigarettes, and other assorted necessities. Each hustle required me to either manipulate or completely abandon my own sense of right and wrong, and it began wearing on me. I was ending each day feeling a persistent void in my life and lacking purpose, leading to an overwhelming depressive episode.
What “Hand In My Pocket” reiterated to me in that very moment on the couch was that everything will work out and be “quite alright,” or alternately, “fine, fine, fine.” It allowed me to cultivate some level of optimism that I had not experienced prior to that moment.
In the days following that experience, my ability to foster the growing optimism has been improving, to the point of “Hand In My Pocket” becoming a positive affirmation and mantra of sorts. It’s been a long road thus far, and it’s going to continue to be a long road until I find a destination worthy of pursuing. But I’m gaining clarity every day and as a result, things become incrementally easier. Job searches become more hopeful. Master’s programs become more feasible. My relationships, both platonic and romantic, become more meaningful.
I don’t think my best friend quite understood the impact of that song and that moment had on me. I looked at her, wordlessly communicating to her that I appreciated her, and I think she understood that. At the end of side A, I flipped the record over to play side B, but the rest of the songs were ignored. Instead, my best friend and I focused on the present. We decided that, while examining the past is all well and good, taking up residency there isn’t.
This lead to an entire weekend of living in the here and now, abandoning worry in favor of watching jousting and getting my face painted at the local renaissance festival, and spending time with the ones I love.
And that’s what it’s all about, right?