Every now and then, the lyrics of a song just resonate with me. Sometimes, they remind me of an event that took place in my past: don't we all have songs that call to mind people we loved and lost? Sometimes, the lyrics take me back to a city I worked in: this happens to former deejays all the time ("Oh, I remember where I was when that song came out!"). And sometimes, especially as I get older, there are songs that make me nostalgic for a different time and place.
I was watching Grey's Anatomy the other night and at the end of the episode, there was a ballad, sung by a female vocalist, and it contained these lyrics: "I miss my old friends, 'cause they know when I need them the most/ I made some new friends, and they're cool friends, but they don't know/ what I do, what I've got, who I am and who I'm not/ I miss my old friends." I searched for the song online (the deejay in me remembers when we used to call up our favorite station, and hope the person on the air would answer the request line and play the song for us), and I found it was by Jasmine Thompson. Of course, there was a YouTube video, as there often is (you can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtM_QZvCvBc); and while it seemed to be aimed at a teen audience, as I watched it, the video brought back memories of going to amusement parks, or hanging out at the mall, and not worrying about who was president or what was being said on the news.
I don't know why the song struck a chord with me-- I usually like rock and roll, and this was a simple top-40 pop song. Yet the lyrics, especially the distinction between my old friends and my new friends, made me think of some of the people I used to enjoy talking to, people I can't talk to anymore because they've passed away; or people who were once an important part of my life yet somehow we've gotten out of touch over the years and I have no idea how to reconnect. In a few cases, Facebook has brought some of the people I used to know back into my life, but the conversations now are very different from the ones we had back then.
As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, I did not grow up in an innocent time-- I was in college during an especially contentious era. The Vietnam War was going on; and in addition to heated debates about that, there were ongoing debates about the women's movement, the civil rights movement, and the gay rights movement. In the midst of so many controversies, it was nice to have a few friends I could talk to, who didn't get upset if we disagreed, and who, as the song says, knew when I needed them the most. Some were from radio and the music industry. Several were professors of mine. There were never a lot of them, but each one was special to me. We bonded over our shared experiences, and while I value my new friends (especially those I've met through being part of the extended family of Rush fans), I miss being able to sit and talk about the 50s and 60s with people who went through them as I did.
We're living in another contentious time now, and after 100 days of President Trump, the debates over his performance are reminiscent of the debates we all used to have about the Vietnam War. We were all just as polarized, just as sure "our side" was right. These days, our dismay and frustration about politics is manifested over social media, whereas back then, there were just newspapers and magazines and radio and TV. Meanwhile, many of us who had never cared much about politics were being confronted by a world in chaos, and we could no longer ignore it. But in those chaotic times, it was our friendships that kept us centered and helped us make sense of it all.
It feels different now. Much as I love social media, Twitter and Facebook (or sending a text, for that matter) are no substitute for spending time with people you care about. We're all so busy, we're all so preoccupied these days. And while I don't miss the rigidity of the 50s or the social upheaval of the 60s, I miss that time when getting together mattered, and when friendships were conducted in person. I miss the people who helped me get through the difficult times, the ones who believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself.
Truth be told, I also miss the music-- my students no longer understand when I quote lyrics from the British Invasion groups or mention some incident that any child of the 60s would know. On the other hand, I don't miss my old life, struggling to get taken seriously in a profession where women still were not welcome, feeling like I would never become what I wanted to be. But every so often, I finding myself thinking of the people who cared, the ones who told me to never give up. I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for them. I miss my old friends...