So I wrote this song a couple of months ago, one that has become my own personal favorite–not because it’s the best.song.ever. or anything, but because of the broad sense of personal meaning it has for me.
Essentially, the song is about saying goodbye. It’s about making difficult choices to pursue one’s dreams, and about sometimes having to say goodbye to different people in our lives in the process.
Pursuing a dream is never easy. Not only do we have to confront our own inner “demons”, those insecurities and voices in our head that scream out how stupid we are to pursue that dream…but we also sometimes have well-intended voices outside our head, people who for whatever reason are resistant of our dreams–whether for genuine fear for our well-being, or for outright jealousy. Sometimes the “resistance” takes more subtle forms, and is harder to pin down, let alone difficult to explain. And it’s not something I recommend at the drop of a hat, but sometimes the resistance can be so smothering that the healthiest thing to do is just walk away.
I cannot say how many times this has happened in my life. And you know something? I’ve been on both sides of it. Sometimes I’ve been the guy who had to walk away, and sometimes I’ve been the guy who was standing in the way, where someone had to walk away from me. These kinds of goodbyes are difficult to swallow, because so often there is misunderstanding involved, things we can’t fully explain, things left unsaid. We hear lots of talk about “closure,” but in my experience, goodbyes are often much messier than we’d like them to be.
Again, the choice to say goodbye is not one to be taken lightly, because relationships are an important part of our existence. Perhaps my greatest concern in writing a song about this topic was that I didn’t want it to inspire people to take extreme actions with their relationships. I didn’t want to be responsible for breaking up someone’s marriage, for example. But at the same time, I can’t be responsible for people taking it the wrong way; everyone makes their own choices. It’s a real issue, it’s something I’ve lived, and it’s something I felt I had to write a song about.
Anyhow, about the song itself…when I wrote it, I was drawing inspiration from a particular relationship, not really writing that song to that person, but letting my feelings within that relationship sort of fuel the lyrics. I played the song at the Songwriter’s Showcase I played at a couple of months ago, and I could see that it spoke deeply to several people in the room.
But in the weeks since, as I’ve sort of “lived with” the song, and continued playing it (both on the piano and in my head), I’ve discovered something very profound. While I had a particular relationship in mind with this “goodbye” song, I now realize I could have sung the song to a dozen different others in my life. This song somehow speaks to almost every relationship I’ve had to walk away from. And it speaks to larger situations as well, not just one-on-one relationships. I could have sung this song to some of the church(es) I’ve left behind, as well as to the institutional church itself. It somehow applies across the board.
Suffice it to say that over the years, the pursuit of this dream, this vision, this calling, if you will…has come at great personal expense.
I’m not saying I regret it–more like I couldn’t have helped it. In my view, the dream has to prevail. To stop dreaming is to stop living. And I want to live. But I also love people, and I don’t want to hurt them. And it creates deep pain on the inside when I must make those choices. Every time. Without fail. Even when I know it’s the right thing. I think that pain was the place I wrote from.
Looking back, I think somehow, subconsciously, I was compelled to write this song as a way to bring the closure I’ve longed for in all of these different goodbyes–to say the things I wished I’d had the presence of mind to say. I don’t have to be agreed with all the time, but I hate to be misunderstood. For me, that’s the part that sucks the most about these goodbyes. Hard feelings left behind because someone couldn’t understand.
So if this sparks your curiosity about the song, you’ll have to forgive me for the fact that for all the buildup about this song…I can’t share it here. Not yet. It looks like I’ll be spending some time in a recording studio over the summer, and I have a feeling this will be the first project I work on. So eventually it will be out there. It’s just that the song has got me thinking about the goodbyes that I, and so many others like me, have had to say. I imagine a lot of people who have walked away from the institutional church have felt these things–not wanting to leave for the leaving’s sake, but having to leave in pursuit of something more.
I can’t share the whole song, but here’s a key lyric from it that sort of sums up the feeling:
I don’t want to die
And not know what would have happened if I’d gone.