East of Eden - Mason Jennings
So it was deep December 2005 and a good friend put this song on a goodbye cd for me as I was preparing to leave the country. As I was in the midst of packing up everything I knew and owned in one sense or another: Apartment, job, boyfriend, family – this song became a solitary comfort I would wear the flint off of over the next six months.
I loaded it on to my little fake Ipod that held about 100 songs and I’d save the batteries for those really deep-in-the-valley days that come even in the midst of a Trip of a Lifetime.
For the 40 hour bus rides across Ghana to Burkina Faso, when you’d lean against the Sri Lankan transplant next to you in his one pair of perfectly pressed polyester office pants, and you’d think about the professional ambitions and domestic paths you left behind. When you’d panic over the Landmark Campaigns waging on without you and the 401K and savings accounts you cashed in to be here.
For the alone in Venice nights when you got lost in cozy medieval alleys and wondered what the hell you were thinking coming to a place like this in a period of celibacy. For recovering physically in Morocco days and nights on the third bunk of a Chinese train with a thousand strains of Mandarin tangling up around you like flames and not a single friendly face.
And of course there were a million amazing hours surrounding these days in which my headphones remained at the bottom of my bag, pressed between a last clean pair of underwear and guidebooks I no longer opened. Some of the happiest days - my most revered, surreally beautiful days on earth existed in those six months.
But when I needed it, this song was my talisman at a time when life was electric with sacred experience and possibility but so bluntly lacking in comfort. At a time I knew we were right to walk away from a relationship that was still burning strongly, but for which the timing just wasn’t right. When I had to embrace absurd levels of uncertainty and solitude to reach the ends of the world I’d been mentally chasing for decades.
This morning, through a break in the rain, I took a long bike ride and I listened to it again, for the first time in a long while. And I thought – yeah. Keep learning as you go.
There are worse things in this life than realizing you didn’t really know it all, that you misjudged and banked on comfort that didn’t exist. Because in some ways, it burns your life down to the ground – exactly like leaving alone for six months did – and gives you the fallow and fertility to regrow eventually. Stronger, leaner, smarter and so damn grateful for every new shoot.
Everything that Will Be grows out of this exact season right here.
Anyway, take a listen. When I someday write young Mason a thank you for the fuel and refuge in this song, maybe you’ll sign your name.
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