When I was 12 years old, I can remember being obsessed with a song called “The Day I Died” by Just Jack. This is a song of existentialism and personal philosophy, one that chronicles the day that the protagonist passed away, and how it was “the best day of [his] life”. It all fell in to place for him, so to speak. Recently, I’ve found myself fixated with the lyrics of Jack again, as I repeat, repeat, and repeat his 2016 release, Alchemist. Spotify gifted me this gem in a Discover Weekly playlist, and it immediately struck a chord.
I leave for France in three weeks time, and then to Chile next February, and that is an exhilarating thought to cast my mind to. Nearly a year of chateaux, rolling hills, snow-peaked mountains waiting to be climbed, cobbled streets to ramble upon, sand itching to wind its way between my toes. A year of new things – friends to be made, food to be devoured, cultures to immerse myself in. These are images I see each day, the limitless film reel of expectation flaring across my pupils. I can taste the earth, the fresh coffee, and the sea breeze. It’s easy to forget, or to abandon completely, the fact that I’ll be leaving a lot of people behind. Alchemist resonates with me because it appeals to my sense of empathy; I can hear in Jack’s words what my mother and father are likely feeling, their fear of letting go:
“..I just can’t help but clench my fists
As she’s running ’round the corner out of sight..
..I battle myself
As she turns her face into the wind”
Excellent, evocative lyrics – ones that linger in the mind. I’d imagine it as a familiar feeling for most parents, one that paints each little moment of parenthood. Each toddling step towards an inevitable independence is one of letting go. Painful pride. Though I’m far beyond nappies and stumbling at every step, past gripping the handle of the pram for fear of being swept into the crowd, the sentiment remains. It’s a reality I hadn’t fully been faced with, point blank, until recently. It’s like the pan has finally struck me on the head, and whack! – some semblance of adulthood. I’ve known my plans for this year since I was 16, and not long afterwards I knew I wanted to go to Chile. Somehow, though, it’s still always seemed a pipe dream. Now, I can clench my fist – my adult fists! – around independence. Three weeks.
This got me thinking about change. To me, change means two things: renewal and fear, simultaneously. Human nature dictates that, for the most part, we like to be aware of where we stand. We idolise surety, bound to comfort and familiarity. To change is to challenge, and it comes in a multitude of forms. I know I’ve lived a sheltered life. I’m from a small, coastal city in a nation of 4 million – a relatively insular society, punctuated by throngs of tourists seeking change for themselves. I’m glaringly middle class. I still live with my parents – there’s comfort in me, as they’d say. That comfort is a stubborn, dogged character to shake off, though – I only realised how comfortable I was when left to my own devices in Brussels. That was a taste, one I’m eager to acquire, craving to embrace. That’s probably why I decided to shave my hair this week – a change before the change, drastic and sudden. Maybe it’ll ease the blow.
Change wrenches my stomach a bit, though not in a sickening way. It’s more like when you drive at speed down a weaving, dipping country road, and when the car dives with the hills, your stomach rises to meet your heart. That feeling. In the end, I know that the world is open, formidable, graceful, marvelous, and firmly within my reach.
Discovery lies not within comfort, but in change.