13 Years, One Week, Five Songs
Poignant doesn’t seem a big enough word to express how significant this week has been. On Thursday I left the office I’ve worked in for 13 years. It’s a place I dedicated a huge chunk of my life to. It’s somewhere I tried my best and probably cared a little too much most of the time. For all that it challenged me both positively and negatively, I will miss it. I’ll miss being able to take care of people and make their day better. I’ll miss giving good news that affects the course of people’s lives. And I’ll miss the camaraderie of all the friends I shared my day with, good or bad.
During the weeks that lead up to my leaving, and particularly at the end of this past week, my workmates were so generous and kind. Every hug, every goodbye, every ‘I’ll really miss you’ brought on more and more tears. It’s nice to feel wanted and valued and missed. How often does anyone really feel like that?
There were a collection of factors that helped me make my decision to leave: my unreliable health, a need for some rest and a whole load of more personal aspirations and tentative plans. I was told I had made a mistake and that maybe I didn’t have what it took to step off the treadmill and keep walking. I had an equal measure of those who told me I was incredibly brave and that they were jealous of my new chapter.
Have I done the right thing? I have no idea. It feels like jumping off a bridge without knowing if the bungee cord will bounce back up again. To steal a line from Paul Weller, I’m built on shifting sands. Right now I am more unsure of what tomorrow holds than I’ve ever been before. And if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know just how terrifying I find uncertainty. Which commentators got their analysis of my decision right remains to be seen.
Music touches everything I do, so here are the five songs that pinned themselves to this very memorable week.
North Country Boy – The Charlatans
This was a nostalgic week and a few days listening to old Mark & Lard radio shows from the mid-90s brought back a flood of memories. This was the stuff that made me take music seriously. I dropped silly, disposable pop and wrapped myself in the northern guitar bands that I will reluctantly refer to as the upper bit of Britpop. This was the music that massaged by already throbbing love of boys with northern accents and this song played on a loop in my head all week.
Que Sera Sera – Doris Day
I wasn’t feeling well on Wednesday. I’d had a horribly sleepless night and my head felt like it was full of cotton wool. When someone inexplicably started blasting Que Sera Sera in the street, I wondered for a moment if I was imagining it before deciding the universe was probably trying to tell me that whatever will be will be. It was one of those ‘I think I’m living in a movie’ moments.
Pay Me My Money Down – Bruce Springsteen
On my last day in the office I was, like most days, the first one in. Every day I did exactly the same thing in exactly the same order. I turned the lights on, put my bag down, turned the computer on, drew back the bay window blinds, walked to the back of the room, pulled the second set of blinds, walked around the desks and flipped the switch on the office radio. This was the song that boomed out of it, proving my belief that Bruce Springsteen always shows up when I need him, always with the most lyrically apt track in his back catalogue. He runs like clockwork.
It’s My Party – Jessie J
I got in the cab to go home after my last day, exhausted in every way. I had a bag full of presents, flowers and balloons. It’s My Party was playing on the taxi driver’s radio. As the car pulled into the early rush hour traffic I quietly burst into tears and sent a few text messages for support. I cried all the way home. Did I feel like it was my party? Kind of. Did I feel that I was channelling Jessie J’s ferocity? Not in the slightest. But any time I hear it I’m going to be in the back of that cab, hugging a couple of party balloons like the saddest looking clown there ever was.
We Will Be Here – Jack Peñate
There is no specific reason why this song spent a few days floating around my brain. It’s a simple track about wondering where you fit in the world and deciding that, for all our questions and doubts, as long as we hang on to love we’re all okay. I couldn’t stop playing it. “The stars can’t feel a lover’s touch, the kiss that makes your body rush, embrace your sleeping sweetheart with hush, the words ‘I love you’ mean so much.” Actually, maybe this was the most important song of the week.