Friday, December 19, 2008

Your 2008: A Movie (And Its Music) Inspire Change

(For the third straight year, I've asked a few of my readers and friends to write about their favorite things from this past year. The series continues here with a post by Miles Doyle, who blogs at Who Gives a Shit, It's Gone. The post explaining his blog's title is worth a read.)
By the end of the 2007, I was miserable: broke, beat down and broken-up. I hated my job and my crappy, yet incomprehensibly unaffordable, studio on Manhattan's Upper West Side. A close family friend had recently passed away, and I was down to about 150 pounds, the ideal weight for a member of a high school wrestling team, less so for a 28-year-old editor. I was in a bad way.

More troubling, however, was the fact that I didn't even realize how bad.

Until I saw Sean Penn's Into the Wild. I had read Jon Krakauer's book and enjoyed it, but, truth be told, I didn't really care for Chris McCandless, the 24-year-old who dropped out and eventually disappeared deep into the Alaskan wilderness. In Penn's hands, though, Chris's story came alive. Not his wanderlust. (The closest I've ever been to losing myself in the woods was when my 1995 Ford Taurus broke down in Warren County, New Jersey). His insatiable quest for a life worth living, as misguided as it was, really caught my attention.

"When you want something in life," Emile Hirsch, who plays Chris in the film, says at one point, "you just gotta reach out and grab it." Believe me, three months earlier, I would have skinned that line alive and hung it from my waist, like a beaver pelt. On this particular night, however, two days before the new year, Chris' words rattled my bones. It was as if someone, after watching me endure years of quiet desperation, had decided to intervene, whispering in my ear, "You're doing it all wrong, kiddo."

I knew it was time to shake things up.

As inspiring as the film was, it only stoked the initial embers. Eddie Vedder's accompanying soundtrack really lit a fire under my ass.

I've been a fan of the Pearl Jam front man since the first time I heard him sing live: Easter Sunday, April 3, 1994, a day or two before Kurt Cobain killed himself. On tour in support of the underrated Vs., the band aired their concert at Atlanta's Fox Theater over the radio. Before Vedder finished the first verse of "Release," that night's opening song, I was sold. Ever since, his voice has held a Jim Jones-like power over me. I usually do whatever it tells me to.

In "Rise," a two minute and thirty-six second mini-masterpiece, Vedder sorts through years of loss and pain and self-doubt before finding what he needs to finally get a move on: "Gonna rise up/Turning mistakes into gold." While in "Guaranteed," the closing track, he sings, "On bended knee is no way to be free/Lifting up an empty cup, I ask silently/All my destinations will accept the one that's me."

Like the film, the soundtrack, though far from perfect, carried me through the early months of 2008, when I gave up my apartment, quit my job, and went in search of a life worth living.


Anonymous Lucas said...

Does that mean you're unemployed and homeless now?

But really, good for you. I'd like to hear what you've gone out and done since the big turnaround, and what you're working toward.

1:25 PM  

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