continuum

Ever find yourself listening to Usher on a public bus on a Friday afternoon with a sudden urge to burst into tears?

Ever find yourself, 15 minutes later, showing up to volunteer at a senior care home and walking into a birthday party with a live musician singing “You are my Sunshine,” once again fighting tears?

No?

About a month ago, after days of alternating between “I’m so good!” and “Oh my God what’s going on?” I just needed to stop moving for a second.

I think sometimes, as we’re ushering ourselves into young adulthood and trying to drive our own plane, we grip so tightly to the wheel that we lose sight of the fact that we have co-pilots. I was quite literally exhausted from trying to plan my future and after a few days of constantly thinking about where I was directing myself, I realized on the bus that someone else was literally taking me where I needed to go. I didn’t have to think. I put my headphones on.

Music has a way of inviting emotions to manifest themselves in physical, visceral ways. Music prompted my body to finally react to what my mind was thinking:

no control against the universe’s whimsy.

One of my best friends from home, Madeleine, is a musician along with her sister, Lily (Lily & Madeleine). I distinctly remember the day when Madeleine pulled me aside in our high school hallway and excitedly told me that she was meeting with a real life music manager—the first step in following her musical aspirations, and the first of many waves of realization that dreams are within reach. Early in our friendship, as we were realizing that we were each other’s “fresh of breath air,” we used to make each other mix CDs (Madge dramatically developed my taste in music, go figure). I put “Sydney” by Brett Dennen on a CD I made for her, not knowing how full circle life would come.

Fast forward to freshman year of college, when I was new to the wheel of my destiny plane with a foggy GPS and far from home in unfamiliar Milwaukee. Lily and Madge released their first full length, self-titled album on October 29, 2013. I remember listening to my best friend’s voice, comforting and familiar and beautiful, singing profound lyrics and reassuring me from miles and states away.

Three years later—almost to the date—on October 28, 2016 after the two episodes of music-induced tears, I watched them play at the iconic Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.

Opening for Brett Dennen.

I grooved along to the man who served a small part in the symphony of one of the most important friendships of my life. I ate a piece of birthday cake belonging to the man who was a link in this full late-October circle, now in a city which isn’t as new and daunting and unfamiliar as before.

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Days ago, John Mayer released a new song that’s reminiscent of his “Room for Squares” and “Heavier Things” days. Say what you will about John Mayer, but he was the musical artist who first invited my middle school self to realize that songs have deeper meanings and that sometimes the metaphorical discoveries of those archeological digs into those meanings match up pretty darn well with your life. And as a middle schooler, what a gift it is to find lyrics that offer some sort of understanding or clarity when your confusing, exciting middle school career seems anything but. (I think I fell into a massive tub of kryptonite circa 2007 because I actually enjoyed my years roaming my school’s third floor hallway, and I think his music played a big part of that.) Back during Lauren’s Era of Discovering John Mayer, I fondly remember discovering other things, like the Monon Trail as my beloved happy place, Converse shoes with Gap jeans, writing creative stories for fun, a knack for pitching, and, consequently, confidence.

Life has seemed to ebb and flow quite nicely along to John’s records. He released Battle Studies at the beginning of high school, both of which weren’t too bad, but when changes pressed pause in my late high school/early college career, Born and Raised seemed eerily relatable. Paradise Valley and John’s confusing Montana-roaming, cowboy hat-wearing stage fit my attempts at adjusting to change, confused and roaming a bit. John fell off my radar for a hot second, taking a few steps back from the music-making scene for about two years.

Now in my senior year, about to graduate in two short weeks, John released this new song with a new album reportedly coming down the pipe. I found my groove just as things are about to change again—job-hunting, moving—so it’s comforting that maybe he re-found his groove. It’s beautiful timing, really. As things are about to change, with new discoveries afoot, an artist who once created the soundtrack to my middle school discoveries is returning to that same sound, but matured.

I’m realizing now that something which was once new and daunting has become something familiar and lovely just as John Mayer returns to his familiar and lovely sound, providing familiar and lovely comfort to the new and daunting next chapter of this lovely, lovely, lovely life.

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