"When one door closes, another one opens." It's a sentiment so widespread that it surpasses cliche. Every generation has its own version of this aphorism. Sometimes it's not a door but a window that's opening, and sometimes it's God (or equivalent) that's doing the opening. And sometimes, the metaphor isn't egress-related at all; anything that uses the term "light in the dark" is getting at the same timelessly human concept: "Even when you feel despair, hope is there if you choose to seek it."
I've found myself reflecting on this concept as I've been spending time with "A Year in the Life," a song which began its life as the ending of an album before fading from my memory. Five years later, I stole a line from it to write "Move On," which would become the first song in Mirror Image. When "Move On" was featured in the Beyond Words concert, it also served as the first song; it was, however, the first song a section called "Songs that Begin at the End." And now, nine years after writing it as an ending, "A Year in the Life" itself has become a beginning, the first song I revisit in The Facebook Songs project.
Although I had written a little in middle school, it was only in high school that I began sharing my songs. The first of those was "Dawn," which I posted to Facebook on December 17th, 2007. I consider "Dawn" to be the beginning of the Facebook Songs saga, which means that this blog has been over ten years in the making, and the anniversary was yesterday.
Here's my favorite passage from the song:
And here's another highlight!
And finally, here's the postscript that I included in the original note:
In August 2007, I had (by my own choice) left the Syosset Central School District to enroll at Chaminade High School, a prestigious Catholic high school. I was torn apart by the decision, but ultimately it felt like I should take the chance on Chaminade; after all, I could always go back to Syosset schools if I didn't like it. I could never try Chaminade again if I didn't commit as a freshman.
So I enrolled, and four months later I released a song about a cult whose leader isn't all that he seems. I'm sure it was just a coincidence. Around the same time, I started writing the song that would become "The Final Stand."
When I revisit songs like "A Year in the Life," it feels like I'm paying a visit to my teenage self. It's exciting to observe the similarities and differences between myself now and then.
In 2008, I know this seemed like a good ending to the album "A Year in the Life." I acknowledge that I was young, and I don't begrudge myself the naivete. But that quote is, ahem, a little less profound than I'm sure I thought it was when I wrote it. In 2017, it basically reads as satire - or at least it does to me.
When I was in high school, though, that was essentially the most optimistic I would allow my songwriting to be. I saw my songs as a chance to express the deepest wisdom I felt I possessed, and that wisdom didn't seem very interested in an optimistic outlook. In this case, the (general) optimism is only allowed after the narrator expresses (specific) regret. It's not great. I am still proud of my younger self, but I am very glad to have revisited the song and tweaked it significantly. I like it much better now.
Nine years ago, a song's ending wasn't nearly as important to me as its beginning. Flipping through my Facebook Songs binder, I find ample evidence of this: Songs usually have strong first lines, possibly even strong first verses. But the ending almost inevitably disappoints, and I'm pretty sure I composed any endings I like by accident.
That's not a judgment. I was young, I had a lot on my plate, and I was winging it as a pop songwriter using my background in classical piano as a jumping-off point. It's OK that I didn't pay attention to the endings back then. That's part of why I have loved the Facebook Songs so far - I finally get the chance to focus on ending these songs as strongly as they begin.
In doing so, I hope to bring out a little more of the optimism that's been hiding inside of them all along, and maybe bring out a little hope as well. I know it's there, and I think it's time I chose to seek it.