I think we all have that album, though I am dating myself by calling one that. That certain album, tape, cd, MP3, whatever you want to call it that takes you back in time. The one that was there providing the soundtrack for a million memories, or at least some extremely powerful ones. The one that had a song to address everything that was going on in your life as it happened. The album that would be the soundtrack to parts of your life’s highlight reel as it played at the end of your movie.
There are hundreds of songs that would qualify on their own, but very few albums. It is rare that there is a collection of songs from one artist that perfectly fits a time period of your life. Sometimes it’s not even your ideal music, it just a record you picked up and each song managed to speak to you in a way that the artist never had before. That happened to me with John Bon Jovi’s disc “Destination Anywhere”.
The first single came out about the time that my first real serious long term adult relationship was ending. That song spoke of heartache and loss as well as a loss of direction. It was about a man that recognized what he did wrong and how much of a wedge it drove between him and his girl. In it he asked that she stay anyway. At the time it perfectly described how I felt about my soon to be ex-girlfriend. I knew the relationship was ending and I knew that it would be for good, but I wanted to beg her to stay even though I knew it wouldn’t work. I didn’t know any different and I didn’t want her to go.
She went, and it all worked out. Life is like that. You go through periods of pain and then you come out on the other side in a better place than where you started. We all need pain to grow, or at least we all need change to grow. I know I do. My ex went on to find the love of her life and get married. It might have hurt more if I didn’t find my wife, but I did. Without the breakup and the lessons I learned I wouldn’t have been able to make it work with Katie. But all it takes is hearing the opening violin section of “Janie Don’t Take Your Love To Town” and I am right there in a tiny apartment wondering what I am going to do without my ex.
I went to college with Katie and met a lot of people that all seemed to be represented by songs on the same album. I can’t think of one of my dearest friends without thinking of “Ugly”. My friend is one of the sweetest women I have ever known. She is also stunning. Men have walked into walls or missed doorways trying to look at her as she walked down the hall. She could hang out in sweats and still stop traffic. To be honest, men in exotic cars have stopped driving to talk to her. She never saw any of that, she always questioned herself. She had all the confidence in the world and is amazingly smart, but she always had doubts when it came to relationships. She would always find a way to be hard on herself. “Ugly” is about a woman that doesn’t see how amazing she can be, she just doubts herself. The song is meant to give her a little hope and a little clarity. I can still remember playing it for my friend as we sat in her car, hoping that she wouldn’t get offended but also hoping she would give herself a break.
There are many more related to college. There is a song about writing your heart out and having someone laugh because they didn’t get what you were doing. That describes another friend of mine perfectly. They never knew how serious I could be and found everything lighter than it was. There is another song about trying to fit in when you are in a strange place. If that doesn’t describe college I don’t know what does. Just hearing the chorus makes me think of many late night walks through campus as I tried to figure out why I went back to school and if it was all worth it.
Finally there is the song that makes me think of my wife. The title track is “Destination Anywhere”. It doesn’t fit every part of our relationship, but it captures the end of our time in college. The song is about a rough environment and being ready to leave. It’s about wanting out, wanting to get away from a place that’s lost its magic. It a man asking the only good thing left there to go with him, anywhere. If that doesn’t sound like the end of college, I’m not sure what would. As much as I enjoyed my time there, it was time to go and the only thing I wanted to take with me was my future wife. The ending of the era had shown me exactly how much staying with her meant to me. It was full circle from the beginning, begging my ex not to leave. This time I was begging the love of my wife to come with me, somewhere, anywhere, wherever was next.
What set all of this off was a recent discovery on XM Radio. There is a temporary all Bon Jovi channel. I imagine that they are running out of music because I turned it on and heard “Every Word was a Piece of My Heart”. Halfway through the chorus I was back in college feeling the sting of someone’s laughter. A quick trip through iTunes and I had the whole album and I was singing along through each stage of my life immersed in memories. My other friend? She is still amazing and beautiful. She still beats herself up a lot. I wouldn’t trade her for the world. The old pains were there, but muted. The feelings of wanting to travel down life’s road with my wife are still there as sharp as ever. Destination Anywhere.