By Scott Smith
While driving last week, I had a peculiar thing happen. I guess when you think about it, it probably is pretty common for some people, but not too much for me. Certain songs have different personal meanings and some songs bring out strong emotions for some people. So, how did I, a 54-year-old guy, end up a sobbing mess? Let me start from the beginning.
I was driving on a long stretch of highway out in Western Oklahoma. Many of my days at work are consumed by driving, so I get a lot of time to reflect on things. Sometimes, I’m on the phone for long stretches at a time, but when I’m not I usually listen to classic rock to pass the time.
This day was different. Due to a conversation that some younger students were having about new music. I decided to acclimate myself to some different entertainment and go outside my comfort zone. I have artists that I love to listen to from time to time such as Kelly Clarkson, Rob Thomas, Train, and others. In the past, I was always on top of new music. I was faster than Shazam at naming song titles, but at some point, I just stopped listening to new music.
I decided that this day, I would catch up on some Taylor Swift music. I’ve listened to her before, but really couldn’t name too many of her songs. I opened up Spotify and hit play on “The Best of Taylor Swift.” The Spotify app shuffled through songs like, “Wildest Dreams,” “Style,” “White Horse,” and “Back to December.” The app also played a lot of new songs, several that I had never heard before. What happened next went beyond what is natural for me.
Now, I’ve heard songs that make me a bit emotional before. This is dating myself, but I used to listen to Van Halen every morning while drinking coffee and getting ready for work. It really pumped me up and put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. I’ve also heard songs that made me reminisce about past times, people I knew, or important times in my life. Songs can be powerful. I found that out when Spotify shuffled to a song called, “Ronan.”
The music and lyrics from the song hit me like freight train. The song is about a boy named Ronan Thompson that was diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma and died just days before his fourth birthday. Normally, Taylor Swift sings pretty lighthearted songs about relationships and break-ups. That is what I expected anyway. Little did I know what was coming. This was the first time that I had heard “Ronan,” a very emotional song. As Swift sang the words to the chorus, “Come on, baby, with me. We’re gonna fly away from here. You were my best four years,” I tried to hold back what was rapidly coming. It was useless and the tears rolled.
I thought to myself that the tears were silly, I was silly. I’m a pretty emotional person sometimes, but this was ridiculous. I attributed the ugly crying to getting older and something I heard on TV once about estrogen levels increasing in men as they get older. Yeah, that has to be it.
As the song ended, I thought about how quickly things in life can change. One minute, I’m totally happy listening to “Shake it off,” the next minute, I hear “Ronan” and I’m a blubbering fool. I think life is a lot like the songs we listen to. It’s chopped up in little, ever changing moments, some happy, some sad. It’s moving on to the next song after the sad song, never forgetting, but moving on none the less.