“I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”—Forrest Gump
As a college kid in the ‘80s, I used to marvel at the phenomenon of sorority girls—or any cluster of girls partying together—going crazy when certain songs came on over the radio or nightclub sound system.
It was like this song was the group’s “anthem” and really spoke to the things they held near and dear. The first few notes would start and there would be a collective gasp. Fists would pump in the air and you would hear people saying “Oh…My…God!” with big dramatic pauses in between the words.
Maybe one of the girls would begin to cry, or two of them would hug and sob.
Having been a cynic my whole life, I would always try to level the moment. I’d ask, “Why are you guys flipping out over this song?”
One would say something like: “They played this song when we were on Spring Break together last year and it got us through the worst things. It is OUR song.”
ME: “Sweet Home Alabama?”
THEM: “Oh man, we ARE SO GOING THERE AFTER GRADUATION!”
ME: “To Alabama? Why?
THEM: “Well, it’s our SONG!”
ME: “Do you know anyone in Alabama or what kind of things they do there? I mean, what city are you going to in Alabama?”
THEM: “Whatever! We ARE SO THERE!”
ME: “Have fun…”
THEM: “Whooooooo Hooooooooo!”
This kind of event seemed to repeat itself for years after school, too.
I would be in a club and Springsteen would break into “Born To Run” over the sound system and the nerdiest, book-wormiest friend of mine would look up and close his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I’d ask.
HIM: “This song. It’s MY song.”
ME: “Born To Run? Tramps like us, baby we were born to run? C’mon, dude, you can’t run without your asthma inhaler. How is this your song?”
HIM: “Shhhh. Let me listen!”
And with that he would close his eyes and go on this dream sequence trip that I never really could believe applied to him.
Or maybe a girl I would take out to dinner would hear “Desperado” by the Eagles. She would smile a tight confident smile at me like she was entering a zone I simply could not understand.
Like she was this complicated, poetic femme fatale and I simply did not know what I was in for messing with a gal like this and her cold, hard heart.
The Eagles were singing: “Your prison is walking through this world all alone … You better let somebody love you before it’s too late.” She’d stare at the floor and shake her head.
“Is there something wrong with your salmon?” I would innocently ask.
She’d snicker, “No. No it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
ME: (Wanting to avoid the story) “OK.”
HER: (Continuing anyway) “You see, Ron, I’ve been hurt before. And I’ve hurt people, too. Are you sure you’re up for this little friendship?”
ME: * sigh * “Probably not. Waiter? Check please.”
See? It seems we all see ourselves differently than the world really sees us.
These people and their reactions to the songs had elevated themselves to movie roles where they were the central and most important character.
I guess that’s healthy in many ways, but when that perspective is lost and people begin to take themselves too seriously, I think we need to wheel out the portable “Flake-o-meter” and provide the obligatory reality check.
Last week, Miami Heat basketball player LeBron James mentioned that he could envision finishing his career right back where it all started—in Cleveland.
The press got all stirred up, and bitter fans had much to say. But the truth is, LeBron has been trying to rebuild his reputation after the wrecking ball hit it broadside when he took his talents to Miami many months back.
I think all of that happening was a result of taking himself way too seriously. And I would even venture to say if he had it to do over again, he would have stayed put in Cleveland.
The reality flash from a bucket of hot new 2012 rookies has made sure LeBron’s big Nikes stayed firmly planted in his throat. He is no longer the “awesome” draw he once was.
Still talented? You bet. Still at the top of his game? Mostly. But still the most loved player in the NBA? Not even close.
If he had seen himself as others were seeing him, perhaps the last year or so wouldn’t have been so rocky.
See, people loved him most when he was not so crazy about himself. When he began to take himself so seriously, he didn’t leave any room at the altar for his fan base.
He left them behind, hoped for their understanding, and lost the bet. They cut him loose and he has been trying to make up ground since.
Sometimes you hear of actors in a sitcom that can’t wait to quit the series and get a better role.
Maybe a baseball player who wants to get with a contender so he can be in a World Series. No obligation for him to lift the team he is on up; rather he
wants to be assigned somewhere where all the other pieces are in place and he can step in and get a ring.
Deep, man. Heavy. Only problem is, you didn’t “earn” it; you bought it ready-made.
So if the song that is important to you comes on and you add the drama, be sure it’s real. Here’s how you’ll know: Someone will say to you, “This song sounds like YOU, your life, your problem.”
The most true reflection of yourself is not the one you generously see in the mirror. Rather, it is the one people talk about when you are NOT in the room.
Listen for that some day; you may be surprised. Here you’re thinking your personal anthem is “I’m Too Sexy for my Shirt,” and the rest of the world thinks it’s “Domenic the Donkey.”
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Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.