For the better part of the 2000s, I have assumed the machinations and motions of a normal human being while also following a band- well, a man, really- very closely. Not to the level of stalking, but…you know. Closely.
For the uninitiated, this is Andrew McMahon. He is a piano player and singer who has served as the frontman for Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew McMahon and the Pop Underground, and most recently Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Those of us who follow music closely recall with great clarity those moments where a song or an album seemed to be speaking only to us at the very moment we discovered it. As it happens, most of those moments have happened for me with the same artist.
I realized last night in New York, at the Dear Jack Benefit Concert (designed to benefit the Dear Jack Foundation for Young Adult Cancer), that a similar moment is surfacing once again.
The final track on the current album is a song called “Maps for the Getaway,” all about a house that Andrew and his family lived in in LA, before moving back to his hometown to escape some of the turmoil and strife that seemed to be coming from that place. However, a collaboration with a producer that lived near the house he fled so forcefully brought him back to that same neighborhood often. Reflections on what caused him to leave led to this song, and this chorus has been on replay in my head for quite some time now:
No cash in the bank, no paid holidays
All we have, all we have is
Gas in the tank, maps for the getaway
All we have, all we have is time
Additionally, Andrew acknowledged something that many of us have suspected for a while now but he captured eloquently before performing the above song live: “I have a small addiction to new beginnings.”
That hit me hard at just the right time.
Separately, I’ve been on a tear of comedic autobiographies and memoirs, a joy renewed with the release of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. While a little older (written in 2007), I have to strongly recommend Steve Martin’s beautifully written Born Standing Up, which primarily details the rise of his stand-up career and eventual decision to leave the craft that he had worked so hard to cultivate and toiled to succeed at. The passage in which he describes this monumental decision is, given its gravity, relatively simple:
In the wings, I began swearing to myself. I ripped off my coat and threw it against a wall. Of course, my fury was not from the failure of the King Tut guitar to descend from the ceiling- it was that over the last few years I had lost contact with what I was doing, and I was suffering an artistic crisis that I didn’t know I had a capacity for. I went to my dressing room, opened my travel-weary black prop case, and stowed away my magic act, thinking that one day I would open it and look at it sentimentally, which for no particular reason, I haven’t. I never did stand-up again.
I’m at an interesting time of my life to have these two testimonies about a fervent and deeply felt need for change coincide so serendipitously. I’m 28, what actuaries would call a SINK (Single-Income, No Kids) and have a level of freedom that quickly alternates between being liberating, and absolutely terrifying. I have a lot of things I enjoy doing, and I think I’m even good at a few of those things. So the idea of cultivating a path at a point where the itch for something different is starting to get stronger (I think it took Andrew speaking up about his addiction to new beginnings, for me to step forward and unanonymously acknowledge my own similar ailment) is a tough one.
If there is, in fact, a map for the getaway, where is it leading me? What stops do I need to plan for along the way? Is it in that dreaded moment of recalculating just when I need it the most?
As you may be able to tell from the tone of this post, I don’t have answers for any of this. And I certainly don’t have answers for any of my friends who seem to be similarly struggling with these sorts of questions- there seem to be a lot of us, and one of the few things bringing me comfort as I wrestle with these questions is the understanding that I’m not alone in my need to address them.
Ultimately, the best chance I have- that any of the people I know who are trying to find where they fit- to get through any of this is alluded to in both Andrew’s song and Steve’s memoir. Steve recounts his pledge to give up on his dream of professional comedy by age 30 if it didn’t materialize significantly. However, he realized shortly before the self-imposed deadline that it didn’t work that way, couldn’t work that way. Life happens when it happens, and you just have to wait and see where your goals and path will go. And just as Andrew says in Maps for the Getaway…all we have is time.