“I’m ready to go anywhere”: Music as a Guide


Early on in high school, back when I still believed the world was small, I made two new friends in Andrew and Hunter. The two of them were already close, but after they invited me over to Andrew’s garage and we jammed on Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy,” a shitty cover that to us sounded like the greatest piece of music in the world, it was clear we’d become close friends. Our bond quickly grew. After our regular band practices we would head to the aptly-named Ocean Beach, where the shore intersects with Judah Street. Since we were too young for licenses, we had to get a ride from a parent or wait for the bus before transferring to the train to get there. The three of us spent a lot of time at that beach, almost as much time as we devoted to band practice, maybe even more. Andrew was experienced with the ocean– he knew about the waves, owned wetsuits for us to borrow, and didn’t fear riptides. Hunter and I… not so much. We were both newer to swimming in the chilly Pacific Ocean. We lacked surfboards and confidence. While Andrew rode big waves far away from the shore, Hunter and I came up with our own amusement.

Other than seeing how far we could throw sand dollars, a lot of time was passed lying down. In the temporary warmth of the wetsuits, Hunter and I laid in the water right next to the shoreline. The water wasn’t deep- we laid on our backs looking up to the blue sky floating in inches of water. Sometimes we could see the moon, which made the world feel much smaller. The practice was a total release… we let the waves guide where our bodies went. Most of the time we gently rocked in the tides, but occasionally a bigger wave would sneak up and provide us with a shockingly fun scare. In essence it was an exercise of letting go. We gave ourselves up to the ocean, to the waves, and to forces bigger and stronger than ourselves. While Andrew tried to tame the water with a surfboard, Hunter and I happily released ourselves to it, listening to everything around us when our ears weren’t submerged. This detachment from control and surrender to the waves was always fun. Simultaneously relaxing yet treacherous, I enjoyed the time on my back in the water with them, smiling, laughing, thinking those relationships would last forever, and still believing the world was small.

A lot has changed since the days of reveling at the beach after band practice. Notably, now I think the world is big. Really freaking big. I started writing this piece in mid-March because I was thinking of Andrew. The happy birthday text I sent him on the 12th was met with no response. I scrolled up through past messages to see that the conversation was one-sided. No response about hanging out, no response to a Pavement song. For most of college Andrew had dropped off the map. No one heard from him or saw him. Rumors swirled, not good things. We worried but tried to let go. With the distance it was hard to do much- the world is a bigger place than I thought it was when we were growing up.

I was lucky enough to see him once, by coincidence. Towards the end of last year, on a rainy gray day, me and two old friends biked down to Ocean Beach. Completely soaked, we were going on the paved path that runs along the beach. Unmistakable, I saw it in the parking lot– Andrew’s old school white Jeep Cherokee. I pulled up to it, letting my bike fall to the wet pavement as I jumped off of it. It was him. We shared a long hug, then he helped me pick my bike up. “I’m surprised you guys are biking on a day like this,” he said. I responded I was surprised he had come out to surf on a day like this but I really wasn’t. He was always down to do something, no matter the weather, and could never resist those waves. In that moment along the rainy beach I saw the younger version of him that I once knew. For me he had always been inspiring- the way he moved with an abundance of self-confidence, how he expressed care and love for others openly, how he shaped his life with his hands. A lot of admiration there, back then and now.

Fortunately, Hunter and I keep in touch. Despite the distance, we remain close- occasional check-ins underpin a mutual love. I saw Andrew that rainy day in December, and had a brief hangout with him and Hunter a few days later, but since then no words. As I write this in April I still think about them. What Hunter has exhibited– how to dedicate one’s self to practice, how to speak your truth, how to transmit care and attention to many projects– and what I notice from Andrew demonstrate that the intricacies of relationships model the intricacies of the world. These relationships no longer seem static to me, as they did early on in high school, rather they feel dynamic and changeable. Relationships, moving across time like waves, are processes. And like a powerful riptide, Andrew, Hunter, and our collective relationship were impactful and formative for me. As we grew close they helped plant the seeds of understanding that the world is much bigger than I thought. Details I notice with them are details I notice with the world. I am forever grateful for their presence in my life, especially for what they showed me during our time in the ocean together.

Recently, I came across a live recording of a three song medley by the 60s band the Byrds. “Turn Turn Turn” smoothly moves into “Mr. Tambourine Man,” a Bob Dylan cover which shadows into “Eight Miles High.” The final song is the reason I listened to the medley in the first place. On my way home from a late class, on a warmish evening, I approached the Farragut North metro station with this medley playing. “I’m ready to go anywhere” I heard. Originally Bob Dylan’s words, reshared by the Byrds, now reaching me fifty seven years later. What a gift to hear those words, spreading across my entire body in that moment. They consumed my world. It was like being back in the Pacific Ocean with my friends. Surrendered in my listening, open to being moved by the song, experiencing that same letting go I did in the water. Music can be a guide for us, assuming that we allow it and listen intently. It can take us to fascinating, expansive new places or bring us back to old ones. It can link us to distant feelings and connections. As I heard the Byrds’ lyrics, I felt a real moment of resonation and release. I smiled as I waited for the metro train, just like I smiled when letting the waves guide me.

It’s easier for me to let go when listening to a song than it is to let go of a relationship. I haven’t said goodbye to Andrew. Allowing music to guide me, I know if I hear “Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite At :17” my mind will be brought straight to memories with him. There could be some type of letting go to be done though. And I should let go. I know I won’t see him now, I hope I will soon.

Even though he and Hunter aren’t with me here I feel ready to go anywhere. Right now, tomorrow, post-graduation. Whenever, wherever, I feel ready. How good it is to feel that… to be open to the possibilities of the big world. I feel dizzied by the potentialities of it all.

“I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancin’ spell my way
I promise to go under it”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *