Making Hard Decisions
One Long Year In-Depth Behind-The-Song Blog
Sometimes endings are new beginnings. We’ve now arrived at Track 4 in our behind-the-song journey of the Fragment EP. I always pound the crap out of my guitar when I play this song live. That’s exactly why I wrote it the way I did: in drop D tuning with simple chords so I could just pound away. My acoustic shows probably have an unusual amount of headbanging. 🙂
This song is called One Long Year, and not only does it mark the end of another important relationship in my life, but it was also the last song I ever recorded with Eva Mendez. You might find yourself a bit confused at that statement. Remember what happened when my fiance and I broke up? I bought a black Gibson acoustic guitar and named it after Eva Mendez as a half-humorous way to cope with the breakup. Well, not only is this song another goodbye to someone special; it was a farewell recording with Eva before I sold her to some random guy off Craigslist in Texas. Sad day, but it’s not all bad. In fact, as you read this, I hope it won’t be primarily a sad story and instead we can reflect a little together.
Recently someone asked me how I could find it in myself to sell one of my guitars. Truthfully? I am never able to completely let go of them. Each guitar has memories attached to it; just like a person. Maybe it sounds dumb, but it’s an interesting parallel. I bought Eva brand new in 2008 and can remember every little imperfection and scratch I made even though I no longer own the guitar today. I would grieve inside a little each time I made a new dent or scratch because I always wanted to keep each guitar in mint condition; but we all know if you’re going to spend a significant amount of time playing a guitar, it’s going to take some damage. Is the same true with people? Sooner or later, we seem to damage each other if we are allowed to get close enough. It’s not something that happens on purpose, but as we dive deeper into the rhythms of the relationship, we do what humans do; we inflict damage on each other. That is what One Long Year is about.
On my 25th birthday, I damaged someone, not because I meant to but because I thought I had to leave and go off on some kind of musical mission. Maybe in my mind, it was like that scene in Ghostrider where Johnny Blaze rides away from the woman he wants to be with in some kind of strange heroic irony.
I moved nearly 1,000 miles away from a woman I was in a serious relationship with. She was the first and only woman that I had ever been able to bond with over a mutual love of music; not just bands like Foo Fighters, but local music as well. Up to this point, I had really struggled to find someone who I could truly share this part of my life with. Sometimes in the past it had seemed to me that the girls I had dated who weren’t musicians couldn’t quite understand the heart of a songwriter. This girl was different. Unfortunately I carried the damage of a previous relationship get the best of me (see Stay With Me and Canon in Drop D Part 1 and Part 2) Back when I was 21 and in a different relationship, I had longed to move to a city with a thriving music scene. As I watched the local Indianapolis music scene struggle with all its might, I dreamed of moving to Austin or Nashville. However, I was engaged and my fiance wasn’t on-board. Eventually she told me she thought I needed to give up my dream of being a musician. I didn’t want to leave her, but I also didn’t want to give up my dream of having a music career. Ultimately, if you read about Canon In Drop D, you know that she eventually called off our engagement and married someone else. I felt burned. After that, I felt like I had thrown away several years and stayed in a city with a dying music scene for a girl; I didn’t think I could do that again, even for a girl I loved with all my heart.
Fast forward four years; I had found who I thought was the girl of my dreams and I was faced with the exact same scenario. The only difference was that THIS girl DID want to see me become all that I could be as a musician; she just didn’t want to leave her family. I was faced with one of the hardest decisions of my life. It wasn’t entirely about her either; in Indianapolis, I had some of the best friends and family that I could ever ask for. I didn’t fully realize it at the time but I was very rich in life, definitely not with money, but with relationships. Because I had been burned in the past though, I made the decision to move to Austin, Texas whether my girlfriend came with me or not. I had promised myself next time I would not stay in a city over a girl; I had to pursue my dream.
After I said goodbye to my friends, family and girlfriend, I packed up everything I owned in a Uhaul and drove to Austin on my 25th birthday. After that, my girlfriend and I tried to stay together for awhile, but deep down we both knew we would never be living in the same city or state. I knew she wanted to see me succeed, but I felt guilty for leaving her in the dust. I hoped she would decide to join me, but she couldn’t. We were basically caught in a stalemate. Eventually, the distance drove us to break up. I wrestled with this as I wrote One Long Year.
To look back on how the relationship changed over time, much like my guitar from “mint condition” to “used” and damaged left me stunned. Sometimes I used to daydream about showing up in Indianapolis to surprise her. In my dream, she would change her mind about staying in Indianapolis and run away to Texas with me. I know it sounds like a bad romcom and some of you are vomiting in your mouth, but hey, if we’re being honest here, that’s where my mind was at. There’s a line in the bridge that makes me cringe today just a little; “So I will find you in the grocery parking lot, carry you away whether you’re ready or not, but you don’t care. We’re outta here!” Maybe I should clarify that I wouldn’t actually have carried her away to Texas, but at the time, part of me thought she wished I would. I’ll never know for sure.
My experience in Austin was unbelievable, but it also cost me. I still wrestle with the decision I made to this day. I put a high value on relationships; it’s hard for me to accept that I had put my own dreams above the most important relationships in my life. I don’t really want to be someone who puts himself first. Maybe I had overcorrected. Maybe moving was the right call. We’ll never know, but it’s what I did. There’s not much I can do but accept it and learn from it. On the plus side, moving across the country to a strange city transformed who I am. Through that journey, I learned not to underestimate the value of the people in my own life. I also learned that thou shalt not sell guitars. They should only buy more… 🙂
Maybe it’s inevitable that we will damage those closest to us. It might sound like I mean this as a bad thing, but not necessarily. Back to my crude guitar analogy; something happens as a guitar ages that makes it more desirable over time. While it may no longer be in mint condition and the white binding fades to an ugly yellow, the wood sounds more beautiful as the guitar continues to age. The neck feels more familiar to play. Each scratch tells a story and each wear-mark is proof of hours spent together. In theory, the same thing happens as a relationship matures; it seems to start off perfect, but the illusion is quickly shattered after a few “scratches” and “dents.” However, if the relationship is still cared for by both parties, maybe its value will skyrocket much like a vintage guitar. I don’t exactly have the best track record myself, but I believe somewhere in acknowledging this truth is the key to a long-lasting relationship. The best relationships are formed when the people involved understand just how human we really are. Wouldn’t the most beautiful dance be between two people who understand they will inevitably hurt each other and yet they choose to dance anyways?
Nathan (aka Vandarth)
“Used to be nothing, turned into something; the best is soon to appear.” – One Long Year