As a child, I grew up listening to my father’s old time musical taste. This taste was a vast array of anything and everything between Jay and the Americans, to Neil Diamond, to Barry Manilow, to the Guess Who. My dad was a child of the sixties and a teen of the seventies, but unlike that of the era, he wasn’t into the Beatles or a “deadhead” like you might expect of someone from these eras. He was old school thus to this day why I assume I am old school in my tastes of music; I grew up like that. However, reflecting on some of my very favorites were those of Gene Pitney and his famous “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” and Harry Chapin’s famous “Corey’s Coming.” I loved the vibes that these storyteller musicians left the listener with. They were always my favorites. Through this music and my love for my father’s music, we formed a bond. To this day when my dad listens to Pandora on his, now considered, “oldies” stations, he quizzes me on artists and songs. I usually get them right. As far as music goes, we are two in the same.
One moment that surely shaped my life and has resonated in my life to this day is a memory of my dad and I in his truck listening to Harry Chapin’s “Greatest Hits” album, one of both of our most beloved tapes.
If you know anything about Harry Chapin you would know that aside from writing a song about 10,000 pounds of bananas being dumped out of a truck in our close to home city of Scranton, he was an advocate for self-love, poverty, hunger issues around the world, and the betterment of the world in general.
Back to one of my favorite childhood memories. The tape was playing and suddenly a track of just Harry Chapin himself speaking in an interview was on. My dad without hesitation broke whatever conversation him and I were having and said “Wait. You need to listen to this. It is important.” So, that’s exactly what I did. I listened. The track I later came to find out was named “My Grandfather.” You could see concern in my father’s eyes as we listened to this lesson Harry Chapin wanted his listeners to know. My father believed just as strongly in these words as Chapin himself did. Chapin’s lesson went as follows:
"My grandfather was a painter. He died at age eighty-eight, he illustrated Robert Frost's first two books of poetry and he was looking at me and he said, 'Harry, there are two kinds of tired: there's good-tired, and there's bad-tired.' He said, 'Ironically enough, bad-tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people's battles, you lived other people's days, other people’s agendas, other people's dreams and when it was all over there was very little "you" in there, and when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn--you don't settle easy.' He said, 'Good-tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost. But you don't have to tell yourself, 'cause you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days, and when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy--you sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say "take me away."' He said, 'Harry, all my life I've painted. God, I would've loved to be more successful, but I painted and I painted, and I am good-tired and they can take me away.'
Now, if there is a process in your and my lives in the insecurity that we have about a prior life or an afterlife and God--I hope there is a God. If He is-- if He does exist He's got a rather weird sense of humor, however. But let's just-- But if there's a process that will allow us to live our days and will allow us that degree of equanimity towards the end, looking at that black, implaccable wall of death, to allow us that degree of peace, that degree of non-fear, I want in."
Wow. After listening to that tape, I was silent. Still, I have the tapes in my car and every so often I skip to that track to listen to it. Every time, I find myself covered and encompassed with chills. There is not much to be said even for this article once you read that passage. It is moving for all individuals involved. But that’s why I knew that I had to share this with my friends, family, and acquaintances. It is an important lesson to say the least.
Although I am a young adult, I would consider myself far or wise beyond my years with still many lessons to learn on my own. In fact, I think a lot of other teens, young adults, and even adults feel this same sensation.
I know I use a lot of “I, I, I,” in my writings but I feel like it is the only way I know how to connect what I am feeling to the reader I hope to move as well. However, I do consider myself a very detail oriented person, constantly watching for signs, different movements, people’s opinions, and even their mannerisms. It is just who I am. With this, I notice the scary things, too. I notice our fast-paced world running our lives and displacing us from the intricate details that I think are important too. What have we allowed ourselves to succumb to?
In today’s world, a college education, trade school training, and a career is basically necessary to “make it.” I am enrolled as a full-time student who studies Speech-Language Pathology. It is not an easy major and I admit that despite my stellar detail oriented mind, I do find myself in hindsight regretting losing touch with that part of me. Like I said, I lose touch, too. I forget to notice the things in life that matter and just like Chapin said in his above passage, despite my best efforts, sometimes I too fight other people’s battles, and even get too involved or concerned in other people's agendas. In hindsight I have a spine that reaks regret and a heart that longs for me to change the next day away from the mistake I made prior.
I would consider Twitter to be one of my favorite social media networks and a lot of the time I find myself tweeting my curiosity (in what I think is a mystery) of why there is not more kindness, love, and compassion in this world. It breaks my heart in a way. It does not sit well with me and it certainly cultivates a feeling of numb uncomfort in my soul. I grew up being told to spread kindness, acceptance, love. And although our world seems to be the opposite of those values, I think a lot of us grew up with the same values. However, I think they got lost in the mix somewhere. I think our fast paced, expensive taste oriented culture forced us out of morals that all of us are born with.
We have a tendency in our own country to fight other people’s battles. It is fun I can’t deny it. Helping others is fun and so is getting the credit for it. We fight and argue on Facebook about politics, we belittle others for not following our chosen religion, and we pass judgement sometimes without even knowing it. This is a system our culture has created and we have allowed it to control us.
When we fight our own battles, not only is it harder, but rarely do we get any credit for it. And believe me, I like to receive credit, too. However, like Chapin expressed through his grandfather’s advice, when we fight our own battles, chase our own dreams, live our life for us, that is when we get the “sleep of the just.” I agree. Like I said, fighting our own battles is not easy. Whether we do not want to face the battles we are up against, or we just do not think we have the tools to defeat it, we are only denying ourselves of a life full of rest, pride, and self fulfilment. That is a big price to pay in the grand scheme of things.
When we forget to fight for ourselves and forget to put in as much effort to our own well-beings as we do for others, that is when we fail, that is when we don’t sleep well. Ultimately, it is wasteful of our time and like my father always has said, “No matter how rich you are, you can’t go to Walmart and ask for the aisle for the years and time you had lost to buy back.” It’s deep, but it’s true. That statement is scary when you sit and ponder it, but it’s the reality of life. That is what happens when we choose fighting other people’s battles over our own. Not only are we spinning our wheels, but we are wasting our time.
Despite any preconceived notions, I don’t mean to give up on the one’s you love. You should be side by side them. That SHOULD be part of your agenda. I will always believe in love and I will always believe that family doesn't have to be blood. For example, I always strive to leave people better than when I met them; that is on my agenda daily. So, if helping my friend or family at one of their darkest hours and helping her to fight the fear and friction she has to face, then you bet I'm in. But, I'm in because of love. I'm in because it's on my agenda. Love is a major tool I use everyday on my agenda. We shouldn’t abandon them. My friends are some of the most influential people in my life. Believe me when I say that I help them fight their battles but believe me even more when I stress that they help me fight and chase mine. This is fair and it is necessary for all of us to get by. We all need someone, we all need a person.
These battles have included but of course are not limited to, lonely nights, tough breakups, stress in families, pets, school, and even money problems. It’s normal. That’s what family and friends are for. Your people pick you up when you feel like you are failing the fight against your battle. But, the battles we lose time on, are those that we contribute to without any intention of ever giving ourselves time or the ones that are beyond our control and are an excuse to abandon whatever we may be struggling with. So yeah, if you like winning battles that don’t contribute to the excel of yourself and you’re okay with sleeping a stolen sleep, then keep it up. But personally, I think it is healthier for ourselves and the people around us to fight our own, with our support system close of course.
I have never been a person to take what is not mine and I am certainly not a person who feels comfortable taking handouts. I know plenty of people who are, and that is their business, but it is not in my personality to be comfortable with that kind of behavior. I am not comfortable sleeping in my bed at night knowing the next morning, no matter how good the sleep I had was, that I must face myself and know that I did not use the day before to fight for something well worth of my betterment, passion, and happiness.
Our world and our country especially have an epidemic of mental health issues which go untreated, unaccepted, and stigmatized. It’s wrong, but it happens; that is the reality. Battles are fought daily by people to just pull themselves out of bed. Again, that’s reality. I feel that by preaching and by living our lives through support of others and fighting for a cause that is close to our hearts, could lead us to end this stigma and to create a society of more accepting and open-minded people. That is a step in the right direction if you ask me. Fighting a battle and a passion that all of us are affected by is a battle worth fighting and coming together over.
Sleep is such an essential piece to our role as functioning human beings. Believe me, I’m the type of person who requires a nap to get through the day. So why, why, why, are we choosing an unjust sleep over a just one? Like I said, yeah, it feels great to “win” battles regardless of who they were fought for, but by disregarding ourselves, we lose ourselves in the process. We contribute once again to a societial cycle which praises material items, judgement, and greed. When we find touch with ourselves, we find ourselves and find that deep down, we all want the same thing. Yeah, that's right. Everyone across the world wants the same thing when it comes down to it. Take religion, politics, sexuality, opinions all out of the mix and we all want the same thing: for everyone to be kind to us. And, like I said before, deep down regardless of what you consider yourself, Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, religious, non-religious, we all have an innate sense of care and kindness for others. The rest of what we do is all taught. Use the examples of babies. Babies don’t carry opinions, they don’t even have the capacity to nurture hate. They just seek attention from those who are kind to them. If anything, this only proves my point that we as a human species seek to find ultimate happiness with ourselves. We are lovers until we are taught differently. It is our society who pushes us to value money, lust, and even materials over the deepest connection we all have.
Ultimately, it’s all up to us. You can easily say that you fight your own battles, but you’re the one who knows the truth. I have found myself caught up fighting other people’s battles. The truth? It only leaves me devastated and without adequate care for myself. Yeah, it feels great to be recognized, but it feels even better to be comfortable and happy with yourself fighting for a cause that is so worth it. I am so young and so are so many of the readers who will read this. This life is too short to give in to a scam that seems appealing but leaves us empty. At the end of the day, no matter how many battles you won or how many you lost, you can always hit the restart button. Time does not decide when a new day or a new era starts, you do.
All of us can start loving ourselves more and caring for ourselves more. It is important, but more so, it is crucial. Perhaps this simple yet empowering idea could help us all move forward towards a world more revolved around self-love, love for others, and understanding. When we love and fight for ourselves, we reflect that onto others. Wouldn’t that be a majestic world and culture? I guess it would be, and I guess Harry Chapin thought so, too.
Go and get some just sleep, win or lose, you deserve it.