“You Wear Right Through Your Boots”

I remember being 17 and driving down to New Haven to see Ani DiFranco at the Palace. My friend, Patrick, and I were so excited. After the show we met a girl named Gina who “lived on faith” and kissed a homeless guy in Dunkin’ Donuts. We were so young, had so much energy and were so earnest and hopeful. That seems like a million years ago — I barely recognize those kids. To paraphrase Ms. DiFranco, “We’ve worn right through our boots.”

Graduations and class reunions have come and gone along with a thousand bad days, and a thousand goods days. New life. New love. Death. Heartbreak.

It’s been a long time since I’ve bought an Ani DiFranco record. Patrick — who buys music compulsively — hasn’t had anything good to say about the last couple of albums. But whenever I go back to old Ani, I get nostalgic. I want my army green pants back, and all the cheap silver rings I used to wear. I miss my crappy old car, and the mix-tapes I used to play on the malfunctioning tape deck. Most of all, I miss being 18 and wondering what life would bring. Because sometimes, knowing sucks.

Sometimes I look around at my life and I’m happy for 18-year-old-me. She’d be happy to know that so much of life worked out the way she hoped it would — and sometimes things went even better than she would have dared imagine. Other times I’m glad that kid isn’t around to see who is missing… who came, and then went.

For the past week or two, I’ve been wondering what 18-year-old-me would think. Would she trade the stuff that worked out to fix the stuff that didn’t?

Thanks to YouTube, iPods, and a bunch of old CDs I’ve been digging into old Ani. It’s nice to be reminded of something you loved so much, that you were so passionate about, and still understand — because so often we look back at our younger selves and wonder what the hell we were thinking. As much as those old tunes remind me of being in high school and college, I can still sit down and feel all the same things I felt then — about new people and new situations but still the same.

I can listen to my favorite songs and still feel the same pain, longing, joy, passion, and heartache that I did when I listened to them all those years ago. That may not be good for me, but it says a lot about the music. I can be reminded of the songs that I forgot about that were genius and hear them like it’s the first time. When I listened to “Joyful Girl” for the first time in years (1:31:40 in the video) I wanted to run out, find my old green pants, buy some concert tickets, and write bad poetry.

I’d also like to warn 18-year-old-me that Ani was right about more than I’d like to admit. “Smile pretty and watch your back” is not the kind of advice I’d want to have to give my daughter (if I had one), but now, at 30-years-old, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t. I’d probably also tell her that if she ever meets a boy who comes to mind every time she hears “Dilate,” she should run.


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