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Like A Song: Acrobat

@U2, November 15, 2011
By: Iidaliisa Partanen


Like A Song[Ed. note: This is the 61st in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]

A lot has happened to me in just the past one-and-a-half months. I moved in with my boyfriend, who is now the first person I've ever shared a roof with unless you count my parents. We decided to get a dog and now I'm a proud pet owner for the first time in my life as well. My studies took a whole different turn when I realized that I really can study just about anything I feel like at the university -- or at least anything without an entrance exam. I also turned 20 this month -- yes, just like Achtung Baby!

So what do I have to complain about? Nothing, right? I have the perfect guy and the perfect apartment along with the perfect study plan and I just had a birthday. And I guess my life does seem like that, if you look at it from the outside. And just from the outside.

Don't believe what you see, don't believe what you hear

On the inside, however, I have been swaying on the verge of a breakdown. I'm majoring in English, and on the side I've been studying Archaeology, Maritime Archaeology, German, Chinese, Medicine and Linguistics. I was going to get more study credits this semester than my whole freshmen year. My sheer inability to make all of it happen has forced me to drop some courses, which of course makes me feel like I'm giving up even though I should just suck it up and, I don't know, work miracles.

If you just close your eyes you can feel the enemy

I don't give myself too much slack. I've been so tired from all the stress that my boyfriend has been cleaning up and doing the dishes while I'm staring at the ceiling, wondering if I'll be able to meet all my deadlines and when am I going to pay that bill and why I scored so bad on that test. And the dog -- what if I'll be a really dreadful dog owner and the animal will grow up to be a beast?

When I first met you girl, you had fire in your soul

And I'm 20! I could swear it's a few weeks ago I celebrated my sweet sixteen. People who are 20 are adults! I have no idea how to do my taxes or how my washing machine really works. I feel like I'm supposed to know this "grown-up stuff" but no one ever told me any of it. How do people find out about all this?

I know all this might sound like a teenager's angsty rant. Maybe it is. It might sound like I'm making a big fuss of nothing; I mean the world really has bigger problems than my worries. But I can't help put to feel crushed under all this stress, and especially keeping it all in since that's pretty much what I have been doing.... Until I decided to visit a dear friend of mine, "Acrobat".

The song speaks to me like no other song ever has. It makes me feel like no other song -- it makes me feel empowered. I know some people vent by going into the middle of a forest and shout their worries away; some hit a punching bag; some go for a run. I listen to "Acrobat" in a dark room, eyes closed, and I let the song take me to a place where it's okay to be a little angry at the situation – where it's okay to be frustrated. And when I get there, the song tells me exactly what to do, every time.

And you can swallow or you can spit
You can throw it up or choke on it
And you can dream, so dream out loud
And don't let the bastards grind you down

Bono's lyrics are, as always, spot-on. The most important thing about them to me is how they make me feel like he's in the same situation with me, and he and I are finding our way out together. For the first verse, he sings to another person, but during the second verse he starts singing about himself -- how he would break bread and wine because he needs it. Then, he says "What are we going to do now it's all been said -- no new ideas in the house and every book has been read?" To me, it feels like he is really asking how can we get out of this state of mind -- the stress, the anger, the frustration.

Then, he answers our question:

And I must be an acrobat
To talk like this and act like that
And you can dream, so dream out loud
And you can find your own way out
And you can build, and I can will
And you can call, I can't wait until
You can stash, and you can seize
In dreams begin responsibilities
And I can love, and I can love…

And there we have it. I have read that many call "Acrobat" a dark and cynical love song. I personally don't think so. For me, it has and always will be about two people trying to find a way out from a place they didn't want to end up in but somehow they still got there. I know that I have to start giving me some slack and stop worrying so much. For I can find my way out, and seize the day, the month, the year, my whole life.

And since I'm only 20, I guess I have plenty of time left to figure out how to do my taxes. And the laundry.

(c) @U2/Partanen, 2011.

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