"A game like chess suited me because I was able to put everything from my mind and work with something abstract."
Like A Song: Breathe
July 11, 2012
[Ed. note: This is the 69th 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.]
One of my favorite qualities of U2's music is that I can listen to it regardless of my mood. There is a U2 song for practically any emotional state, and often one song can apply to several moods. "Breathe" is one of those songs for me.
I like "Breathe" for many musical reasons. The rhythm section is as good as it has ever been, particularly Larry's outstanding drumming. Bono's and Edge's vocals are also top-notch. Aside from the technical details of the music, what makes "Breathe" my favorite track from No Line On The Horizon is the lyrics and how closely they relate to the past year of my life.
Thus far, 2012 has been a roller coaster year, with soul-crushing lows and euphoric highs. My career hasn't yet turned out how I imagined it would. My department made some crazy changes so I have been looking for a new teaching gig, which has been a grueling application and interview process. In March, I fell just short of a potential dream job, and this summer marks the end of my current teaching position. However, while my professional life has been temporarily derailed, my personal life is nothing short of fantastic. My wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary in January, and just a few weeks ago we got the biggest and most anticipated news of our young marriage: We are expecting our first child. And we couldn't be more thrilled!
Man at the door says if I want to stay alive a bit longer
The first half of this calendar year indeed has taught me three lessons that I think will help me live a longer, happier life. (1) Keep everything in perspective. Paradoxically, my string of professional setbacks has actually helped me put the larger picture of my life into focus. To be completely honest, it still upsets me that I lost my job, especially the way I lost it. But, a shift in perspective has helped me avoid dwelling on it too much. Taking a step back, that department was not the ideal work environment for me in the long run, and thinking about it in that way has lessened my bitterness to the point that I am grateful not to be working there. (2) Be nice. No matter what life throws at me, no matter how I perceive people treating me, I'm trying to let the Golden Rule guide me. I do not need to contribute any more negativity to a world already filled with so much vitriol and cruelty. Being nice tends to encourage nice behavior in return, and I think that is worthy of my efforts. (3) Shut up and just do it. There is no substitute for hard work and perseverance. Along with a renewed focus on my life's larger picture, I am learning to focus on my personal and professional responsibilities more steadfastly. I have realized that dwelling on "what could have been" takes energy and time away from what brings me joy: my roles as a husband, provider and father-to-be, as well as my research on U2's music.
That roar that lies on the other side of silence
The thought of going through yet another round of applications and (hopefully) interviews is daunting, and the fear of more rejection hangs over my head like a specter. I have realized, however, that rejection is part of the process and eventually I will find my dream job at the right institution. There's a lot more at stake now than just my career: I've got a family for whom to provide, and I cannot and will not let my insecurities stand in the way of that.
The thought of being a father is at once terrifying and exciting. Fear can be paralyzing and debilitating if not handled correctly. I cannot deny the fear that I am experiencing; in fact, I MUST acknowledge it. However, I must also not let that fear rule my life and make decisions for me and my family. In order to combat our trepidations about our impending parenthood, my wife and I have committed ourselves to talking about our concerns, no matter how trivial they may initially seem. Along the way, we are discovering not only that we share many of the same fears about raising children, but also that we share many of the same ideas regarding kids and how to raise them. Our fears are allayed significantly simply by communicating with each other openly and honestly.
Every day I die again, and again I'm reborn.
For a while, getting up in the morning was a genuine struggle. I didn't want to go to work in a place that didn't want me in the first place. But as I gradually shifted my perspective, I began to realize that each new day is a chance to do something great. It is as true as it is trite, but I needed to think that way in order to go to school and teach my students to the best of my abilities. And while I do not have a teaching job lined up right now, I do not necessarily need one to validate my love of music and my passion for teaching music theory. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that my career will get back on track. It is not a matter of "if" but "when."
We are people borne of sound
I am proud of my life thus far. Professionally, the puzzle is almost complete. I have a terminal degree in a specialized field that includes some of the brightest and most talented people in the world. It thrills me to no end that I study U2's music for a living, and that my work has helped me appreciate and love their work even more deeply. On the personal side, I could not be happier with how things have developed. I have had my share of twists and turns, but all my experiences and decisions -- both good and bad -- have led me to where I am now. I have a wonderful wife and a marvelous marriage, and together we are about to embark on an amazing journey.
(c) @U2/Endrinal, 2012.