So it’s a very rainy day. Muffin is back at school. I’m in Target, moving past the children’s clothing section, where I’ve just scored a deal on sweatpants for my now-3rd-grader, and the song on the storewide stereo system changes, from some easily-background-blendy tune to one I am intimately familiar with: “Who Knew?”, by Pink.
And I literally stop pushing my cart right in the aisle between Home Furnishings and Kids’ Decor, look up to the ceiling, and mouth, “Now?”
Many falls ago, I was back in this country after living abroad for several years, newly single and trying to navigate heartbreak and parenthood, and driving again and listening to American radio for the first time in a long while, and “Who Knew?” was then a new release. It was absolutely a case of right time, right song. At a point when I wasn’t even sure what artists or albums or good break-up music I could listen to that wouldn’t remind me of my then-soon-to-be-ex, this was something I came across on my own, without bias, while carrying a lot of baggage that needed some airing out. It was so cathartic.
The strange, interesting thing is the fact that every fall since then, without fail, I’ll be simply driving along, or listening to music while doing chores, and some algorithm somewhere in the cloud, or whatever radio stations use these days, decides it’s time for me to hear “Who Knew?” again.
It’s the most poignant and bittersweet sort of anniversary; I’m remembering a lot of good things, and some bad, I’m sad and happy and nostalgic and wanting to hold on and let go all at once. It ties me to my past while firmly rooting that influence on my present, who I was and who I became, and gives a subtle nudge in the direction of understanding and respecting all of it.
So I was good; I took my time finding the new, cheapest wastebaskets to replace the ancient, falling-apart ones in my house, not straying too far from the reach of the overhead speakers, and let the lyrics wash over me for probably the hundredth time. I let myself remember why I need to hear it, why it needs to be a few moments of quiet reflection, why it has to continue to relate to that point in my life.
This summer has been a tough one for my family. It was a season of unexpected but necessary changes, facing head-on challenges that we definitely would’ve chosen to put off or ignore, and somehow managing through it all to still get up every day and do normal stuff like cook and clean and take out the trash. It’s ushered in some positive things, too, but in no way was it easy, and it was absolutely not my preferred method for getting rid of unhealthy situations and environments.
But this spring, my family was on the edge of drowning under the weight of a lot of harmful influences and damaging routines, and getting away from that has brought an immense lightness to my mind and heart. As dark, harsh, and angry as some of our processing of recent events has been — and some of that was expected — the idea of moving forward, of a chance to do so, seems so real now, when a few months ago, it didn’t.
Little things like browsing Target for new wastebaskets makes me stupidly happy right now. I know I’m on the cusp of something different, when before I felt stuck. The sense of good change being a possibility is so freeing.
To get here, I had to drag myself out of a stupor of accepting less, of not reaching for better, of having given up on what if. At first, it felt so raw and frightening; now I realize that capitulating to being stuck was slowly draining me.
Just like that fall a decade and a half ago, I am facing the unknown — but now, I feel pretty good about it.
I can’t stop myself from wondering what my ex of back then — the reason “Who Knew?” made me cry until I couldn’t breathe — would think of my decisions now. And, no, I don’t necessarily care. But I do believe there’d be a sense of approval, and that does mean something.
The first few times I heard that song, I didn’t yet have in motion the plans for finishing a college degree, raising White Fang, or becoming a published author, all things I wanted to do, had to do, was longing to do. 15 years later, I’m there. I did it.
And this spring, when faced with a massive decision with no clear outcome, I took one path, and prayed to all the divine forces out there that it was the right one. I did it again.