August 19th, 2011
Thing a Week 46: You Ruined Everything
I was having a conversation with a friend who had recently become a parent, and she reminded me of something I had forgotten about since my daughter was born. She was describing this what-have-I-done feeling – I just got everything perfect in my life, and then I went and messed it all up by having a baby. I don’t feel that way anymore, but the thought certainly crossed my mind a few times at the beginning. Eventually you just fall in love and forget about everything else, but it’s not a very comfortable transition. I compare the process to becoming a vampire, your old self dies in a sad and painful way, but then you come out the other side with immortality, super strength and a taste for human blood. At least that’s how it was for me. At any rate, it’s complicated.
PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: This is one of those songs that I feel grateful to have found. It’s by far the most directly personal song in Thing a Week, and probably in my entire catalog. I love it because it expresses how I really feel about this very important part of my life without ducking for cover cover behind a giant squid or a mad scientist character. It’s a love letter to my kids, one that I think has enough emotional complexity in it that they’ll understand it over and over again in different ways as they get older. Or not. My daughter recently asked me, “Daddy, is there a different kind of ruined?” Well yeah, sort of.
Personal songs feel perilous to me. It’s scary to reveal what I think and feel about something, even in conversation with a single person, let alone with the whole internet. There’s the risk that I’ll reveal something about myself that I think is universal, and instead everyone will finally know what a monster I am. That doesn’t seem to be the case with this one - I’ve heard from lots of parents that this hits pretty close to home, and even from some non parents who find that this describes their romantic relationships pretty well. Those fears aside, I find it very hard to say honest things about myself in a song without it sounding like the sappy, maudlin, navel gazing stuff I used to write in high school. Somehow I got away with it here, but usually if you describe how you feel about something and then just make it a song lyric, it stinks. That’s why it’s often easier and somehow MORE honest to start with an imaginary point of view and let your true self sneak in.
I have no memory of writing this song.
If I have any regrets, it’s that I didn’t just do a plain old acoustic/vocal recording. I’ve been performing it live that way for years, and it just works better that way. It’s a simple song, and it communicates just fine without any bells and whistles. I like tucking it away at the end of the set, a little quiet moment when I can close my eyes and think about my kids, far away, fast asleep in Brooklyn.