The “quarter life crisis” is one of the ideas that keeps the professional opinion industry afloat. Open any “respectable” magazine, and there will virtually always be some article analyzing why young people get hit with existential dilemmas in their 20s. Some of the writing is good and some of it isn’t, but the only analysis that anyone needs is the song “Why Georgia” by John Mayer.
If I was going to a desert island and could only take five songs with me, it would undeniably be one of them. As a young person pursuing a career in a creative field, I don’t think any piece of art has captured the feeling so accurately. This song is better than any indie film, any coming-of-age novel, and yes, any article in The Atlantic.
John Mayer wrote the song after he dropped out of college and moved to Atlanta to pursue his music career, during a time when everything was going wrong for him. He was out of opportunities, and realized that he was doubting his choices but was in too deep to turn back. I challenge anyone in my position not to relate to the lyrics about being stuck inside “the kind of morning that lasts all afternoon.” And the line “I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdict-less life” is the kind of sentence that haunts you when you can’t sleep.
I’ve always loved the song, even as it hits closer to home with every passing year. It’s one of the rare songs that has the honor of appearing three times on my very long “serious running” playlist (I’m training for a half-marathon in November, so I need a lot of music these days). I’ve always been obsessed with comparing myself to heroes, who often take the form of musicians. And the nature of the industry means that musicians often have success a lot sooner than writers, which makes the whole thing an incredibly depressing exercise. So it’s comforting to hear about one of my favorite creative people going through the exact same things that I am, at the exact same age that I’m at.
Lately, though, one line in particular is sticking out to me. “Everybody’s just a stranger, but that’s the danger in going my own way.” Mayer is hitting at something that nobody tells you: pursuing a creative life is incredibly lonely. No matter how many people are there with you, no matter how many friends you have, it’s just you at the end of the night. When you’re staring down your future and seeing nothing meaningful ahead, nobody can really share that. And as cool as it is to show off a great script or play a new song you wrote, you’re by yourself during the hundreds of hours it takes to make those things. I wouldn’t trade it for anything (nor would he, I imagine), but the loneliness adds up after a while.
Obviously things worked out well enough for John Mayer, and I’m increasingly optimistic about my own future. I’m starting to see the fragments of a career forming before my eyes, and every day it gets a little easier to connect those dots. But everyone doubts themselves, and when I do, this is the song I turn to. If everyone in my shoes did the same, we’d all be a lot happier.
Student, blogger, creative life pursuer