The Next is Up to You
Everyone knows he’s a great guitarist, but my latest hot take is that John Mayer is the most underrated lyricist currently working. The seemingly-moronic author of “Your Body Is a Wonderland” has also supplied us with some of the most profound musings on life, and I find his voice to be an essential one for a young artist. I’ve professed my love for “Why Georgia” on this blog before, but another favorite of mine is “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, 1967.” The acoustic track, a tribute to storytelling singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, tells the story of a man who had all-but given up on life. His wife and kids had stopped respecting him, and he had seemingly nothing going for him. On a whim, just to feel something, he decides to build a one-man submarine in his basement and drive it from California to Japan. The ending is ambiguous, as we never know if he makes it or not, but we’re meant to celebrate him for trying. The chorus ends with a haunting line: “When you’re done with this world, the next is up to you.”
It’s a great song. One of those clever tracks that was never meant to be a hit, but adds so much texture to an album. And I’ve recently begun to use it as a lens through which to frame my last year of college.
It’s safe to say that college has not been what I expected, and that used to be a source of bitterness for me. I thought it would be like my high school theatre experience on steroids. I was going to get involved with all of these theatre troupes, make tons of artsy friends, and spend four blissful years writing and directing plays. Suffice it to say, that did not happen. I found that the professional theatre world has a culture that is completely at odds with my artistic style, and that it was impossible to find common ground with anyone. I tried and failed to make a film as a sophomore, and that severely damaged my artistic reputation on campus. By the beginning of my junior year, I wasn’t creating anything. I was ready to write off the entire experience as a loss.
But suddenly, I had nothing to lose. I stopped writing plays that I thought would get produced, and I started writing the crazy stuff that I WANTED to write. I had an idea for a webseries, and I retooled it as a no-budget narrative podcast in order to get a student TV network to trust me again. That went well, and I expanded it into a full-length TV pilot that I filmed this year. After rebuilding my relationships, I kept pushing my imagination further with new play and TV ideas, and the universe seems to be rewarding me. So far, my senior year has been the most productive one of my life.
When I thought I had completely failed at the college experience, I was “done with that world.” And the next was up to me. I emerged from my depression with a newfound creative vision, and when I stopped caring what people think, I was able to start making things happen. Just like Walt Grace built a submarine in his basement.
Storyteller Looking For What’s Next