Yesterday I was exploring some ring-tones for my phone, and like always I was drawn back to hits from the 80s. It is amazing how quickly a familiar song can take me back in time. It is a metaphysical experience that not only changes the clock, but the place. That’s what happened when I stumbled on this old favorite.
As just a snippet of this song played on my phone, I suddenly found myself driving my 280zx on the twisting, starlit roads of Scholls Ferry Road south of Hillsboro. The amber glow from the dashboard illuminating my attitude as Steve Perry filled my soul with hope.
While a lot of people have ridiculed this song as pop pabulum, I believe there is more to it. But that might be a generational thing. In the early 80s, I was just coming to the end of a bad marriage, and I was coming of age. I can’t think of a more empathetic, hopeful song than Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. This is just what I needed to hear.
It felt like, at the age of 23, I was just beginning to break out of my shell and feel the empowerment that every young man longs for. My parents, especially my Dad, had raised me to be self-sufficient, independent, and filled with common sense. At the age of 17 I had already started college and I loved the independence and freedom that afforded. But it wasn’t enough, so I pushed harder.
At 18, my friend Ray and I took on the challenge of transforming a backwoods volunteer fire department – because we knew we were smarter than the others. We were going to change the world. We were going to make things happen. But even though I had a lot of brilliant ideas, I couldn’t seem to overcome my own loneliness, depression, and melancholy. Looking back on it I can see that I was definitely trying to change things, because I couldn’t change myself.
I knew it was a mistake, but I didn’t care.
It was then that I left college and got married. I knew it was a mistake, but I didn’t care. I was abandoning a lot of my core values, but I just didn’t care. The pain in my soul was so great, I just kept trying to break free. My thinking was, I distinctly remember, that I had to escape the prison of the life around me. Somehow, I thought sex, marriage, and a job – in that order – would cure my despondency. I knew that when I grew up, I could fix the wrongs I was creating. Because after all, I was invincible, right?
I had started attending church in my mid-teens, and thankfully, that kept me out of a lot of trouble. But now, just a few years later, I was running from that churched life as fast as I could. I found it restrictive, conforming, and not really productive to a life of abundance. When I looked at the people in church, they didn’t inspire me to be who I wanted to be. But when Steve Perry sang this song, I knew I could soar to new heights.
For the first time in my life I was experiencing real freedom
So there I sat in my driveway on a cool Fall evening. I was renting a room in a house in Tigard, on Greenburg Rd. I had nowhere to go, but go I must. So I just drove. I used to spend hours driving the rural roads of West Portland. Scholls Ferry, Skyline Blvd, Bald Peak, and sometimes I’d end up at the coast. For the first time in my life I was experiencing real freedom. When I was on the road, either in my car, or on my motorcycle, I felt invincible. The music blasting from my speakers reaffirmed that.
It was an illusive dream at 17, 18, 19… and in my hurry to obtain it, I broke some rules. I took shortcuts and I sold myself into bondage. Have you ever noticed that taking shortcuts only offers short-turn gain. Eventually you’ll have to pay back what was owed. That’s how I spent my 20s, paying back what was owed.
I wonder if I would have felt so free in my mid to late 20s, if I hadn’t experienced the bondage I allowed myself to fall into earlier? I know I wouldn’t have drank so much, or self-medicated with the recreational drugs – which became another set of bondage issues to escape from. I wonder if I could have experienced the abundant life so poignantly without the whole Joseph experience?
It is my opinion that I could have. I just didn’t have any guides to help me navigate the trail. My parents didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t have anyone in the church who seemed to “get it.” I felt like I was on my own. Oh, how I wish I could go back and try again. If I could have just pushed through the dark days, the loneliness, and the inescapable feeling of futility – how nice it would have been to emerge from my youth with more energy and more health than I started. I just didn’t know it was possible.
On the other side of some very serious mistakes, it was Steve Perry who convinced me to keep moving forward. “Don’t stop believin’.” he said to me. And I haven’t since.
It’s been said that “all who wander are not lost.” I believe there is a lot of truth to that. But looking back on it, I now know that I spent about 10 years wandering – and I was lost. I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to recover from those 10. I wish I knew then what i know now. That is, there are healthier ways to find oneself…