Constructive Summer by The Hold Steady

I’ve been bragging a lot lately about how zen I’ve been feeling. For a person who has spent the majority of her life biting her nails in an anxiety-fueled frenzy, this is a very nice (and incredibly welcome) change of pace.

I’m not entirely sure why I feel so calm at peace with life. There are still deadlines. I’m still behind on my grading. (I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never not be behind on grading as long as I teach.) All those things that would trigger my nail biting and night terrors are still there. But somehow, I’m down with it.

It could be because I’ve been eating a lot better, sleeping enough, and working out. (Hold your “I told you sos” and I will hold my middle finger.) But whatever it is that’s causing this inescapable calm, I ain’t about to gift horse it in the mouth.

And that’s why I’m getting jacked up.

I’m feeling good. I’m feeling ready. I’m feeling like I could do some real damage right about now. Projects are fixing to get conquered.

Projects are fixing to get conquered. Click To Tweet

For the first time in a long time, I’m feeling good enough to actually work on writing. I’ve written about my burn out before, but damn. I had no idea how pervasive it was until I was out of it. And I’m slowly realizing that I was in it for about a good 7 years. And maybe that’s why feeling normal is feeling so damn good right now.

I’m big on playlists, especially when I’m getting ready to tackle something. You have to set the mood. You have to create the soundtrack for your success. You have to imagine yourself in the middle of a 80s montage where you’re training to take down the rich kids.

The Perfect Song

And pretty much the only song that I can imagine for that purpose is “Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady.

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I love this song. This song makes me want to drive too fast and flip tables and punch the sky and walk into a big NYC publishing party for all the literary darlings and get way too damn drunk. (Me and Mike are gonna do that someday, BTW.)

If you were to ask me what my UFC walkout song would be, I’d tell you “Constructive Summer” with zero hesitation.

(I’ve thought a lot about this, because you never know when Dana White is gonna call you up to the show. I’ve noticed they don’t have a lot of really out of shape nerds in the UFC, and I feel like I can occupy that space for them. Call me, Dana, if you ever need someone to just kind of walk out to the cage, and then definitely not fight. Seriously. I can’t handle the pain. I banged my shin on the coffee table the other day and I thought I was going to die.)

My UFC walkout song? Constructive Summer. Click To Tweet

Constructive Summer

“Constructive Summer” is tied up in a lot of feelings for me, and it came to me during a time in my life when I kind of needed some direction, or at least it was a trail of breadcrumbs when I needed to find my way back.

After my first round of grad school, I was in a dark place. Emerging from that collegiate cocoon with an advanced degree in writing while the nation was still rebounding from the recession wasn’t easy. (It wasn’t easy in a very privileged way. I recognize that. I didn’t go hungry and there was always a roof over my head. But it was a rude awakening, because the Baby Boomers lied to us all about the value of a degree.) And, for the longest time, the only job I could get was waiting tables and bartending at a place on Main Street. It’s not that I felt I was above that job, because I’m definitely not. Restaurant work is good, and that industry has been so good to me and my family. But I hated being where I was.

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(I’ve never been able to enjoy the process. I’m results-oriented to a fault.)

I worked with good, mostly decent people, most of whom I’ve fallen out of touch with. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I don’t know if we had anything in common besides working there and drinking absurd amounts at the upstairs bar after our shifts. When we no longer worked those 8-hour dinner shifts, closed the restaurant down, and then went upstairs to drink away roughly half of our tips, we kind of fell out of touch. I do know that some people who worked there are still friends who hang out today. But I’ve never been the type of person who makes the effort to keep a friendship going. (This is primarily because I want to be alone 85% of the time.)

While I was working there, my friends were all growing up and getting on with their lives. Some had fantastic high-paying jobs. Some were getting married. Some were having babies. I was 24, and in the way that only a 24-year-old can, I knew that I was an abject failure. I’d like to say that this was the last time in my life when I wasted time comparing myself to others who weren’t in my situation, but it’s not.

There were nights during that time that I didn’t go to bed until the morning. I remember one night we left the bar and went to a coworker’s place. We split a 30-pack of some gas station beer, and let the party continue. Then, as someone opened the front door to go out and smoke, I noticed the sun was out and someone was jogging along the sidewalk. I looked down at the time on my phone. We had sat around drinking and doing nothing since we left work at 2 AM until 7:30 AM.

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After staying up all night, I would go home and sleep. If I didn’t have to work that night, I’d stay in bed the majority of the day, and maybe I’d leave the house to run to the Circle K on the corner of Robinson and Berry to get some Gardetto’s Garlic Rye Chips, a 32-ounce Diet Coke, and a box of Hot Tamales.  If I did have to work, I’d wake up an hour before my shift and repeat the whole cycle.

But when I was at home or in my car, I was always listening to either The Hold Steady or The Gaslight Anthem. I’m not sure why, but those two bands formed the soundtrack to what I now refer to as my lost summer. And any time I heard “Constructive Summer,” it always hit me right in my stomach.

What song is your #realgoodgutpunch? Click To Tweet

And it still hits me that way. (You know how I feel about a #realgoodgutpunch.) Even though I’m a million miles away from the person I was when I listened to that song in my car on my way to bartend, I still get that feeling in my stomach.

So if you need me, know that I’ll be listening to Constructive Summer on a loop, because I’m ready to turn that gut punch into something. I’m ready make shit happen. I have me a extra wide traveler’s notebook filled with notebooks, and EVERY. LAST. THING. I want to do will be planned out, then conquered.

And even though I’m hella zen right now, I’m ready to be jacked up.

Want to see what my playlist looks like? I’ll be posting it on Saturday over at Mari’s blog. Be ready!


2 Responses

  1. That is so great that you are feeling more balanced and healthy! I use to struggle with stress and anxiety to the point I was on medication for it. I since have figured our some things that work for me. But it is constantly something that I have to stay in tune to and make sure I am taking care of myself.
    Hope you conquer some of your stuffs!

    1. Thanks so much, Cassie! And anxiety is definitely something I struggle with. For me, the key is recognizing when I’m falling into old bad habits. It’s made it a lot easier to keep myself healthy.

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