Stop This Train: a life episode at Cal

There’s no artist whose music captures me more than John Mayer. Out of all the musicians there, I have the deepest appreciation for him mostly because of the depths of his music and how it relates to me. I guess this reveals a lot of how music has an influence in me. To me, how music can move one’s life transcends over the melody, lyrics, and all that stuff.

With all that said, I want to share one of JM’s songs that moved me ever deeply during one of the chapters of my life.

The setting is Spring of 2011. The title is “Stop this Train”. I remember the first I heard this song was when I was walking briskly through Berkeley campus with my headphones on listening to Pandora. It was a gloomy Tuesday afternoon, about 2 o’clock. I just got out of my History discussion section. The line that stood out to my ears—ears that yearn to be understood in the midst of the noise of stress—was “I’m scared of getting older. I’m good at being young”.

Reflecting on the meaning the song, I can’t help but identify myself as the “John” that JM was telling about. At that point—early sophomore year in college—I really felt like I was growing up, getting older. I started dealing not only with how I do in school but also I’d manage myself in all facets of life. And to be honest with you, I feel like I was falling behind in that race so new to me. Perhaps much of the struggle had to do with the absence of a friend. When I started at Cal, I had an upperclassmen friend who guided me in acclimating myself in the Cal Campus. This is the very first time I’ll ever share these following words: I had a difficult time adjusting my first year of college. As much as I was excited being in a place, I also felt like a total stranger trying to find himself in a foreign place. It took me some time to get adjusted not only as a student in a Berkeley campus, but as a person living in Northern California. Southern California has been a place of comfort for me by then. The presence of my older friend gave me a sense of security because it felt like there was someone who, figuratively, held my arms to shed unto me images of familiarity. Then by Spring of 2011 he finished his undergraduate; it was time for him to leave. I knew that moment was going to arrive. I just didn’t think of it. And now all of a sudden, he’s gone. It was time for me to stand on my own and move on with the continual struggle to find myself while I do my academic and extracurricular obligations. I’m not sure if anyone ever noticed, but while it seems I’m doing alright on the surface, I was going through an emotional and mental slump. I was involved in youth group at the Newman center, had a few friends I met in some of my classes. Yet deep down, I felt alone. There was no one I knew who I felt a strong connection with. Loneliness was an enemy who eventually became a companion in finding myself. The major effect of having loneliness beside me was that I found my self-confidence in the dumpster. It was a day-to-day challenge believing in myself. I got through day by day, but my confidence was not where I wanted it to be. I started thinking that I’m not capable enough to do certain things I want to do or be someone I want to be. Loneliness dragged me along at a fast pace. It felt like a train that was going too fast for me.

But then, to an extent, JM’s “Stop this Train” came to the rescue. I found solace in the song, finding at least there was somehow who knows indirectly what I was going through.

However, there was stanza in the song I found difficult coming to terms with. It goes like this:

“Had a talk with my old man I said, “Help me understand”. He said, “When you turn 68 you’ll renegotiate. Don’t stop this train, don’t for a minute change the place you’re in. And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand. I tried my hand. John, honestly, we’ll never stop this train”.

I suppose the reason why had to do with the shades of younger days, shades that are struggling to get out of the shell of those days like a cocoon struggling to get out of its shell before it becomes a butterfly.

I’m glad to say, though, after almost 5 years, that I’m happily looking back to those shell days.


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