Several years ago I picked “Real World” by Matchbox Twenty as my theme song.
It’s incredibly radio-playable, not exactly a work of artistic genius, but I liked the chorus. It spoke to me.
Straight up, what did you hope to learn about here
If I were someone else, would this all fall apart
Strange, where were you, when we started this gig,
I wish the real world would just stop hassling me.
I chose it as my theme song, in part, because I related to the “if I were someone else, would this all fall apart.”
I have no idea what Rob Thomas and the rest Matchbox Twenty gang meant by the lyrics, but I often feel like I’m the one holding things together, wondering what would happen if I wasn’t around or didn’t care.
Egotistical? Probably. But I can’t help how I feel.
I also connected to the line “I wish the real world would just stop hassling me.”
I often wish the real world would just go away and leave me alone.
I’m happiest when I’m living in my head… reading, writing, watching a play or tv show.
And I’m often irritated by the real world things, like people and the need for a paycheck and, well, people.
But it’s not just the chorus that makes “Real World” appropriate for my theme song. The verses sound like they were written for me too.
The refrain of the verses (if that isn’t an oxymoron) is “I wonder what it’s like to be…” a rainmaker, a super hero, the head honcho.
I ask myself that question, or a similar question, a lot. I’m always pondering what it might be like to be someone else, or experience something I will never get to experience. Maybe that’s why I like theater and to read. They give me a taste of other lives.
Here are a couple of things I’ve frequently wondered about:
I wonder what it’s like to be in the top ten (or 50 or 100) in the world in something.
I most often think about this in a sports context, tennis or skating usually.
The commentators will be lamenting tennis player X who used to be in the top ten, but been losing so many matches that his ranking has dropped to twenty-two or thirty-six or whatever.
“What a shame,” they say. “How sad.”
But being twenty-two or thirty-six is quite an accomplishment. I’ve never been the top fifty in anything. Or the top one hundred. Or ten thousand.
I’ve read enough tennis biographies to know that true athletes don’t settle for the top fifty. They want to be, need to be, number one.
And once they reach number one, there’s a lot of pressure to stay there. A lot of looking over their shoulder at number two, three and four.
It’s too bad those top fifty players can’t enjoy their success. That they can’t stop and say, “Hey, there are only thirty-five people who play better tennis than I do. In the world. That’s impressive.”
I’d know I’d be happy to in the top fifty in anything. But that’s probably why I’m not a professional athlete. That and they fact that I’m not athletic.
I wonder what it’s like to have thousands of people sing along to a song you wrote.
In my job, I attend a lot of concerts. And many times I spend at least a portion of the evening standing backstage.
It’s a cool perspective, because I can see the audience from the performer’s view, but I don’t have the pressure of performing. There are no expectations placed on the administrator standing in the wings.
From that vantage point, I get to see the audience singing along to songs with the band and I wonder what it would be like to have hundreds or thousands of fans in front of you singing every word of a song you wrote.
The most impressive example of this was when the Indigo Girls came to town. Now, I’m a fan of the band. I’ve never been as star struck as I was meeting Amy and Emily. I was a real idiot, practically tongue tied.
They had a lot of fans like me in the audience. And a lot of people who were bigger fans too.
I was standing backstage when they sang “Closer To Fine,” probably their best known song.
The crowd sang along and most of the time I could hear them better than the band. People sang as loud as they could, not caring if people heard them or if they were off key. They closed their eyes, they put their hands in the air, they swayed and danced. They were transported.
What could it possibly be like to see that from the stage and know you wrote that song? That your music and lyrics were memorized, were loved, spoke to all those people?
Does the song start to take on a life of its own? Do you give the song to the crowd and cease to have any pride of authorship?
It would be fun to find out sometime.
I wonder what’s it’s like to see someone reading a book you wrote.
I thought about this even before I started writing, probably because I’m a reader and have always held authors a bit in awe.
I can imagine having an idea for a book, writing a book and even working hard enough to get a book published, but the idea of randomly seeing someone reading the book is something that’s beyond me.
You’re on the train or in a bookstore and there is a reader, someone who isn’t related to you and who didn’t get the book for free, reading it. That has got to be a real high.
Matchbox Twenty may not have a unique sound and maybe they were just another in a long line of bands that come and go on the radio, but they wrote a great theme song. For me, anyway.