Music Memory – The Freshman – Verve Pipe

Life with five kids is always somewhat crazy; yesterday I did a post about Wordle and then actually forgot to do the puzzle. I once had a streak of 104, then I forgot a day, which set me back down to zero. I had gotten the streak back up to 37 or so, and now… I’m back at one. Oh well. So is life sometimes.

I’m also working on a longer post and have been for the last 3 days or so. It didn’t help that I misplaced my laptop for a day or so. I can do gaming posts on my phone, but longer things just do not work well with that format. (And… this post itself has gotten much longer than first envisioned!)

This morning, I heard the song “The Freshman” by the band the Verve Pipe on the radio. I was in college when it originally came out, and back then, I found it annoying to the point where I wanted to claw my ears out (or at least chuck the radio out the window) every. time. it. played. The even more maddening part is, it’s got a decent tune and some catchy lyrics, and so as much as I really disliked the song, I’d often find myself singing along.

In short, the story of the song is as follows: A friend of the narrator of the song breaks up with his girlfriend, and she’s so broken up about it that she commits suicide. The narrator and his friend are so traumatized about what happened that, even years later, they’re finding it hard to come to terms with what happened.

If this were all that was to the story, that would be fine. However, there are a couple of other points of the song that really make it terrible. First off, I always got the impression that there were a lot of drugs involved in the relationship with these three. Secondly, it seems like even though time has passed, the narrator refuses to put any decent perspective on the situation; there are plenty of times after someone commits suicide where the people who are left behind are left feeling terribly guilty, whether justified or not. In this song, though, it sounds like he’s blaming her – “she fell in love in the first place” – as though these relationships are completely one-way.

Not only is the line “She was touching her face” completely stupid, but I think what bothered me the most about this song was still attitude, even years later, that “this wasn’t supposed to happen to us because we were young”. Apparently there are a lot of people who have or had this attitude, but it was the complete opposite of my experience, and adding the line “For the life of me/I could not believe we’d ever die for these sins/We were merely freshmen”. I understand that death often makes us think more about the “deeper issues”, but the line drips of pseudo-religion and complete ignorance of Christianity. It’s not so much that the line is a cheap shot, it’s more like the songwriter used the line as a way to hook the listener’s ear. It works in the context of ignorance (the narrator’s) but from a Christian context, “the wages of sin is death” – we all know we die because of sin, most definitely our own, but also because we live in a fallen world. Again, in the context of the song, it may be like a blind squirrel finding a nut; the reality is that none of us can help but perish because of the effects of sin, but it’s quite annoying to hear.

The great irony of this song in my life was that not only was it popular during my freshman year of college, my freshman year was dominated by a very serious situation concerning one of my best friends. His family life was terrible, and he saw college as a new start, where he could put that all behind him. The reality was that he couldn’t, and he sunk into deep depression. Eventually, he told me he had reached the end, which was indescribably scary, especially for a 17-year-old who was also dealing with a ton of family issues. I had a lot of advice from well-meaning people who told me not to get too involved, trying to protect me from getting pulled along with him deeper into his emotional darkness.

Even then, I appreciated their concern for me, but in my heart, I knew I couldn’t pull away from such a dear friend in such a dire hour of need. This was one of the first times I remember feeling as though I had specific directions from God; that my duty was to do the things I needed to do for my friend (calls, daily emails) to hold on to him and God, in turn, would be holding on to me. That is the faith that I tried to walk with during those terrible days. I understood keenly that my friend was going to make his own decisions, however, I didn’t feel like running away when he needed a friend the most was the right thing to do. Come what may, I wanted to be able to live with and have peace with my own decisions.

Considering all this, hearing this song play constantly during this time drove me a little insane. It made me actively mad. It reminded me of the situation with my friend and it reminded me that I never thought of myself as invincible (quite the opposite, actually) and that I was aware that my decisions would have long-lasting repercussions.

Life has been far from easy for me or my friend, but we’re both still here, and that certainly counts for something. I take kids in the car to their day camp and the song comes on the radio. I sing along a little; the abject hatred of this song has faded, but it still doesn’t fail to annoy me a bit. However, I can’t listen to this song without thinking of my friend, of remembering being so young and living constantly on that edge of such intense emotion. It is nostalgia twinged with melancholy. To think, we were merely freshmen.

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