As young children, we are full of dreams and ambitions. Perhaps we aspire to be an astronaut or a baseball player. We get grand notions about traveling the globe, becoming a brilliant doctor or a famous artist. As time goes by we start tempering our visions and adjusting to practical concerns – getting a job, having a family etc. We develop habits and routines, get set in our ways. And pretty soon, our life is half over. We become all too conscious of how quickly the second half of our life might pass, and how our choices will become more limited the older we get.
Sometimes these thoughts box us in. We think we’re too old to try new things or make big changes. The future begins to looks hopeless or daunting. And maybe we go through a “mid-life crisis” and do something rash or stupid, just to experience a sense of control or accomplishment.
But does mid-life have to be such a struggle? This song explores the subject. I’ve always tried to strike a balance between hopeful whim and reality-based pragmatism. As teenagers, many of us were encouraged to dream big: “You have your whole life ahead of you!” we were told. This statement of course no longer applies, but half a life is still a pretty solid chunk of time. And we can choose to sulk about missed opportunities and aging bodies; or we can take action and embrace the world of opportunity that lies ahead.
On a personal level, I’ve spent decades writing music but quietly assuming I would never properly finish writing or recording most of my songs. I just didn’t have the time, or the ambition, or the confidence. And even if I did get the gumption, I just wasn’t technically savvy enough to make good studio-quality home recordings. I didn’t have the right equipment. Or the right software. Etc. Blah blah blah.
So I just continued to write songs that would never reach fruition, figuring I would eventually leave this world with thousands of “song idea” recordings on my iPhone (to complement the many cassette tapes of even older song ideas, sitting in boxes in the attic…). I’ve always loved the process of songwriting, regardless of whether the songs get completed. The “end product” just never mattered that much to me.
It was a comfortable attitude, one with which I have grown quite familiar with over the years. I began to identify as someone who just isn’t good at FINISHING things.
But recently, I decided to experiment with the scarier but more exciting role of being someone who DOES finish things. And I have to say, it feels good :-). I had many good reasons NOT to take on this “52 Songs” project… And let’s just say it hasn’t made my life any easier – scrambling to reach each week’s deadline, studying Youtube recording software tutorials, constantly worrying whether each recording is “good enough” to share publicly. Without this consuming project, I would have much more down-time and relaxation in my life right now.
But another part of me wanted to embrace the “second half” of my life more fully, try some new things, and take on some new challenges. For all the stress and doubt this project has made me wrestle with, it feels worth it to me. I feel a little more ALIVE as a result of making this songwriting commitment and following through.
Hmm… As I reflect on the lyrics to “Half Life”, I think somehow I was inspired BY this song to COMPLETE this song. So the song has become both a means and an end. Five years ago when I wrote it, apparently I was sending my future self a message saying “Michael, this song needs to inspire you to finish this song!”
So…mission accomplished! Well done, Michael :-).
*Thanks to Andrew Hanmer for the stellar drums performance, and of course Shelley Lotus for her exquisite backup vocals!
HALF LIFE Get up Brother, get up It's an ordinary day But there's so much that you can do Come on Dig deep into the wind Half a life is just a fraction You'd best take action Spotlight's on you Disappointments (It's so hard to let 'em go) Undecided (Sometimes you just don't know) Information (There's so much to understand) Inspiration (Gotta get it where you can) Don't run out of time The calendar is catching up You're not out of time The novelist is waking up Don't run out of time Be faster than the setting sun You're not out of time The twilight is still to come Get up Sister, get up It's no ordinary day The runaway train is coming for you Capisce? Il suffit Donde esta ahora? Sehr gut, sehr gut Oseh shalom Disappointments (It's so hard to let 'em go) Undecided (You can never really know) Information (There's so much to understand) Inspiration (You just gotta have a plan) Don't run out of time The calendar is catching up You're not out of time The novelist is waking up Don't run out of time Be faster than the setting sun You're not out of time The twilight is still to come