Tomorrow There’ll Be Sunshine, and All This Darkness Past
Posted on December 31, 2012
On the 21st of September this year, an old friend of mine said to me -You’re the luckiest guy I know, Connor!
As I sit here now – on a train to Edinburgh to experience the world famous Hogmanay celebrations which, every year, put Scotland at the top of the list of places to travel – I think about 2012; my travels & adventures, my loves & losses, the sights and sounds I have experienced across the world, the 20,000 miles I have travelled, and the words of my old friend, and how – undeniably – 2012 has been the most exciting of my life so far.
More recently, another old school friend said to me that I had an awesome life. Just like my other friend’s words, this sentiment has also been playing on my mind.
When I consider 2012, the 19th year of my life, I recognise the truth in that statement that I now have an “awesome” life. Unlike my friends who took the bold road of academia & University, I forwent the opportunity to study, in exchange for making the conscientious decision to follow my heart, and not my mind. I knew cognitively that my exams and University mattered, but my heart knew what my soul was yearning for – to follow my passion and love of music & combine it with the other yearn of my life… to travel.
When last year Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band announced their Wrecking Ball tour, my greatest dream was set to be realised. And so, on May the 17th this year, I saw Bruce and the Band in Barcelona. The first of what transpired to be 10 concerts, in 6 cities, 3 countries, and 2 continents, that moment the Band walked on stage changed my life forever. I felt healed, and I felt liberated. I was freed of years of pain and unhappiness, and my focus and attention altered to see the light in my darkness, embodied by Bruce Springsteen, the E Street Band, their music, and my dear friends I have met through them.
As the year progressed, so too did my adventures, and, also, my struggles. 2012 has not been an ‘easy’ year for me, in many respects, it has actually been the most challenging of my life so far. I continued to listen to my music like my life depended on it, because often, it did. For every victory I accomplished and every friend I made, more trials and adversity hit me, and my family. At times my life was as dark as the solitude and struggle which defined my childhood, yet 2012 brought a light, a happiness, which I never experienced before. For the first time I was enlightened to the tremendous beauty of our world, and the love which can be found between Man. For every concert I attended, and mile that I travelled, I ventured further into the blissful abyss that life can offer. Suddenly the contrast between good, and bad, was exemplified to proportions I have never felt before. So when I consider the words of my friends, I realise that whilst my year has been special at many moments, it has also offered that reminder which all people live with that, at any moment, that light in your darkness can be extinguished.
And so it was that in July, my best friend died.
That was the hardest day of my life, and in a cruel irony it occurred amidst the best year of my life. As we go into 2013, I head towards the 5th anniversary of my Dad’s death. In the near half decade I have had to come to terms with losing my Father, the constant awareness of his absence has transcended pure pain, into an understanding. In New Jersey in September, I stood in the crowd as Bruce spoke about allowing the ghosts of our past to walk alongside us, with us. In that moment, as though with the cool evening wind of late fall, came something which has changed my life forever.
I found peace with my Dad.
Bathing in the emotional protection and liberation which comes with a Springsteen concert, I reached into my right pocket, and pulled out my Dad’s wedding ring, which my Mum had given me rather symbolically before I left for America, to mark the beginning of my independent adult life. I held Dad’s ring tight in my hand, and raised it into the air as Bruce told me and thousands others to raise your hands, and rise up. I closed my eyes, and as Bruce stood with Clarence, I stood with my Dad. I also stood with Pere.
The key thing which has come to define my end of year thoughts is Pere. When I think about him, my best friend, I can acknowledge the fact that the pain of losing him is with me at every moment. It is inescapable, it is at times crippling, and I can’t stop missing him with all my soul, and loving him – my brother – with all my heart. I also feel a strength, a strength in the faith which he helped me discover, and understand. Accessed through our music, it’s the faith in something greater than we can merely see – it’s a faith in love, and something more.
I met Pere in Barcelona, around the time of my first ever shows. Our weekend together concluded what was the greatest few days of my life, and I left Barcelona reborn.
Following those momentous days in Catalonia, I continued my adventure… Despite the raw adversity which July brought with it, I have had some experiences which so many people older than me say they wish they had done too.
I threw caution to the wind, and abandoned for the time being University. I went to Barcelona, and held Bruce’s hand, strummed his guitar, and had the song of my life played right before me.
I then danced on stage with Bruce Springsteen and Nils Lofgren, to mark his 61st birthday. I attended soundcheck at Wrigley Field in Chicago, where my dear friend and I heard This Depression at least 8 times, in an otherwise empty baseball park, before embarking upon a 4,600 mile road-trip, through 15 of America’s States. I saw Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico – where I fell in love – Texas & the Cadillac Ranch, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nashville Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and even walked the streets of midnight Manhattan in New York…
Concluding in New Jersey, I walked the boardwalk of Asbury Park like the man whose music I have loved for what seems like a lifetime, and met Stevie Van Zandt backstage in the ‘Underground Garage’ of the Metlife Stadium, before seeing he and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band rock the 60,000 people in the meadowlands. Standing under the twinkling stars of New Jersey, and the bright lights of a world famous Stadium, Springsteen took to the stage and shouted “Good evening, New Jersey!”, and as, on the third night, he played Jungleland, I realised that more dreams of mine than I ever even felt worthy of, were all being realised.
When I think about those moments, just the few of many, many more, I understand why from anybody’s perspective, I have had an awesome year. I have learned a lot, I have gained a lot, and, indeed, lost a great amount too.
But, as I sit here with the cold light of Scotland’s winter evening fading, I realise that the person I am now is armed with strength, faith, and understanding which took exactly every second of this year for me to acquire. This year I learned lessons which I may never have learned otherwise, and have formed life-connections with friends which normally I might have had to wait a lifetime to achieve. Whilst I have lost a lot, I sit here with a profound and humbling number of reasons to be grateful.
I thank all my friends and relationships, from South Africa, to Sweden & Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, America, and Canada, not to mention the UK & Ireland, for accompanying me throughout a year which I hope will set the tone for the rest of my life. And that is one of adventure, where I have the courage, and the ability, to follow my heart. To conquer adversity, and similarly allow that adversity and pain to be built into the strength of my character. To remind the special people in my life how much they mean to me, and to never let go of the love I have lost along the way. To walk on up the road that is life, alongside those I have lost due to the mortality which will one day take us all, and to remember the love I have felt for people which is no longer, for different reasons.
I also hope to invest in, and develop, my writing. I owe it to those who read this blog, and myself, to write like my life depends on it, in the hope I can help others and free myself of that which haunts me. I owe it too to Pere, to live a good life and treat people with the unreserved love which defined his.
2012 has been a year of struggle for many. From the devastation on the Jersey Shore which friends experienced, to the atrocity in Connecticut only weeks ago. Life has continued to be unspeakably hard for the people who deserve it less, but I have faith and confidence that together, united, and maintaining our faith in the dreams that unite us, we shall overcome – some day.
As light fades on the last day of December, and 2012, I wish you all peace, love, and happiness for 2013. I hope we can all finish next year with our lives even better than today, and I continue to hope that, together, we can be the answers to the problems of one another’s lives. I hope that with the New Year you find peace in your lives, and an ability to forgive those who have let you down, in the same way you hope to make things right with people who perhaps you struggled to remind of your love.
I hope to work on becoming the best version of myself, and I hope that life is so in 2013 that you can do the same.
To my friends, my readers, and to the people who have made 2012 so special for me – thank you. From Chicago, to New Orleans, from the muscle to the bone… Love, and best wishes to you all.
I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last,
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past
Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams