In the words of the Piano Man: slow down, you crazy child

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By Miriam Hammer

Driving in the car a few weeks ago, completely sick of the songs that fill the radio today, I decided to pop a mix that I made in the fall of 2008 into the CD player. Having no idea what to expect, I was immediately comforted as songs from my favorite bands in high school began to blast through the speakers.

I was surprised when “Vienna” by Billy Joel, one of my favorite songs from when I was younger, came on amidst singles by Rihanna and Coldplay. I had not expected to hear such a soulful track surrounded by more contemporary ones.  Having not heard the song in years, and having never paid close attention to the lyrics, I was suddenly overcome with a sense of purpose as I processed the words.

The song was a perfect response to the way I had been feeling about my life. I had listened to these lyrics countless times as a younger girl, but sitting in the car that day, they finally began to make sense to me for the first time.

Let me backtrack a little. As a junior in college, I am consistently reminded about the dark, empty abyss that is my future. Not knowing at all what it is I want to do with my life, I am filled with a constant anxiety about “the next step.” I am wholly overwhelmed at the thought of résumés and cover letters, networking and interviews, and the big bad question of “what I am going to do after I graduate?”

This past summer only amplified my anxieties. I feel completely inadequate when comparing myself to friends who had prestigious internships and learning opportunities. Sure, babysitting and dog walking are fun jobs and good money, but what am I doing to prepare for my vocational future? Nothing. I feel as though I am on a rollercoaster that gets faster with every passing minute, and that I am already falling behind on the journey that is the rest of my professional life.

Listening to the song “Vienna” was a much-needed reminder that “hey, I am only 20 years old, and I have the rest of my life to work.” As Billy Joel asks, “What’s the hurry about?” I got chills as the lyrics progressed, “slow down, you’re doing fine/you can’t be everything you want to be before your time… too bad but it’s the life you lead/you’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need/though you can see when you’re wrong, you know/you can’t always see when you’re right.” Listening to the song my confidence returned as I realized that I am my own person and that I am doing fine. It is important to be reminded to slow down and to understand that we have our whole lives to figure out what it is that we are passionate about.

I used to embody the person Joel is talking to in the song, I only saw when I was wrong and I never saw when I was right. I recognize now that I truly have so much going for me, and—even though my future has yet to play out—I have faith that it will all unfold in due time. The song continues as it reminds the listener that “only fools are satisfied,” and you should “dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true.” Joel sings, “slow down, you crazy child/and take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while/it’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two.”

Listening to these words, I couldn’t help but smile. I promised myself to always dream big, but to be patient with those dreams. The lyrics allowed me to recognize that I can afford to lose a day or two, or even a summer relaxing and making money in my own way, before embarking on a career that will last me the rest of my life.

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