This is how my last semester of college began: I had a wide array of good friends, a girlfriend who was as excited to spend time with me as I was with her, a good plan for how I was going to finish my senior comps (that’s like a senior thesis at other schools) that brought my studies of math and philosophy together due to inspiration from a cognitive science class that I had taken, a job that I could do confidently and fit around my class schedule, and no classes before 1:30 in the afternoon. I was doing a lot of hard work, but for the most part, living the good life. I was trying to avoid thinking about the fact that it would all have to change in a few short months.
In with the New:
Out with the Old:
Seven Day Jesus
It Was Worth a Try:
Listen on Spotify:
I learned during college not to expect big things for my birthday. A few friends might remember it on an otherwise dreary day in mid-January right after everyone had return from Winter Break and most of them were bummed to have to go back to class again. But there would be no secret surprise parties. Some years I intentionally avoided all of my friends on my birthday, because Oxy tradition dictates that people get thrown in the fountain on their birthdays. It was really an ego thing – there was never a whole posse of people waiting to do this to me. My senior year, I got smart and decided that if I wanted to see my friends on my birthday, I had to plan it, so I invited everyone I knew to dinner at Red Robin, and 35 people came, and it was fun. (And they became a posse that wanted to throw me in the fountain, so I ditched them after dinner, and Sharon was pissed, because she didn’t get to spend the rest of my birthday with me.) Sarah and Liz, two kind and fun-loving young ladies from downstairs, made this poster for me that they hung outside my room. Friends had never done anything that elaborate for me before.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Superstar”, All Star United (International Anthems for the Human Race, 1998)
This is about as silly as praise songs get, if you want to consider it a praise song. In a funny way, noticing that human celebrity fads fade and God’s renown remains is a worshipful thing to write a song about. It was certainly a feel-good moment when ASU debuted this song live at a New Year’s Eve performance at Knott’s Berry Farm – I wished they had played more of the new stuff that night, but this one was highly memorable.
2) “I’ll Carry You”, Rebecca St. James (Pray, 1998)
While not written specifically as a romantic love song, this one sort of became the “theme song” in my mind for my relationship with Sharon. In December we had been discussing the future of our relationship, and I was all too eager to express a desire to marry her one day, but I feared I wasn’t a strong or mature enough person to live up to what she wanted. She remembered that I liked this song and said, “I’ll Carry You” as a way of indicating we’d help each other through the weak points to be our best. Perhaps I made her feel a bit too obligated to reciprocate the strong feelings that I had – in reality it’s never wise to indicate a desire to get married that early in a relationship. “Carrying” each other proved to be easier said than done, as I’d imagine it is for any couple – but I think I was especially needy in those days and it wasn’t fair to expect her to be the sole person to carry these burdens. It takes a village to raise a Christian. I regret withdrawing to the point where she was the only person I depended on. So this song kind of represents the happy feelings that I had about our relationship at the beginning of 1999, and also a lesson that I still needed to learn about what it really meant for friends and loved ones to carry each other.
3) “Ms. Innocence”, Wilshire (Wilshire, 1998)
I knew a few women in college who always seemed to be in and out of relationships, believing the next guy would somehow save them or at least distract them from being alone. And many of those relationships turned out to be fairly meaningless, often serving to drag them further down the emotional spiral. Of course, it was easy for me to stand there and criticize when I was in a steady relationship – the only reason I hadn’t been in and out of a ton of relationships was because I mostly liked girls who didn’t like me back in the first place.
4) “I.O.U.”, Human (Out of the Dust, 1998)
I have this really random memory of the day I bought Human’s album – I think I was on a caffeine high and I got totally pumped the first time I listened to this song. It was a Friday, and I took a bike ride to the Christian bookstore during one of those long mornings when I had no classes. Between the exercise, drinking too much soda, and going out for coffee with Sharon that night, I experienced my first case of the caffeine-overdose jitters, which kept me up all night and made me extremely nervous. Later that year I’d come down with more frequent panic attacks and I had to cut back on the caffeine. All that has nothing to do with the song, but that’s what I remember when I hear it.
5) “Always Comes Around”, Seven Day Jesus (Seven Day Jesus, 1997)
Even though I thought the lyrics to this song were kind of simplistic, there was something victorious about that slamming intro and the swelling outro that led to an abrupt ending. So this is mostly on there for the slick transition and the “Hey, it’s that song!” factor.
6) “Billboards”, Silage (Vegas Car Chasers, 1998)
I’m not sure why I ever got into Silage. I like how they morphed from a weird hybrid ska band into a slick, hip-hop-infuenced alternative pop act a la Sugar Ray, but some of their lyrics were really retarded. I related to this one, though, since it talked about Christians who hid behind their commercial slogans and superficial appearances. I was starting to find myself at odds with some of the folks in InterVarsity that year – it felt like they had a ton of events and service projects to advertise, and those were all well and good, but as an older member of the community who wasn’t a “leader” in the traditional sense, I felt kind of sidelined, as if I wasn’t important because I wasn’t a “freshman project”.
7) “Tonight”, The Echoing Green (The Echoing Green, 1998)
“And all the Care Bears come out”, was Sharon’s reaction to the dorky synths at the beginning of this song. What can I say, I was sucker for sentimental songs that said, “I have to go now, but I miss you and I’ll be thinking of you until I return.” I guess I was anticipating a summer that I might have to spend away from her (due to my wanting to work at Campus By the Sea again), and trying to be mature about the pending separation.
8) “Moses”, The W’s (Fourth from the Last, 1998)
Sharon and I saw The Prince of Egypt toward the end of Winter Break and really loved it. I thought it’d be cute to put a song about the main character of that story on my mix as a homage to a highly memorable film.
9) “Everything in Between”, Jars of Clay (Prince of Egypt Inspirational Soundtrack, 1998)
And then of course I had to follow it up with my favorite band’s contribution to one of that movie’s soundtrack albums. (Is it totally ludicrous for a movie to have three soundtrack CDs or what?)
10) “Clay and Water”, Margaret Becker (Falling Forward, 1998)
Mom gave me this CD for Christmas, and it was the first full album by any artist that I owned on CD – I had a new stereo that could actually play CDs, so she figured it was about time I convert to a better format. This was the first song that really got my attention – I had been into Margaret’s music before but wasn’t used to the more organic style. I liked the metaphor of being made up of awkward raw materials and spending like “falling forward” and basically stumbling onto the path God had set out for us. Plus I thought it’d be clever to put a song about clay after a Jars of Clay song.
11) “The Lines of My Earth”, Sixpence None the Richer (Sixpence None the Richer, 1997)
It was kinda spooky listening to this one after Sixpence’s breakup in 2004, since it’s about the well running dry and the writer having no more songs left to write. When I first fell in love with it in ’99, I was entranced by the “smoky bar” feeling of the song due to the piano and the muted trumpet and drums clunking about in the background. For such a low-key album, there were a lot of little hidden highlights that stuck with me.
12) “Tragic Kingdom”, No Doubt (Tragic Kingdom, 1995)
February 28, 1999 was the first time I went to Disneyland as an adult. I went with Sharon and a few guys who were in band with her. We kind of got into an argument that day and spent part of it mad at each other – bad temper management on my part. But we made amends by the time we left and managed to have a romantic evening. On the way home, just for the sake of irony, she put on her No Doubt CD – an album I was slowly learning to appreciate after disliking the band during my sophomore year – and started with the last track, since it’s all about the commercialism and corruption of Disneyland.
13) “Simulated Sunlight”, Eric Champion (Natural, 1998)
What looks good for you isn’t always good. That was a hard lesson that I was only just beginning to learn. When Sharon and I got together, I felt that it was important to be the sensitive guy, to defer to the things she thought were right in order to prove I wasn’t one of those controlling boyfriends. A nice egalitarian idea in principle, but I kind of put her on a pedestal and forgot that she was just as likely to be wrong about something as I was. It wasn’t something she expected me to do, but I kind of lost myself in the attempt to please her and let her “be right”. That led to some contention between me and other friends when they could see that some of my core beliefs were changing as a result of my relationship with her. Maybe some of those friends didn’t handle it too well, but they had a point that shouldn’t just accept everything she said or thought as being the Gospel truth.
14) “Beautiful”, Plaid (Understanding God, 1998)
“You demand my heart and soul. You won’t take second place.” Ironic that I loved this song by an obscure one-album wonder band so much and yet I was definitely putting God in second place. It was perhaps the very reason why God had wanted me to wait until I was more mature to get into a relationship – and again, it’s not like Sharon wanted to be put in that position. I was just so overzealously in love that I blinded myself to the need to listen to God first. I was selfish; I had gotten what I wanted and I didn’t want to open myself up to the possibility that God might someday call me to let it go.
15) “Feel”, Michelle Tumes (Listen, 1998)
This was probably my favorite song from Michelle Tumes’ first album. While I may have been a bit melodramatic about it at times, it was great to be in a relationship and have a freedom to be totally honest about feelings that had been difficult to communicate to other people. Not that I hadn’t tried, but people who were “just friends” usually weren’t up for that level of helping me work out my personal issues. Being able to honestly feel is one thing – how much time you spend dwelling on it and rehashing it is quite another.
This is a view of Tom Sawyer’s Island, from what used to be the Swiss Family Treehouse as Disneyland. (It’s now Tarzan’s Treehouse – there goes another childhood memory.) Sharon got me into Disneyland for free because she played flute in the Oxy/CalTech concert band, and they had a performance there. Since the band needed to practice and to spend some time together after the show, I spent a bit of time walking around the premises by myself before and after the performance, which kind of irked me – Disneyland is a strange place to be alone. But I enjoyed the trip overall – that was back in the days before I decided I was done with Disneyland.
Where in the world is this?
1) “My Friend (So Long)”, dc Talk (Supernatural, 1998)
The day before the Disneyland trip, Tim and Krista and Sharon and I (along with a few other friends) went to one of the best concerts I’ve been to in my entire life – dc Talk’s Supernatural tour with Jennifer Knapp and The W’s. This song, with its humorous video that showed a member of the band being rushed to the hospital and the other members fretting over what would happen to him (who that wounded member was kept changing every few scenes or so, just to obscure rumors about any one of them leaving the group), was a solid highlight of an all-around high energy show.
2) “Welcome to Our Big Rock Show”, All Star United (International Anthems for the Human Race, 1998)
Just under two-minutes of punked-up lyrical goofiness that really should have been the opening song at the first and only ASU performance we ever saw. Sharon and Tim had a physics professor who would often refer to an equation as a “puppy” (e.g. – “but if we take the derivative of this puppy…”), so they were highly amused when Ian Eskelin energetically proclaimed, “Wind us up and watch this puppy go!”
3) “Handbook for the Sellout”, Five Iron Frenzy (Our Newest Album Ever!, 1997)
A sarastic send-up about those who try to be counter-culture by dissing those who have become popular enough to no longer be counter-culture. “Did you think the word ‘alternative’ was only meant for the likes of you?” Nice little pre-emptive strike on their part – this was the era when Christian bands were starting to randomly get mainstream recognition, and you could just anticipate the cries of “sellout” from the faithful every time.
4) “Long Black Cadillac”, Ceili Rain (Ceili Rain, 1997)
As I prepared to graduate from college, I had to ask myself – has it all mattered? Did I make a difference to anyone, or did I just spend my time holed up in books and goofing around with friends? What was really important? Would I regret this time when I looked back at the end of my life? Now that it is a little later in life (though hopefully not anywhere close to my death), I can see small ways in which I may have influenced people toward Christ – and unfortunately, maybe a few away from Christ as well. It’s funny how you don’t always know the repercussions of your actions until you look back in hindsight.
5) “Digee Dime”, Burlap to Cashmere (Anybody Out There?, 1998)
I kind of got Tim into B2C, but he was highly annoyed by this, the first song on their album. He liked to fall asleep to music – sometimes very upbeat stuff like All Star United – so one night I came in and put this album on and crashed, and he promptly shut it off in the middle of this song. 5/8 rhythm and fun nonsense lyrics – come on, what was not to love? (Alright, maybe not so much at 1 in the morning.)
6) “Horses”, Margaret Becker (Falling Forward, 1998)
“I want no regrets when the horses come for me.” Man, I should have known that the Left Behind fans and Y2K fanatics were gonna get a hold of this one. Despite that, I found a lot of wisdom in this song – another one that asked that tough question of “Will I have made my life count for something?” The way Margaret described the apocalypse made it sound like more of a personal thing, and as the hype about the Second Coming mounted among certain Christians that year (as if they could have successfully predicted a January 1, 2000 return – please!), it struck me that everyone was going to have a “personal” apocalypse when they reached the point of their own death, so the hype about the end of the world didn’t matter. Any one of us could be gone tomorrow if God willed it. All we knew we had was this moment right now.
7) “Closer Still”, Wilshire (Wilshire, 1998)
I liked the intentional awkwardness of letting the clip-clopping of horses’ feet at the end of the last song butt up against the sudden beginning of this song, so that explains the ordering. I can’t remember why the song is here, other than that it was catchy, I liked how it morphed from a relaxed verse into a driving rock chorus, and Krista had recently gotten into Wilshire. They opened at a Michael W. Smith concert that Tim tried to surprise her with the previous fall, only to be foiled the day before the show when Joo casually asked him in front of Krista if he’d be going. All that after having me and several other friends sworn to secrecy for weeks! It’s always the one person you forget to buy silence from who inadvertently blows these things.
8) “Reason Enough”, Avalon (A Maze of Grace, 1997)
Score one more radio hit for Avalon, I guess. I was into this song enough that hearing it on the radio kind of renewed my interest in them. They actually put out another album early in 1999, but I didn’t get around to listening to it for a while.
9) “Listen”, Michelle Tumes (Listen, 1998)
This one is a tie with Cindy Morgan’s “Make Us One” in the so-Enya-it’s-scary department. I loved the way the layered vocals would just sneak up and wash over me like waves when listening to this song.
10) “Tears Like Flowers”, Sarah Masen (Carry Us Through, 1998)
I wasn’t yet sold on Sarah’s second album – too downbeat and sleepy and just plain odd. But right at the end, this little bright spot caught my attention. She referred to “healing waters”, so I thought it’d be amusing to put it in the spot where you’d expect to hear Michelle Tumes’ “Healing Waters” on her album.
11) “Flower Tattoo”, The W’s (Fourth from the Last, 1998)
Another highlight from New Year’s Eve at Knott’s Berry farm – I think this was a cover of some punk band. Sharon and Krista swing danced with each other after realizing that neither Tim nor I knew how to swing dance, or wanted to try. How lame, that we wouldn’t dance with our own girlfriends! But then, dancing has just never been something I could get excited about.
12) “Love to Love You”, Rebecca St. James (Pray, 1998)
Pretty cheesy stuff, but the “flowery” synthesized noises at the beginning made sure that this song floated around in my head for a while. I played that RSJ album to death that year.
13) “Wishes ’98”, Out of the Grey (Remember This: The Out of the Grey Collection, 1998)
This is one of few instances of a modernized remix of a classic song that I was a die-hard fan of actually working out to be a version that I also liked. It was the lead track on the best-of Out of the Grey that I bought Sharon for Christmas, to catch her up on one of my favorite pop duos. It made sense to be able to hear this song anew, since finally having a girlfriend kind of made a lot of the “wishes” come true that I had pined over when listening to the original version of the song in high school.
14) “Can You Hear Me?”, Cindy Morgan (The Loving Kind, 1998)
Sharon’s mom actually bought me a CD as a birthday gift – I was already a fan of Cindy Morgan, but I didn’t really get into this album until much later, and it was hard to pull individual songs off of it in a way that made sense, which explains why this was the only track from it that ever made it onto any of my mixes. I loved the desperation in this one, the way that even Jesus could cry out and feel a sense of abandonment, not knowing what to do next because the Disciples were being hard-headed and God, His own Father, seemed distant. I had known that feeling before, and with the difficult year coming up, I would unfortunately come to feel that way again.
15) “Speak for Me”, Jaci Velasquez (Jaci Velasquez, 1998)
I felt that the appropriate response to “Can You Hear Me?” would be “Speak for Me”. Enough of my complaining; let God’s will be done and not mine. I had come to believe in college – and still do – that God could speak through circumstance. Part of me wanted to hear a big, booming voice say “Do this for a living after you graduate” or “Spend your summer serving in this particular way”, but instead, God chose to speak through the opportunities He was already laying out for me. There aren’t many times in life where I felt a strong “calling”, but that year, as I started to consider what I’d do with the last summer I had free before needing to get a “real job”, I felt that I was being called back to the island, to give that time away and server in that kitchen again. It felt good, because I figured God would change me there and I was willing to sacrifice the time I could have spent with Sharon to do that. Later in life I became a lot more guarded and less willing to let go of the things I wanted for an extended period of time once I felt I had securely obtained them. Maybe it was just the transitory nature of college life, but I was more willing to be flexible back then, and it made it easier to have that sense of “calling”.