Yesterday morning left me super grouchy after the fourth day in a row of manipulating Excel files for the Pinetree cross country meet results, and discovering new mistakes. It only seemed fitting that when I got on the Arc at the gym to harmlessly vent my frustration on the poor machine, my iPod conked out after four minutes. I was left to finish the remainder of my maximal-effort workout without the balm and stimulation of music. Well, I said to myself resignedly, it’s just a Murphy’s Law day.
But I still had to face my 8-hour shift at Running Room—cheerfully!
Luckily, I was saved—by Paul McCartney and “Band on the Run.” The song burst out of my car radio from Jack 96.9 FM as I drove speedily along the scenic Barnet Highway on my way to North Van. A huge tidal wave of nostalgia flooded over me. As I cranked the radio up to almost ear-splitting volume, I thought, “Paul McCartney, I love this song, I love your rich voice, I love you!”
I was back in 1974. That year, “Band on the Run” was one of the huge hits on the radio. I remember a beautiful spring day when I was one of the thousands of Torontonians, most of us teenagers, who were walking the “Miles for Millions” charity walk. It was a 26.2-mile walk: at that time I wasn’t any kind of athlete and wasn’t even aware that that distance was called a marathon. It was fashionable for teenagers to do this walk. We didn’t really care so much about making money for the charity; it was something that “cool” kids did as a physical dare (no training, of course), and besides, it was a way to hang out with your friends, see all different parts of the city, and listen to music along the way.
This was an exciting day for me not only because it was the first time I had tried the Miles for Millions, but because I was doing it with my first boyfriend.
Initially, walking along with L. and thousands of other high-spirited people was fun. It was a sunny May day, and I know I heard “Band on the Run” repeatedly. But after a while it became physically painful. The aid/check-in stations every couple of miles were so crowded that we had to wait about half an hour to get checked in. After six or eight hours, I found it hard to get going again after sitting down.
I still wanted to finish the whole distance, though. It would be disgraceful not to. But around 5 p.m., my boyfriend (let’s just call him Loser) refused to go any further. I wasn’t going to walk the remaining eight or so miles by myself.
My goodbye to L. that night was permanent, but my love affair with “Band on the Run” wasn’t over. I bought the McCartney and Wings album (my first album!) and listened to it countless times over the summer with new boyfriends.
Stuck inside these four walls
Sent inside forever
Never seeing no one
Then the song changes from its lament and the fast Band on the Run beat kicks in and everything is good!…then, and now.
The music brought me back to life and optimism, even though it stimulated reflections that were sad. I thought about how simple life was then compared to now—though of course in 1974, like any typical teenager, I lived in an almost constant state of emotional trauma.
What were my four walls back then? School walls? What are my four walls now? I am enclosed three days a week in the North Van Running Room, but it has been a good part-time job for me. My co-workers are smart, friendly people who are all talented in their own ways. They have taught me not only how to sell but how to enjoy talking to both the “regulars” and new customers. My job keeps me in touch with the running world even though my arthritic knee prevents me from training or competing very often. My injury has given me new insight and compassion for people who face any kind of limitation in their running.
No, the walls that make me feel trapped sometimes are metaphoric ones. Don’t I create my own four walls, my own prison? It is the responsibilities I take on grudgingly that overwhelm me. The demands on my time can be overwhelming, and my creative self is stifled.
It is my own anxieties, insecurities, and lack of courage that keep me within my refuge-prison walls.
Listening to music, I am free.