This Year by The Mountain Goats tells the true story of a million seventeen year-olds – those lazy months before high school graduation and college, the anger and escapism in childhood bedrooms, and the long, meandering waiting game for something new on the horizon.
As a seventeen year-old myself, I don’t want to sing wistfully of childhood in that haze of dreamy nostalgia that’s been so popular in music recently. To me, being seventeen is still too much school and too little sleep. Being seventeen is feeling trapped in a world that seems too big for you. Being seventeen is a wash of confusion, anxiety, and occasional moments of bravado.
This Year gets that no matter how childish or trivial, moments of anger and sadness and frustration still feel blindingly real. The future seems to be both a stepping stone and an eternity away, and the present seems like some awkward limbo that won’t let us go. Our first moments of freedom are also our first moments of responsibility, fear, and loneliness. And the ‘firsts’ are definitely the scariest, but they are also the most honest, and can never be taken away from us.
As John Green wrote, “When adults say, ‘Teenagers think they are invincible,’ they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken…. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”
This Year’s lyrics are simple, beautiful, and real. So when I listened to this song in the final moments of 2011, I quite literally decided to sing along – “I am going to make it through this year / If it kills me.”