The Therapy Diaries Chapter 8: Listening to the same song over and over and over again until I hate it

The song in question is ‘Outdoor Pool’ by Maisie Peters. I discovered it last week, on a train to London. Having not slept well, I gave up on attempting to read; sitting there, slowly swaying back and forth with the movement of the carriage, reading line after line only to read them again,  not having absorbed them the first time, I realised I was losing the battle. I put my book down, put my earphones in, and opened Spotify.

Maisie Peters was someone I was aware of at this point, and nothing more. Being a massive Holly Humberstone fan, Spotify was constantly pointing me to Peters’ music. And me being childish in the extreme, hating to be told what to do, constantly ignored the pointing. “No thank you,” I said to no one, said to Spotify in my head, “I’m a grown man, I can choose my own music.” I’m not sure what changed on this train.

Perhaps it was my lack of sleep. Perhaps it was the overbearing boredom of rail travel. Perhaps it was some sort of personal growth? Whatever it was, I opened Spotify, and there she was, plastered on my home page. ‘You Signed Up For This’, her debut album, out now. Listen now. Fine, for fucks sake. I will.

Well, Spotify, I owe you a huge apology. And a huge debt of gratitude. On the 10:45 train from LDS to KGX my ears were sweetened, my eyes were opened, and my life changed.

Ok so my life didn’t change, but certainly I loved the album.

The opening track, also the title track, You Signed Up For This, is a wonderful autobiographical introduction to Maisie Peters as a person. Basically she’s young, short, and doing her best.

Track 2, I’m Trying (Not Friends) is an upbeat poppy song about her ex. It’s fun, funky, the kind of song that makes you want to dance.

Track 3, John Hughes Movie, is a slow ballad about the girl not getting the guy. In antithesis to films such as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink, in this song the character, who we can only assume to be Peters herself, ends up alone. It’s a beautiful song, a modern day love story.

Track 4 is where, for me, shit gets real. The first three songs are excellent, and I feel in love with the album immediately. Track 4, Outdoor Pool, is transcendant.

Do you ever come across something that you feel was written about your life? I remember my mum telling me that Lisey’s Story by Stephen King encapsulated the grief of the new widow so accurately it was scary. The first time I read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, it was like reading a long dictionary definition of depression. No medical textbook, no journal, no doctor, has ever understood the condition, and explained it, better than Plath herself. (This is also an interesting secondary point to which I’ll return shortly.)

Outdoor Pool is perhaps the most visceral, the most heartfelt, the most endearing and enduring song I’ve ever heard. The first couple of times I listened I enjoyed it, the slowed down tempo, the power of Peters’ voice. The melody, the beat, it all comes together into a wonderful little pop track.

Then I started really listening to it.

I was sitting on my couch, now back at home, headphones in once again, the couch not swaying as the train had but sitting still, no one around except myself. I listened to the song. Then I listened to it again. And then I sat for around two hours, with the song on repeat, listening to it over and over again. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

It was only around 90 minutes into this two hour listen-a-thon that I had the epiphany of why the song was affecting me so much; because I had lived it.

In the song, 15 year old Peters hangs out with a boy she has a crush on, and they kiss. Back at school, Peters waits for the unnamed man, hoping he feels the same for her as she does for him. However, he’s busy kissing the French exchange student. He does not feel the same. And from this comes the emotion Peters sings about, and sings with. I listened and listened and listened until I remembered; this had happened to me.

The circumstances differed; I was 17, not 15, I’m male, not female, and it was a girl who rejected me, not a guy. It took place in a club, rather than an Outdoor Pool, and it wasn’t her kissing someone else, so much as it was her just ignoring me forever.

It fucking hurt.

It hurt so much, than upon remembering it, nearly 20 years layer, it still hurt. In this moment of remembering, I realised that I don’t think I actually ever got ovder what happened, over what was done to me; I think I just forgot. Because when these feelings resurfaced, it wasn’t with nostalgia, I wasn’t looking back fondly. These feelings emerged as a knife in my heart, again, two decades later. I’m not small or petty, not at all; I’m just fucking broken. I don’t hate the girl who broke my heart; wherever she is, I hope she’s living her best life. More than anything, I wonder if she knows I even exist? And if she does, does she remember what she put me through? When I listen to Outdoor Pool, I wonder if the guy hears it, hears Peters singing it, and knows it’s about him?

The secondary point I referred to earlier, about Sylvia Plath, applies to Maisie Peters: I’m so sorry that you had to live through what you did, and as much as I wish you hadn’t had to, you turned your feelings into media that has improved my life, so I’m a little grateful for your pain. I’m doubly sorry, for this reason.

I’ve been meaning to type this blog for a few days but have struggled to put my thoughts into words. I’m struggling still. I hope this post makes sense to you. It does to me, but perhaps that’s because I was there, I’m writing about me.

BRB, putting my headphones in to listen again.

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