I am not a huge music fan—I generally listen to whatever strikes my fancy and don’t discriminate very much beyond that. My latest discovery has been Passenger, the stage name for British singer/songwriter Mike Rosenberg. Passenger is known mostly for “Let Her Go,” which made the rounds on the radio a while ago (listen to it here) and was my first exposure to the group. I listened to a few more Passenger songs and became hooked. One song in particular that struck me was “Keep On Walking,” the seventh track on the self-titled album. It has a pleasing melody and instrumentation—that melancholy, indie-folk sound which bands like the Decemberists have done so well—but it was the lyrics in the first verse that really drew me:
Well I walk past the late night boys
with their bottles in the doorways
and I walk past the businessmen
sleeping like babies in their cars
And I thought to myself, “oh, son,
you may be lost in more ways than one,
but I’ve a feeling that it’s more fun
than knowing exactly where you are.”
I’ve been struggling lately with what my future holds for me. This is not a new struggle: I’ve been waging it actively, with certain ebbs and flows, since graduation and in many ways for even longer. I have never really known what I want to do with my life. “Don’t worry,” they said. “You’ll figure it out during college.” They were incorrect: I did many things in college, but figuring out my future was not on the list. “It’s okay. You’re so young. You’ve got plenty of time.” While this is still true to an extent, it is also manifestly the case that I am not going to stay young or get younger. It is stressful, particularly in a city like D.C. that drinks ambition like water and careerism like wine, to not know in which direction I want to go.
That’s probably why the lyrics hit me like they did. There are people who know exactly what they want and go do it. That is not my story. Uncertainty is my default state. But that same uncertainty which has confounded my attempts to plan my future also led me to decide on teaching English in Korea, one of the most memorable and impactful experiences of my entire life. The song helps to remind me that it’s okay not to know exactly what I want yet. The twenties are for exploration; purpose-driven exploration, but exploration still.
I’m not sure what the secret is to knowing you’re in the right place or on the right track. I’m not sure there is one. I think we want life to put up these definitive signposts along our way so we can know exactly when and where to go (I’m absolutely sure that grad school applications want that), but the truth is that it’s never so clear-cut. There will always be an opportunity cost, a nagging doubt which pulls at us and makes us question ourselves and our decisions.
Or maybe not. Some may have it all figured out, and to you I say congratulations. For me, I’m going to continue moving forward, making mistakes, creating memories, and discovering my passions. In the words of Passenger, “I’ll keep on walking/Well, I’ll keep on walking/’Till I find that old love or that old love comes to find me.”
After working in Washington, D.C., for two years, Andrew Orlebeke (’10) is in graduate school in Seattle, Washington, studying public policy. In addition to public service, he has a passion for traveling and an abiding love of sports.