Year 21: The Highs and Lows

Well, today is my birthday. You might have wondered why I love number 13. Well now you know. 13/11.

And for the first time in eleven years, I have the same digits forming my age. 22.

Many people would be overly happy when their birthdays come up. But to me, they serve as an opportunity to reflect on what happened in the year that preceded. In a way, it’s my version of new year’s eve – except that it’s my year.

Year 21 was an alternative current in its highs and lows. When it sank, it sank. When it rose, it soared. When I look back on “21” now, I see a year where I was happy. And that’s almost always the case with life – you consciously forget the bad things that happened, only recollecting them upon an active conscious effort of remembering. The good times are the ones that stay.

So for some introspection and retrospection as my 22nd year starts, I’ve decided to put 21 in perspective.

 The lows:

Prior to 21, I was faced with one of the first key decisions of my life – when I was rejected in the three med schools that I applied to and not knowing what to do next. A biology degree, which I got from AUB, was rather useless in the work field, especially that I didn’t want to teach. So the opportunity presented itself for me to enroll in a rather useless program where I’d be wasting a year, biding my time before I attempt med school again. And that was the crux of 21 – going to classes, attending lectures that you knew had a rather short usefulness span. Many had said that one year is nothing when you look at the big picture. But it’s hard to look at a bigger picture when you see your accepted friends, whose grades are not much higher than yours, nagging about med school when you know you’d do anything to be there. You see, I am not a bad student. Sure, I don’t study as much as I should but I feel I don’t need to. I felt I had done enough to get in and in any normal year I would have gotten in. But the wind blows where it will.

21 was also accompanied by an increased sense of mortality. Soon after my birthday (3 days later to be precise), my mom’s cousin died. He was a great family friend and his death was tragic. I had become accustomed to people I knew passing away then. But you don’t really think about it much, except when you sit with your parents and you start talking about the people you knew. You get to a point where you’d be like: I’m 21 and damn, I know too many people that have passed away. And that number is only going to increase as I move on.

I look at my grandparents and hope nothing happens to them anytime soon. I also look at them during the funerals of their loved ones and I can’t but feel devastatingly sad as I think that most of the people they spent their whole lives with are no longer here. It hurts me when I see my grandfather not bid farewell to his best friend saying: “I don’t say goodbye” as if knowing that his time is coming soon.

We’re all going to die – but you push the idea out of your head as much as you can. Sometimes, you even learn to live with it, thinking you’ve gotten okay with the idea. But what hurts the most is the tears of those that matter to you the most. And then you realize, it will never be easy.

The highs:

I can vote 😀 Anyone who knows me knows I’m very competitive when it comes to elections and such. Back in 2008, I was named “Mr. Republican of AUB.” John McCain lost then but you get the picture. So when I turned 21, and later saw my name on the voter’s register, I felt great. Anyone who says they don’t care is bluffing. You can’t but feel happy when you know you’ve crossed that milestone.

I rocked the MCAT. I admit the program I was enrolled in wasn’t going too well. I mean, I was getting really good grades but the idea of competing again with people who were out of your league back in AUB, well, that’s not the most encouraging of premises for you to want to excel. So it boiled down to the MCAT, which I was taking again. And what do you know, I got my results at an El Molina Tweetup. I can’t tell you how awesome that moment felt when I opened the website and saw my grade which shouted at me: YOU’RE ACCEPTED! GO PARTY!

Subsequently, I got accepted into med school on July 6th, 2011, which also happens to be my little brother and cousin’s birthday. Even though I didn’t feel as happy when I got the news as I felt when I got my MCAT grades, it still felt great to finally have closure for that part of my life. Once you’re in Med School, it’s very hard for you to fail yourself out. Once you’re in, you’re practically there – unless you decide you don’t want it anymore. And for the record, I still want it.

21 also had the honor to be the year where I saw my dad’s family, all his brothers and sisters, together under one roof for my aunt’s wedding. It was the first time in over 17 years that I saw my aunt who came especially to be her sister’s maid of honor at the wedding. I also met my cousin technically for the second time, but for the first time realistically. And if you ever thought that there’d be awkwardness, that was thrown out of the window the moment I sat with my cousin and we started chatting. She was such an awesome person with whom I had more in common than I thought possible. My aunt, also, turned out to be such a lovable person. She cared more than she should and, well, she’s all kinds of awesome. I can’t wait to see them when they come back from Australia this Tuesday.

And speaking of weddings, 21 also had me attending the first wedding ever of a direct family member. My aunt got married on June 17th and the event was just magical. Living with her in our Beirut apartment, I had to bear with months of Bridezilla moments but they all transformed into the best wedding I was ever part of, the testament to that being my whole hometown talking about it two weeks later.

21 was the year when I first hopped on an airplane to spend 17 days in France and Spain. Although those 17 days had their fair share of lows, the moment I rode the plane back to Lebanon, only good times stuck in my head: the moments I spent in France, Lourdes, Toledo, Madrid, etc….

I also started blogging during “21” and I think my attempt so far can be deemed as a success based on the amount of response I get on what I write and the amount of people that are interested in reading what I have to say.

21 was also the time when I met awesome people with whom I’ve become great friends, such as Paul Gadalla whom I helped in procuring a job in Lebanon. I was the first person he told when he got the job. He exposed me to his culture as an Orthodox Copt and showed me their struggle before it became headline news, confirming his fears all along. Paul also helped me in many of the posts I wrote, which many of you read.

And in 21, I became even better friends with the awesome people that were there all along. So thank you Nathalie, Sonia, Elia, Maguy, Hala, Roland, Howaida, Kris for always being there.

PS: spoiled rich girl needs to get a job; Roland and I are rocking med school; Cell biology nerd needs to figure out how to get those basal membrane proteins figured out already… :p

And last but not least, my great family has always been there. I couldn’t have asked for better people to be my parents and brothers. One of my brothers is busy being a womanizer 24/7, the other one is in the US. And although I miss my little brother who’s busy being an exchange student (and rocking at it), this didn’t put a damper on the later quarter of 21. In fact, I feel proud whenever he tells me about the “A’s” he’s getting in his courses. I feel happy for my aunt who’s starting to build her own family now and I can’t wait for her to have little kids that I can boss around. I feel ecstatic for having the warmth of my grandparents’ love surround me. And my parents are the best parents that could be – the sacrifices they make, the sweat they pour and the energy they put to give my brothers and I the best life possible. You can never but be forever grateful to them.

I daresay 21 was great, which is probably why I feel happy writing and reading this. It reminded me of all the good times I had. Some might have been less good. But never bad times. The lows might have gotten me down but the highs came right back there to push me up. Life goes on either way, and, wanting not to sound too cliche, with great family and friends around you, the hard times get easier and the happy times get so much more joyful.

Here’s to 21… hopefully 22 will be even better.

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Rumour Has It (Single Review) – Adele

Adele - 21 - album cover

Contrary to popular belief (and hope), the next single off Adele’s album (and only album selling anything nowadays), 21, is not Set Fire To The Rain but Rumor Has It.

I can hear the disappointment resonating all the way to where I’m sitting as I write this. But do you really need to be? Simply, no.

Starting off with an infectious drum beat to the hum of “ohohohs,” Rumor Has It sets itself as a rhythmic smash from the get-go. “She, she ain’t real,” sings Adele in a raspy voice. “She ain’t gonna be able to love you like I will. She is a stranger. You and I have history or don’t you remember. Sure, she’s got it all. But baby is that really what you want?”

The first part of the first verse ends with Adele’s voice resonating with no music behind, leaving a subtle echo that will hook you. “Bless your soul, you got your heads in the clouds. You made a fool out of you and boy she’s bringing you down. She made your heart melt but you’re cold to the core. Now rumor has it she ain’t got your love anymore…”

And then she breaks into the repetitive yet highly infectious chorus: “rumor has it, rumor has it, rumor has it…” all to the echo of the word rumor.

The second verse starts with another phase in the “rumored” relationship. “She is half your age but I guess that’s the reason that you strayed. I heard you’ve been missing me. You’ve been telling people things you shouldn’t be, like when we creep out and she ain’t around. Haven’t you heard the rumors?”

The second verse then continues with its second part, which is structurally similar to that of the first chorus: “Bless your soul, you’ve got your head in the clouds. You’ve made a fool out of me and boy, you’re bringing me down. You made my heart melt, now I’m cold to the core. But rumor has it I’m the one you’re leaving her for.”

And then she goes into a second repetition of the chorus before going into the song’s bridge, accompanied with a change in pace and melody, proclaiming “people say crazy things. Just cause I said it, don’t mean that I meant it… Just cause you heard it.”
Then she breaks into one final repetition of the chorus before ending the song on a chilly note: “but rumor has it he’s the one I’m leaving you for.”

The thing about Rumour Has It is that it is, yet again, very different from almost anything else o radio currently and that is always something positive in my books when a song is done well. And in this case, it is most definitely done well. The buildup, the story arc Adele subtly presents… All of it works to deliver a song that is both catchy and insane.
It’s very hard not to get hooked by the repetition of the drums at the beginning and the gospel-effect of the background “ohohoh.”

Rumour Has It is a song that serves two purposes. Adele said of the song that it’s about all the useless talk people say without knowing the truth and how it ends up hurting relationships, be it mere friendships or a love relationship. In itself, the song presents you with three arcs, represent three facades of Adele. You have the scorned Adele, the played Adele and the player Adele. You have Adele falling to the rumors of her man going with another girl. Then she decides to take him back, revealing at the end that she was playing him. And the awesome thing? It could all be a simple unfounded rumor. After all, rumour has it…

Listen to Rumour Has It:

Someone Like You (Single Review) – Adele

Adele - Someone Like You - Single Cover

Adele recently announced Someone Like You as her US follow-up to her mega hit: Rolling In The Deep.

Already released in the UK as a single off her international multi-platform monster of an album, 21, Someone Like You got to #1 after a brilliantly heartbreaking show-stopping performance at the Brits. Why review the song now? Well, what better opportunity to write an extensive praise of such brilliance than when this unconventional choice for US radio is preparing to hopefully become a hit there as well?

Someone Like You is a song about the regret that you feel but cannot share. It’s a deeply personal song about all the words Adele couldn’t say to the person to whom this song is meant. Someone Like You starts with things Adele heard about him. He settled down, found a girl and married her. She tries to feign courage by asking him why he’s shy, since it’s very unlike him. And then she confesses that she she had hoped by turning out of the blue, uninvited, and by seeing her face, he’d be reminded that for her, it’s not over.

And then Adele sings the heartbreaking chorus: “Nevermind, I’ll find someone like you. I wish nothing but the best for you two…” You can feel the desperation in her voice as she sings those lines. Her voice breaks when she wishes nothing but the best for them two. And then she begs: “Don’t forget me, I beg. I remember you said, sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.”

The song proceeds to the path of memories. “You’d know how the time flies, only yesterday was the time of our lives… we were born and raised in a summer haze, bound by the surprise of our glory days,” alluding to a summer romance that took place between the two before she apologizes again about showing up out of the blue uninvited, hoping that when he had seen her face, he’d be reminded that it’s not over.

Someone Like You is not a song about Adele being bitter. It’s about her being in love – so in love, in fact, that she can let the person go and wish nothing but the best for him, regardless of how much that might hurt her.

Someone Like You is a hypothetical song that Adele is singing to herself, not her former lover’s face. She’s imagining herself standing in front of him and giving her heart away. The whole scenario of how he would act and how she would response is in her head, sort of like the countless times when we imagine scenarios and play them out in our imagination before trying to act on them. But she knows acting on the plot she set up with “Someone Like You” is not the correct thing to act on. She cannot show up out of the blue and have such a confession for him. It would be wrong from her part. So even though she wants him to remember her and even though she still loves him, she hopes, in the song, to hopefully find someone like him, someday, to make her feel that sensation of love. With whom she can share her memories, her moments and her life.

Rolling In The Deep was a song that basically said: “you’re leaving? fine. Go. I don’t care.” With Someone Like You, Adele is crawling back slowly to her former lover, acknowledging that she’s not as strong as she thought – “who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?”

On Someone Like You, Adele delivers a brilliantly chilling vocal performance that is so full of nuances that it delivers the lyrics without much effort. There is a sense of vulnerability with her delivery that channels the pain she’s feeling when she was recording this masterpiece. And she makes it look so easy. How so? Every single performance she has delivered of this song was even better than the album version. Her Brits performance got this song to go to #1 in the UK almost overnight due to the massive sales she generated after bringing people to tears.

What’s more of a testament to the strength of this song is that it’s deeply personal. The lyrics were written in a way not to let it seem open-ended. It was written for a specific person, with no intention of making it something that everyone can relate to. At least that’s what Adele said. But everyone related to Someone Like You because everyone found something that struck a cord within the specific vulnerability conveyed among the lines of that song.

With Rolling In The Deep, US pop radio took a bold step in the correct musical direction. It gave a deserving and great song the chance to be a huge hit and it ended up staying at #1 for 7 weeks at the Hot 100. With Someone Like You, one only hopes pop radio would also give a gut-wrenching ballad the chance to be something big. Simply because Someone Like You is one of the greatest songs released this year.

Listen to the album version of Someone Like You here:

And the Brits live performance: