A few days ago I was listening back through some of Eric Church’s catalog (trying to get myself ready for that new triple album) when “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young” came on. It’s probably my favorite song off of The Outsiders, but as I got to listening to the words it started to hit me a lot harder than it did back in 2014 when it came out – back before I was in my 30s.
“Call it intuition or call it crazy Just thought by now I’d be pushing up daisies”
I’ve always identified with this song, because in a way, I always thought that I was going to die young too. That probably sounds dark, but it’s really not – it was always just a fear that I’ve had.
It was almost something that I came to terms with, that my time here was going to be short so I needed to make the most of it while I could. And as I’ve spoken to more and more people about it, apparently it’s a pretty common thought to have.
“You just remember half of it. You wonder how you out-lived Hank or Jesus.”
But here I am, into my 30s now, close to the age that Eric was singing about, and all I can do is I look back and wonder where all the time has gone – and how I’ve outlived Hank Williams and so many other legends. When I look back on some of the things I’ve done, at times it just feels like luck – I mean, it sure as hell wasn’t the choices I’ve made (or all the drinks I’ve drank) along the way.
“In the mirror I saw my surprise Who knew gray hairs like to hide on a head That didn’t think he’d live past thirty”
A lot has changed since 2014 – both in the world and in my life. I was 25 at the time, and I had an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. But like a lot of people in their twenties, I was really just starting on my plan to get there.
I’ve moved cities twice since then, and now that I’m 32 I’ve finally settled into my career. I have a fiancée, which wasn’t something I was anywhere near ready for in 2014, but now I’m planning for a future that I wasn’t even sure I would have when I was younger. And I can’t help but wonder, what the hell made her want to love a man who was like me in my twenties – a man who was gonna die young?
I’ve also started to understand what Garth Brooks was talking about when he said he was “Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old”– mostly when I’m hungover and feel like I’m close to death.
And let me tell you, it was pretty jarring the first time somebody pointed out a gray hair on my head (thanks mom). But I’ve learned to accept it, and even embrace it – because I know that in 30 years, it’s the brown hairs that I’ll be looking for amidst all the gray.
“Could you tell the Lord I’ve changed my mind?”
There are really two different characters in “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young.”
There’s the young, invincible man who’s “chased a lot of crazy things” and had no fear – and then there’s the 36-year old. The man who’s settled down, who’s found out who he really is, and has become comfortable with the life that he’s made for himself and those he’s been lucky enough to make it with.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to identify more with the second man than the first. I’ve gone from “a man who was gonna die young” to a man who’s telling the Lord I’ve changed my mind and would like to live forever.
This song just hits so much harder when you’re in your 30s.