The Stranger

The Stranger

Well, we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out
 And show ourselves when everyone has gone . . .

 — Billy Joel

Before I start, first a bit of silliness to get out of the way. I want to send a shout out to MD KUEHNER, of the first to post a comment after I write something new. A great friend, advisor and fellow imbiber for many years. I am sure he will be coming up again later, but I felt he deserved a hello!

The Stranger seemed like an appropriate topic to follow up with after my last 3-Part Story. Besides, Billy Joel, wrote “Shameless”, and as we all know, Garth Brooks cover of that song is far superior, than Billy’s own rendition. Sorry, no offense Mr. Joel. But it’s possibly even better when they work together . . .

So there you go, another Garth Brooks’ connection. So in unintentionally keeping with the Garth Brooks theme from Part I, I now discuss my thoughts on The Stranger.

stran·ger

ˈstrānjər/

  1. a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar.
    2. a person who does not know, or is not known in, a particular place or community.
    3. a person entirely unaccustomed to (a feeling, experience, or situation).

As I made my transition into life in Colorado, following a failed romance, The Stranger was the song that kept swirling around in my head. The song has always struck me as dark, at least musically, but I think it is also a song of hope and new beginnings. It has a Jekyll and hide quality to it. The whistling, at the beginning and the end, is at once comforting and hypnotic, but also creepy!

There are many interpretations to the song. Some think the song is about infidelity.

Though you drown in good intentions
You will never quench the fire
You’ll give in to your desire

 — 
Billy Joel

But I believe The Stranger is inside of us and not an external temptress. It is about reinventing yourself based on your situation and over time — while not being aware that everyone around you, even though those you are closest to, are possibly doing the exact same thing. Eventually, learning that no one is who we think that they are, perhaps not even ourselves.

But he isn’t always evil
And he is not always wrong

 — 
Billy Joel

This can sound ominous, but I believe it is about being aware that things change. People change. Being able to move with that change in ourselves and others is what love is all about; not being tempted by the falsity of a perfect fit. As we all know, there are skinny jeans and fat jeans. I like relationships that have the hidden elastic waist band!

I have always wondered; which version of The Stranger is The Stranger? Is it the new version of ourselves, or is it a suppressed version that we don’t show those around us. By definition, a stranger is a receiver’s unfamiliarity of someone else. However, the song is written from the singer’s perception of their own internal Strangers. Identify Crisis? Perhaps. Or maybe they are struggling with their varied interests and trying on different “faces” while they figure out who they want to be and accepting that it will change over time.

How often do we think we have everything figured out only to realize later, we may really want something else? Once, we find steady work, relationships, family, etc. it can be hard, if not impossible, to break away and try to keep discovering The Strangers inside of us. If we are lucky, we have the personal fortitude and a support system that assists in continued self-discovery.

Sadly, there are countless stories of people growing up and struggling to be their true-selves. They choose to sacrifice their identities for the sake of family, friends or community. In these cases, The Stranger is the mask we choose to wear for the people around us; family, friends, co-workers. We behave in an expected way, because we fear, at the least, criticism, and at the most, rejection! In turn, we suppress our ideas and desires, for the fallacy of safety.

Sure, there is also the opposite; folks who never change. Those who are an open book and a Stranger to no one. As I have ridden across the United States I have met both. One such example of stability were two lifelong childhood friends from a small town in Kansas who fought in WWII together. They returned to the states with matching French wives. They lived near one another, saw each other virtually every day, rarely traveled, knew everyone in town, and everyone in town knew them. They eventually passed away and were buried near one another.

From all outside observations there wasn’t a secret or mystery between them. They knew each other implicitly. They were platonic soulmates. Living full lives with no need to try on other faces. There is a beauty and a poetry in their story, but it is not for everyone.

Unfortunately, many of us believe that we are forced to play the cards we are dealt, so we never break free. We never act on our wanderlust. We think we are doing the right thing by conforming and playing an expected role. In the end, we end up hurting those closest to us, as well as ourselves, by denying our own true feelings and desires.

Before what I am saying is misinterpreted as giving up or infidelity, I want to explain further. What I am talking about is recognizing that “forever” is malleable, yes there are edges, but with communication there is room for flexibility, i.e. hidden elastic waist bands!

I consider myself very happily married, and often wonder how I earned such a great support system; a wife that sends her husband out on a 2-month motorcycle ride across country, either really loves him, or has a close eye on his insurance policy!

But in all seriousness when we met, I had a good steady job and seemed like a safe bet. Within months of dating, I had joined a rock band and was considering quitting my job. Then, less than two years, after we got married I went on my first 3,000-mile solo motorcycle ride. Not something she could have seen coming.

That ride triggered something in me that ever since has seen me taking off for weeks every summer. Riding to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, attempting 40 mountain Passes in 40 Hours when I turned 40. Exploring, discovering, getting injured, laughing, crying, but always coming out better for it.

They’re the faces of a stranger
But we’d love to try them on . . .

 — 
Billy Joel

I believe in open dialogue, not letting circumstances hold us back, and trying on other faces. I encourage letting your partner try on other faces. Encourage your friends to try on other faces

The world is filled with the darkness of regret . . .
 why not be someone else’s light!

 — Adventure Hermit

While it may be true that we cannot change people, I believe, we can change ourselves and in turn be better for it and better for those around us. Not to sound morbid, but let’s face it, we are all going to die in the end and we sure don’t know when that end will be. We don’t have to be reckless but sometimes we need to be more adventurous!