Last week the band Pearl Jam put out a Facebook post that said it had been 18 years (!) since the release for their 5th album entitled Yield.
Pearl jam is my favorite band of all time. Some love them, some don’t. I don’t care what you think, I love this band. Eddie Vedder’s lyrics for me in high school and college were just what I needed. He was able to sing what I felt. He was able to convey the rage and the confusion. Over the years I can chart my life through Pearl Jam albums, meaning I remember where I was in my life when each album came out, all the way up to their latest Lightning Bolt.
Pearl Jam sold millions of copies of their first 4 records. They had been through huge successes, personal struggles, legal fights, and then they freaked out a little bit about all the attention and pushed a reset button with their fourth album (1996) called No Code. That fourth album didn’t sell as many as their first 3. It was so different than the previous ones that it turned a lot of people off, but they didn’t care, they had nothing to prove anymore.
Then came Yield. It has become one of my (and just might be my number 1) top albums of all time. When this album came out I was 18 and a freshman in college. I remember waiting for class to get out and rushing over to Media Play to buy it. This album felt different than their others. The artwork was different, the photography was different, the music was different, but was all still distinctly Pearl Jam. It felt more mature for some reason. Textured in a new way. It still had some rage, but it was like they were ok with it versus fighting it. They were ok with getting older.
Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology. He was the first psychologist to use the phrase “The 2 halves of Life”. What he means is that we spend the first half of our lives trying to prove ourselves, trying to find our place in the world, prove we have what it takes, we are important, we rage and fight and struggle to achieve, achieve, achieve to prove our points! Eventually if we are playing for the long term, all of that calms down and we become comfortable with who we are. We stop caring about proving or showing our place in the world, and we realize we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. What you might call, “the second half of life.”
I am and most of the people around me are in their first half of life. Everything seems like a struggle. Why do other people act that way? Why don’t they do it like I think they should? Why aren’t they hearing me? They should do it like this. They should do it like that. Richard Rhor says that, “More calm and contemplative seeing does not appear suddenly, but grows almost unconsciously over many years of conflict, confusion, healing, broadening, loving and forgiving reality.” Even the people who grew up with the best foundations don’t really start to comprehend this second half of life until their 50’s. It takes a ton of time, struggle, success, failure, ups and downs and everything in between to get to the point where you can yield to this second half of life.
I think we are probably more impactful in this second half of life, but we can’t get there unless we go through the first.
Pearl Jam wouldn’t have been able to put out an album like Yield without first having gone through the success, struggle, fame, rage, pain and then ultimate calm of the first 4 albums. When I saw their Facebook post about it being 18 years since this album came out, it took me by surprise that it had been so long. I listened to the album this week a bit and I realized that Eddie Vedder was 36 years old when this album came out. I am 36 now. By the time he was 36 their band had sold around 30 million records. 30 million records!!! So, of course I start to compare myself to Eddie at 36. I went and told Mandy (my wife), “Can you believe he was 36 when Yield came out!?!?!” She didn’t really care. She said, “Oh Luke, you have done some good things too.” She knew what was going on in my head. So funny. Listening to Yield as a 36 year old is a much different experience than it was as an 18 year old. I can relate to some of the journey they were going through now. This was the beginning of Pearl Jam’s second half of life. Some people liked it, some people were disappointed. They became ok with not being everything to everyone. I hope I am moving in that same direction as well.
So, I want to offer some encouragement to all of you first half of lifers. The struggles, the self doubt, the confidence, the lack of confidence, the good, the bad, and the ugly is all part of the journey. It’s all first half of life stuff. Rage on, struggle through it, do your thing, fight, but do it with humility and grace. Then Yield to the second half of life and enjoy the journey. Who knows, your struggles and this journey might just make someone’s favorite album of all time.
Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on things.
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