Rearview Mirror

On occasion, I get the impression that the music I’m listening to is actually the perfect song for the situation. It’s as though my life is one very long, (and usually quite boring) movie, where the soundtrack has been set up an matched perfectly to the scenes. Rearview Mirror is one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs, and has been for a long time. But there was a day when everything just kinda came together, and it was when when this song started playing that suddenly everything came into focus. It was like being hit in the head with a 2×4, but in a good way.

It was the end of summer after my sophomore year of College. I had spent almost the entire summer living in Indiana, working with my Grandpa and my cousin, Sven. My on again, off again relationship with Sarah was pretty much “off” when I had left, but after a few weeks of being gone, she started calling me out there. But while I was out there, I started talking with some of Sven’s friends, who consequently became friends of mine as well, and in talking with them, and just hanging out with them out there, I came to see how unhappy I was with my present situation with Sarah. When I returned home to Zeeland at the end of summer, I resolved to end things with her for good, and the next time she called, I did just that. Now, I had become pretty good friends with her family after all this time, including her brother, Ben, who was a really kewl guy. I got a call from him later on that day, wanting to know if I could help him install his new CD-Burner. I had promised him I’d help once he got it, so I didn’t want to break my work. Anyway, I headed out there, set it up, and spoke briefly to her Mom before heading out. It was obvious that her mom had heard, but that her brother hadn’t. Anyway, there I was, having finally gained the courage to do what I probably should have done years earlier, and as I’m driving away in my car, I look back in my rearview mirror at the house I would likely never pass by again, and the music started to play…


I took a drive today
Time to emancipate
I guess it was the beatings made me wise
But I’m not about to give thanks, or apologize
I couldn’t breathe, holdin’ me down
Hand on my face, pushed to the ground
Enmity gauged, united by fear
S’pose to endure what I could not forgive…

I seem to look away
Wounds in the mirror waved
It wasn’t my surface most defiled
Head at your feet, fool to your crown
Fist on my plate, swallowed it down
Enmity gauged, united by fear
Tried to endure what I could not forgive

Saw things
Clearer
Once you, were in my…Rearview mirror…

I gather speed from you fucking with me
Once and for all I’m far away
I hardly believe, finally the shades…are raised.

Saw things so much clearer
Once you were in my Rearview mirror

I took a drive today

This is a car song. Pearl Jam has a number of car songs, that all seem to be linked, if even only slightly. It starts with Rearview Mirror, then MFC, and this Untitled track on Live on 2 Legs, which is one of my favorite songs as well:

I got a car, I got some gas
oh let’s get out of here
get out of here fast
ooh everyone’s confused
so I stay in my room
if I go, I don’t want
to go alone

I hope you get this message
oh you’re not home
I could be there in
ten minutes or so
ooh I got my things
we’ll make it up as we go along
oh with you I could
never be alone
never be alone

So back to Rearview Mirror: So far he’s in his car.

Time to emancipate

Finally breaking free of this relationship, this person that’s turned him into a slave.

I guess it was the beatings made me wise

All the pain that he’s endured because of this relationship has finally come around to show him that it’s just not right. It’s not what he’s looking for, and he knows he has to get out.

But I’m not about to give thanks, or apologize

My take on this line, and of this whole song in general, is that this whole experience has made him a stronger person, but he’s pissed that it took all this pain and self-abuse in order to finally reach this point. He’s mad at himself for letting it get this far. He’s mad at her for treating him the way she did. He’s frustrated to see just how weak a person he really was. And he’s humiliated to recall just how much he allowed her to get away with at his expense. Like I said, that’s my take, and it may be heavily tainted with my own personal biases, but that’s what interpretations are all about.

So here he is, he recognizes that he’s grown as a person, and feels stronger, and more self assured. But he doesn’t credit her [“give thanks”] for this change, nor does he feel bad about what he had to do [“apologize”] in order to achieve this point (i.e. breaking up with her)

I couldn’t breathe, holdin’ me down
Hand on my face, pushed to the ground

The first line makes me think of drowning. “Holding me down” underwater. It’s as though so much was put on him while he was in the relationship, that it was all he could do just to keep himself [or the relationship] alive. “Pushed to the ground” sounds like forced supplication. He became like a slave, or a doting follower. Everything she asserted he was forced to accept.

Enmity gauged, united by fear

Enmity: deep seated, often mutual, hatred. So they’ve reached a point where they pretty much both hate each other, but they were “united by fear”. I’d think it was more the case that he was afraid to leave. If you’re stuck in a relationship where the other person doesn’t really seem to appreciate you, you start to believe that no one really appreciates you, and that no one could possibly appreciate you. With that in mind, you grasp on tighter to the one you’re with, cause at least you’ve got something. If that person was to go away, you’re all alone, and no one would ever even look your way ever again. It’s sadly ironic that the one that’s causing your self doubt is the one you’re relying on for validation. The only way to really fix the problem is to just get away, but that’s also the one thing that scares you to death.

S’pose to endure what I could not forgive…

It’s a funny thing that happens when you have those moments of clarity… You’re just sitting there, and something happens to make you realize that there’s no reason at all for you to put up with all the crap you’ve been taking from this person. And once you realize that, and truly believe it, things just look different. You’re no longer willing to just allow the other person to walk all over you. Here we have someone who has finally realized how messed up this relationship is. The other person doesn’t know things have changed. She expects to just continue on as things were before. But he’s no longer willing to just accept the things as he did before.

I seem to look away

Now we’re back in the car. He’s leaving, and doesn’t even want to look back. He’s through with it all, and just wants it to go away.

Wounds in the mirror waved

All the pain and misery that that person and that place represented… it’s all going away as the car drives away.

It wasn’t my surface most defiled

Here I’m not certain. I think it might be the idea that now that it’s all said and done, it’s her “surface” [appearance, reputation, etc.] that’s been tarnished or destroyed.

Head at your feet, fool to your crown
Fist on my plate, swallowed it down

More supplication. We’re back to how the relationship was. “Fist on my plate” seems like another example of him having to do or accept everything she said or demanded.

Enmity gauged, united by fear
Tried to endure what I could not forgive

Saw things
Clearer
Once you, were in my…Rearview mirror…

Saw things so much clearer… Hindsight is always a lot clearer. You look back and thing “what did I ever see in her” or “Why did I allow myself to endure that?” and you honestly can’t even say. You can accept that at the time, it seemed right, but man.. how warped and stupid can a relationship make you? And you just can’t realize it or accept it until after you’re out, and you can look without the blinders of fear or loneliness, and see what everyone else was probably trying to tell you all along.

I gather speed from you fucking with me
Once and for all I’m far away
I hardly believe, finally the shades…are raised.

So here we have it. He’s finally realized that the relationship was messed up, and hurting him. He’s finally gotten the courage to end it, which is no small feat. That takes serious strength and courage… but it is so very necessary sometimes. And now that is finished, he sees that what he’s done is right, and “the shades are raised.” That phrase sounds so optimistic.

Saw things so much clearer
Once you were in my Rearview mirror

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