• Al Jennings

She Used To Be Mine

Before the lockdown that came with the Coronavirus Pandemic, one of the hottest tickets in London’s glitzy and glamourous West End was the hit musical Waitress. Based on the 2007 film of the same name, Waitress tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, a waiter and baker in an abusive relationship with her husband Earl. When Jenna unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she begins an affair with her doctor and sees a pie baking contest and its grand prize as her chance to escape. The musical, written by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, premiered on Broadway in 2016. This was preceded by the studio album; What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress. One of the standout songs from the album and subsequent musical was the eleven o’clock number, She Used to Be Mine.

She Used to Be Mine, on the face of it is a classic Broadway power ballad of epic proportions, however, underneath lies a regretful feeling that we can all relate to. The song is an honest and frank lookback at how life’s choices have led this person into a life of loneliness and ultimately loosing themselves to their circumstances. The song implores its listener to fight for what they want from life, this is prudent in the rather ballsy and gutsy lyric, “To fight just a little, to bring back that fire in her eyes, that’s been gone but that used to be mine”. There is a huge amount of vulnerability in those lyrics, and a subtle message that speaks to traumas induced by broken relationships – empowering and uplifting anyone going through a heartbreak, with one lyric in particular that really resonates to me;

For the girl that I knew / who’ll get hurt / but learns how to toughen up when she’s bruised and gets used by a man who can’t love /

Those lyrics stab me in the chest every time I hear there, because I see myself in them. In fact, I think I see myself in the entire song and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this. There are times in everybody’s life when they take stock of what’s happened, what choices they’ve made and what they would’ve done differently. The imaginary what if? What if this dream didn’t happen? What if I hadn’t made a certain decision.

When we are young, we think the world is full of endless opportunities. We are raised to believe that we can do whatever we want with our lives, and nothing is impossible as long as you want it bad enough. When I went to live in London at the age of 18 to train as an actor, I didn’t know that ten years later I would be working in an 9-5 office job which is hardly thrilling at the best of times, still living at home with the parents, still single, still fat, still as completely and utterly miserable as I was when I was 18 and craving for an escape from mediocrity wondering what happened to my life?

What happened to a life that I had planned out for myself from being a kid? I had a plan, I had talent, drive and ambition because I had a self-confidence in myself that seems to have disappeared the older, I’ve become and the more exposed to harsh realities of the real world.

The real world is tough – it’s not what looks like as a child. From balancing finances to achieving a work/life balance and settling down to start a family. I started to wonder; Is the mid-life crisis’ a thing of the past – and do we actually now have a mid-20s crisis?

Have we become that obsessed at discovering our identity in our teenage years, that when we get into our late twenties and things aren’t going the way things are going, we are then subjected to an inner turmoil? More plainly put, are we too keen to discover ourselves at such an early age we then run out of things to discover?

I think we grow up too quickly, and too fast; sometimes what we want from life doesn’t materialise in until well into adulthood. There is so much pressure from kids at a young age to know exactly what you want from life – I don’t think you can truly know until you’ve lived it. Looking back on my teenage years, with an adult mind and realistic outlook, I didn’t know what I really wanted, hell, I didn’t know who I really was, but yet I wouldn’t have done my life any other way than the way I did it, because I learnt from the mistakes that I made, and I know that it made me a stronger person for that. I grew a very thick skin when I got into the real world. I put those bricks up to protect myself.

It’s not what I asked for / Sometimes life / Just slips in through a backdoor / And carves out a person / Who makes you believe it’s all true /

I think it’s safe to say that life does creep up on you – or rather reality creeps up on you, because that’s the world we live in. We live in a reality that most of the time is so far removed from a life that you had thought you were going to have. It’s like when you go to university – during the first the year of your course you’ll have that lecture. The lecture where an outside visitor who has the same degree as what you’re working towards, tells you that it’s just a complete waste of time. Yeah – we’ve all had it. Whether this a reality check, or some words of encouragement or a battle cry to force you into doing something about and proving everybody wrong.

It’s how we deal with these emotions and adapt them into our future that is the true importance of self-discovery. We can either carry on as normally and pretend that nothing has changed and delude ourselves into a false sense of security. Or we fight. It is possible to lose sight of our goals and aspirations, and like Jenna in Waitress we will grow some strength and willingness to fight for what we want from life. By reminding us of what we used to be, we can be that again. We can use these experiences to shape a more positive future and change our lives to reflect more of what we want it to be. Ultimately the person that we once were, is still there – we just have to find them again.

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