A couple of weeks ago, I went to Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever, The World Tour” concert in Nashville with my brother and a friend. I have been a fan of hers since she had less than a million followers on Instagram, and I had been wanting to go see her in concert for years. But I waited a bit too long to expect decently priced tickets because now she’s a Grammy-winning superstar.
It’s crazy to think that I spent an egregious amount of money (at least by broke college student standards) to go to a concert performed by someone who’s over a year younger than me. But there I was, a 21-year-old who hardly knows what she wants to do with her life a 20-year-old accomplished millionaire watching in front of over 10,000 people in the Bridgestone Arena.
But our ages didn’t cross my mind until she performed “Getting Older,” a melancholy synth ballad with a self-explanatory subject. It’s an autobiographical coming-of-age song that’s bound to be relatable to anyone around her age (ie, me). During her performance, the screen displayed old home videos of herself, her brother Finneas and her parents. “Aww, baby Billie!” I shouted over the music to my friend next to me. Billie turned around and watched the videos as she sang. It reminded me of the time when I was in high school and found a lost videotape of me as a baby. I watched it for hours, and I couldn’t stop crying as reality ran over me slow and heavy like a steamroller: I’m getting older. And I’ve been metaphorically ground into the dirt now that I’m about to graduate college.
Even though I can’t exactly relate to the lyrics in the chorus, “Things I once enjoyed / just keep me employed now,” it definitely reignited a hidden fear of mine: one day, I may lose my passion. (I’m gonna get a bit deep now. Apologies in advance.) As I pursue my degree in English, I find that the joy of writing is poured into every single sentence I type. But there are days when I would replace “poured” with “emptied.” I sometimes miss the days when I would pull out my Notes app and write a couple of novel chapters I knew no one would ever read. I could be as unapologetically personal and bad as I wanted, and I wouldn’t have to worry about how people would perceive it, or whether it would be “good writing” to them.
I would guess Billie feels the same way sometimes. The songs she used to write with her brother were probably just for fun, and all that mattered was that it meant something to them. But now that songwriting and producing are their careers and they have millions of fans to please, there’s probably a lot more pressure that goes into the writing and recording process. In my case, I often ask myself, “Do I really want to write this story about an opinion I don’t even agree with, or am I just writing it because I know my English professor will give me a good grade?”
The chorus continued with, “Things I’m longing for / someday I’ll be bored of.” Her voice reverberated throughout the arena and sent chills up my arms as I thought about my future. Once you get something you want, then what? Getting a career in something you’ve been dreaming of for so long can become monotonous after a while because it’s still a job, right? I thought about what I was actually “longing for” and if it would stay the same when I get older.
“It’s so weird…” Billie sang with the voice of an angel. My hands were on my heart as I was holding back tears for someone I didn’t even know. “…that we care so much…” The home videos shut off one by one. The music stopped, and the stage went completely dark.
“…until we don’t.”
The crowd’s cheers filled the mid-song silence. I wasn’t sure what we were cheering for. But thankfully, the song wasn’t over yet.
Billie and I don’t have the same experiences in life. I’m not a famous singer and would die before I set foot on any stage. But somehow, this song related to me in ways I didn’t even realize before I heard it live. The pressure to get hired right out of college is emotionally draining, and just thinking about what I want to do with my life seems almost impossible when I’ve spent the last four years squeezing my creativity into a mold of commercialized success.
Still, this song helped me remember that the struggles you go through on the path to adulthood form you into who you are. As we get older, the passion for things we loved as kids ebbs and flows, shifts and rearranges, and sometimes goes away completely. Then, we have to release again and again what we really want out of life. It’s scary, but it’s necessary. And most of all, it’s universal. I’ve learned that molding our passions to society’s standards is how we use our creativity to relate to others (and enjoy it), which is exactly what Billie does, and I can’t thank her enough for it.
In the last verse of the song, she sang, “For anybody asking, I promise I’ll be fine.” That’s a verse worth cheering for. And if anybody reading this is going through the pain of getting older (like me), I promise you’ll be fine too.