It is twelve years since tracks from Dido’s album Life for Rent were filling airtime on Irish radio stations. Buying Life for Rent and James Blunt’s Back to Bedlam on 12th July that year (a date remembered because it was The Twelfth), there was no thought that the songstress’s lyrics would still be a haunting refrain a dozen years later. Dido sings of the human propensity to abandon dreams, to give up aspirations, even though barriers to their fulfilment have disappeared:
I’ve always thought that I would love to live by the sea
To travel the world alone and live more simply
I have no idea what’s happened to that dream
’cause there’s really nothing left here to stop me
It’s just a thought, only a thought
Is there a reason why the things that we thought we would do become the things we regret that we never did? There’s a line in a Garrison Keillor story that manages to be ordinary and profound in the way that Keillor does so well. A character’s mother shifts subtly in her comments to her daughter who has not fulfilled the mother’s dreams. “You could do something with your life”, the mother would say; then one morning the change comes, “You could have done something with your life”. The shift in tense is telling; the days of opportunity are past, all that is left is regret.
Why? How many people are like the person in Dido’s lyrics? How many people feel that could do something and then reach a point one day when they feel they could have done something? How many people pass a point of no return without ever having realised it was there? Or maybe they imagine that they have passed a point of no return, for who is to say that one has reached an age where one can no longer do things? As long as health endures, chronological years are no barrier.
Dido’s lyric acknowledges that there is nothing to stop pursuing one’s dreams, there is no objective barrier, so if hopes are not fulfilled, then the inhibitions are within one’s own mind. Is it fear, uncertainty as to the consequences of a decision, that is the obstacle? Or is it a sensitivity to the opinions of others, anxiety as to what the neighbours might say? Or is it just inertia, a lack of motivation to attempt life in a different way?
“There’s really nothing left here to stop me,” only oneself.