I remember when I first heard “Ode to My Family.” I was nine years old, watching my brother’s 8th grade class video. The one where all the kids submit photos of themselves at various points in their lives until present day, played to music and made to make you feel very sentimental. I was obsessed with that video, and couldn’t wait till it was time for me to have my own. I watched it all the time and when that song came on, I relished in Dolores O’Riordan’s voice and how it evoked a kind of pain associated with adolescence.
“Does anyone care?” That line in particular was so relatable. When you’re in your formative years, everything seems like life or death and it’s hard to find someone to identify with or to understand. You feel odd all the time, like you don’t know how to be normal or what normal even is. The world outside of your room is so large, yet you feel limited. You feel trapped inside yourself. Or, at least, these are the things I felt.
My friend Bobby made me a mixed CD when we were thirteen, and he put that song on it. He, like me, loved The Cranberries, and we often talked about our favorite songs and rummaged through his older brother’s CD collection until we could find their albums. That’s how I knew what to ask for for Christmas each year. I’d ask for their first album, then the next year, their second, and so on. I wanted to learn about them, about her, but in the natural progression I was meant to.
As soon as I was done opening my Christmas presents, I would retreat to my room and put the new CD into my CD player. I’d open the booklet and find the lyrics, and I’d read them as she sang each line. My room was my sanctuary, and The Cranberries were the soundtrack.
I think a lot of kids go through something like this. Finding that one band that you just cannot listen to enough. That one band you very reluctantly admit when one of their songs isn’t your favorite or isn’t that good.
Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m at a crossroads. And when I say lately, I mean the past five years or so. My life has definitely shifted from my funny and careless 20s into my more serious and calm 30s. It’s not that I don’t feel as young, rather I’ve become so much more cognizant of my age. And I still want to be the kid, have my way, drink till I’m full. It’s hard to let go of some of these tendencies, and I know that somehow I must.
Or must I? Who’s telling me I have to? Whatever it is – my parents, cultural expectations, friends, non-friends, etc., I find that the more I’m told no, the more I want to tell myself yes. Maybe I’m still that young girl listening to her favorite band, feeling like the world outside is so huge, while also feeling like she’s outgrowing certain expectations, stereotypes and accepted norms of her sex, age and status.
When I heard that Dolores died, I stopped. I listened again to all the songs I loved, some of which I hadn’t listened to in over 10 years. I cried. I cried for her and for myself. For the little girl in her room who sang along, who had limited expectations, yet expected so much for herself. Who was told she could be anything, and believed it, and still just wants to believe it.