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And It Was Alright: Reflections On "Alright Caroline"

And It Was Alright: Reflections On "Alright Caroline"

I'm not the type to seek out rarities. Sometimes I stumble upon them and catch some joy, but usually I just wait it out. Things come in their own time, and I trust that… 

I was excited to learn that “Alright Caroline” was being released. I had heard of the song, but I'd never heard it, never looked up the words. It was new music to me and that's always a good thing. 

My first listen was an embedded track at the end of this article from billboard. The article didn't actually say anything about the content of the song, so I was going into it totally blind.

 
 

The guitar starts in, calm and melodic. While not acoustic, the song definitely brings those vibes in the first part so instantly I'm loving it (acoustic is really a soft spot with me, a weakness). Then the lyrics come in… 

“Tell the truth, woman, just this time. I know you can do it.” 

Oh.. Well, I wasn't expecting that. A little confrontational… 

“Your baby's eyes look just like mine. We can both see through it.” 

Oh, no… you mean --- 

“Tell the truth, woman, just this time. I didn't know how much you would take from me…”

While part of me is thinking that this song is really beautiful, so well arranged, there's also part of me that steps back, a bit defensively. I feel walls going up…

If you've read my piece on ”Forget Myself,” then you know that things were rocky with my daughters’ father long before there were any daughters to speak of. I also spoke of an ex who I was casually seeing again. The time in question was a transitional period in my life and, while sometimes it seems like I was losing a whole year, I also learned some invaluable lessons. Regardless, I was in a bad place mentally and emotionally a lot of the time and it lead me to some pretty poor decision making.

 
 An accurate representation of my life at the time...

An accurate representation of my life at the time...

 

Sitting and listening to “Alright Caroline,” I was reminded of that time. I was reminded of a decision I made. I was reminded of how things could have been different. 

Now, I'm not lying. I didn't pull a Caroline. My daughter's father is really her father, and her eyes really do look just like his. However, there was a time when that wasn't so clear. 

 
eye.jpg
 

 

“There's a price to pay for a safe place to hide…”

 

For consistency, I'll continue to refer to my kids’ dad as “Jay.” My other, more likeable ex… we'll call him Agent 37, or 37 for short. (Why? Because I'm eccentric, and also because I think you should venture down that rabbit hole…) 

Jay and I still lived together, although we tried to make our overlapping time at home as infrequent as possible. We were fire and ice, always a storm brewing. 37 was “on a break”  from a hopeless relationship to a woman who sounded like a train wreck (but who am I to judge?) and we both used that opportunity to take up old habits. We stayed up late talking, watching movies, and then some. He was my safe place to hide, and I'd like to think I was something of the same for him in that time. 

 
brighteyes.jpg
 

While comparing the two would be easy, it would also be incredibly unfair (to Jay). There is one obvious difference that is important to note in this story, though: while Jay can be extremely reckless, 37 is extremely cautious. Given my go-with-the-flow sort of disposition and my mixed up state of mind, it's obvious how I got knocked up and why it was by the one I'd have opted to never see again… 

When I went to the doctor, the dates they gave me just didn't add up, though (because I'd forgotten about a certain Sunday afternoon). I was doubting them. I was doubting myself. The timeline, and probably the fact that I didn't want Jay to be the father of my child, made me wonder if somehow 37 (as improbable as it were) had gotten me pregnant… the mind does odd things when feeling desperate and trapped... I told a whole 2 people these details and they quickly started texting me with #team37 in their messages on a regular basis. Like, hey, if you have the option just go for the one you want, right?  As if paternity isn't a fixed answer…

Somewhere in this mess I made a decision, and I'll admit right now that it was terrible. I logically knew that #team37 was against the odds and I also knew that it would upset everything he had going on with, well, his entire life. Jay, on the other hand, was already on a steady path of destruction. If someone's life was going to be disrupted, it may as well be Jay’s. So, as if paternity isn't a fixed answer, I simply decided that I was going to say it was Jay and not seek out anything further than the “truth” I had chosen. Statistics were on my side anyway… 

There's a lot more to it, but that's the long story short. So, with “Alright Caroline” - while Jay is in fact her father - hearing those lyrics play through the speaker on my phone reminded me of that decision I had made. Had 37 been her father, he would see her in photos and hear her voice on recordings or when we talk on the phone - and he would have been robbed of so much, because I didn't even ask him...

 

“Time moves faster today, but let's not speak of this.”

 

37 and I were talking one day shortly after I found out I was pregnant. I don't recall if it was a call or a text, but I know he said there was something important he wanted to talk to me about the next time we saw each other. Deciding it was inappropriate to stay at 37’s place while pregnant with Jay’s baby, I wasn't going to be at his place regularly any more. This means I didn't see him for several weeks and, when I did see him, the thing he had wanted to say was never brought up. There were other things to talk about, like my decision to move back to California…

 
 This is Spencer, the traveling gnome. He was a much better road trip partner than Jay was on the way home...

This is Spencer, the traveling gnome. He was a much better road trip partner than Jay was on the way home...

 

I asked him, years later, if he recalled what he had wanted to say. He told me to let sleeping dogs lie. I like to think I know what he'd wanted to say. I am pretty certain my plan to move stopped him from saying it. But it was part of my decision. I wasn't going to ruin things for him, just because I'd made a bad choice. Again, I didn't even ask him… Looking back, it seems that things could have been different. At this point, the world may never know…

 

“Like a big black cloud coming down…”  

 

I probably listened to that soundcloud widget playing the song for 5 days straight, nothing else. I was sorting out these thoughts and emotions. I was trying to put my walls down so I could actually feel the emotions. At the end of the week, I thought I'd sorted things out for myself. I thought I had moved through my convictions. I carried on with life as normal. 

 
 Summer Gods Tour - June 16, 2017 - Charlotte Metro Amphitheatre, Charlotte, NC

Summer Gods Tour - June 16, 2017 - Charlotte Metro Amphitheatre, Charlotte, NC

 

June 16, 2017 - I find myself standing in a sea of people high off of Summer Gods. The night is winding down. 2 songs to go and my first show will be over. 

I flew out to North Carolina for this show at the urging of a new friend. He and another friend would be attending both NC shows that weekend and talked me into coming along. He ended up not going at all, but that's another story. In any case, I was 3 hours south of 37. I had let him know I was coming out and he considered coming down (we hadn't seen each other in 6 years) but that didn't work out either - and I'm glad. 

“Alright Caroline” starts to play, permeating the humid evening air. It hit me like a ton of bricks. All those walls I thought I'd torn down - I could feel them rising again. In this sea of faces, I was anxious and alone. I wanted to enjoy it, and on a certain level I did, but mostly I was just relieved when it ended. It strikes a (minor) chord in me. It makes me nervous. While no one in the crowd noticed, he certainly would have and I don't think I'd have been ready to face the intensity of that song and him at the same time.

 

“It's gonna take a long time to grow young again…”

 

I heard it again the next night. It was easier, because I was expecting it, but still a hard hitter. Of course, listening to a recording (while I'm ever aware of my emotional resistance) is like cake now after getting hit with it live. Sometimes it wells up in me but as more of an undertone, sometimes I'm a little numb and it plays right through without my giving it much thought, and sometimes it's just like any other song from my favorite band and I own every note to the finish. Obviously, I'm still working through it (and a lot of other things), but it's all been good. I'm growing young again.  

 

“I never claimed to understand you, but I feel you.”

 

While my experience with this song is only coming up on its first year, this song is over 20 years old now. Yet, we still don't know much about its history outside of speculation. The origins of the song are highly debated. Some believe it's a personal account, others buy that it was written about a friend. Maybe it has a literary basis, like some other songs by Third Eye Blind. Maybe it's complete fiction. But, to Caroline - whether she's real as the subject of this song, or if she is real because this storyline is personally relatable in some way - I have a few things to say to you. First, that was a bitch move. But, also, I feel you. I feel you. And, while there are some things you can not mend, I hope you grow young in spite of them. It's gonna be alright…

 
beach.jpg
 
 
 

Sabrina Ellis

Sabrina Ellis

Interview: Ryan Spitzer

Interview: Ryan Spitzer

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