It’s Time: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same?

 

I doubt that whoever wrote the Imagine Dragons’ “It’s Time” thought explicitly of growing up when writing this song. But whenever i hear it, as a senior in college I can’t help but be reminded of what it means to change and grow up. The song concerns much more than that, of course. Just look at the first verse:

So this is what you meant
When you said that you were spent
And now it’s time to build from the bottom of the pit
Right to the top
Don’t hold back
Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check

Someone has been spent, been used up, is perhaps dead. In using the word “meant,” the singer addresses someone else as if that person no longer existed. At the very least the singer has learned something from his friend, for he also now realizes what it means to be spent from his own experience. He has clearly lost something: perhaps he has lost his friend; or perhaps he has gone through some other trauma; or perhaps all this and more, for he must “build from the bottom of the pit.” He must work from the ground up, from scratch. It’s not easy, and it takes effort and time. He can’t “hold back,” and he’s taking time away from other things–“giving the academy a rain check”–because this new endeavour is more important. I don’t know what the academy would refer to here–academies are places of learning, but perhaps his academy isn’t helping him learn the things he needs to at this point in his life.

To connect it to my case: I’ve grown up and, especially through my experiences at college, have come to better understand the lessons my parents and others have been trying to teach me all my life. I’m literally leaving an academy, a place of learning, at the end of this school year, and I’ll be learning new and different things. To be honest, I’m ready to get out of academics and see what it’s like to take on responsibilities outside schoolwork. But I’m also a bit nervous about it. It’s going to be new, and different, and difficult.

I don’t ever wanna let you down
I don’t ever wanna leave this town

This guy seems to be experiencing similar qualms. He doesn’t want to let his friend down, and seems reluctant to leave what he knows; I don’t want to let my friends or my family down, and in some ways I’m scared to leave what I’ve known, both because I don’t want to lose what good I have and because I don’t know what’s in the future. Still, only I can choose my life’s direction, and whether I want to make the decision or not I have to do so.

Yet as much as all of us must go through these changes and choose our own paths, the singer emphasizes that we must still remain ourselves and not . The refrain highlights this well:

It’s time to begin, isn’t it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I’ll admit
I’m just the same as I was
Now don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am

He has to start each new part of his life–“it’s time to begin, isn’t it?.” Each time, he gets “a little bigger,” learns a little bit more, grows a little more–but in the end, “he’s just the same as he was.” He’s still himself, at bottom, and he refuses to change himself in essentials. This may be only a smaller point in the song, but it is nonetheless an important one. Growing up and moving on does not mean abandoning who you are. Does each person have faults and flaws that ought to be fixed or worked on? Of course! But no one has to relinquish those traits which make them distinctively them in order to change for the better, and they shouldn’t.

Now, I don’t have as much of an idea of what this next verse means:

So this is where you fell
And I am left to sell
The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell
Right to the top
Don’t look back
Turning the rags and giving the commodities a rain check

The fact that the person he addresses “fell” further implies that he’s lost that other, whether through death or some change in life–moving, a falling out. But when he says he’s left to sell, what does he mean? Is he left to sell himself as a replacement for his friend in some way? The meaning of this remains unclear to me. The next line, though, is rather apt in some ways: whatever kind of selling he’s doing, it’s like hell. But often enough to get what we want, to get a good, and certainly from a Christian perspective to reach Heaven, we have to suffer. The little bridge expresses how that suffering might feel, especially how painful it is to leave the comfortable, familiar parts of our lives behind:

This road never looked so lonely
This house doesn’t burn down slowly
To ashes, to ashes

We have to let things go, and sometimes (often) we have to travel on our own. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer points out so eloquently in The Cost of Discipleship, in the end it’s you and God: you have choose to follow Him or not. No one else can make that choice or any of your choices for you. And when responsibility hits, it hits fast: you must choose, you can’t wait for your old life to “burn slowly” away when it’s already in ashes around you. But sometimes it takes a while to get over that fear of choosing, of the unknown, of being alone in responsibility for oneself and one’s actions. The same goes for growing up. But what I find most comforting is that I’m never really alone, and that even though I’m ultimately responsible for the choices I make and sometimes that’s scary, I have God, my family, and my friends to encourage me. So whenever the road looks lonely, I’ve got people I can count on.

Thus the song “It’s TIme” describes what it’s like to move on, to leave something behind in order to better learn who you are and what you’re meant to do; and that in the end, no matter what changes you experience in life, it’s important to hold on to your identity and not to lose yourself.

So to everyone out there who’s going through a period of great change, of whatever kind: hang in there!

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