It must have been important, if I was being taken out of class for this.
Oh no! Not again. What did I do now?
I wasn’t in trouble, not in the usual sense of the term. I just wasn’t trying hard enough, I guess, or so I was lead to believe.
I needed to focus. Why didn’t I want to go out for recess and play with my friends? Why wasn’t I putting up my hand and participating in class?
I should have been in heaven. After two years, I was finally reunited with my best friend. This year I had all my friends in my class. Everything should have been perfect, but everything was going wrong.
These little talks were expected to inspire me to try harder, I suppose, but until a real diagnosis could be offered to explain my behaviours, I was considered falling behind and possibly unable to keep up.
I’d done well, these past six years, but maybe trying to remain in school with my sighted peers was just not working out anymore.
It’s the quality or state of being perfect.
Freedom from fault or defeat, flawlessness.
The quality or state of being saintly.
You know how it is said that nobody’s perfect?
I know we can all relate. We know we can never achieve it, but we keep trying, we keep on hoping anyway.
“Run another lap, once more around the school yard.”
“Get up. It’s not good for your system to do that. You should remain standing, for your muscles.”
My gym teacher barked his orders at me, but all I could feel was the cool damp grass against my cheek, right in the place I had collapsed, after running laps had taken every ounce of energy I possessed. I couldn’t move. I felt near death. I was failing.
It’s been twenty years since “Jagged Little Pill” was released.
Check out the guest post I wrote for a music blog, just last weekend, to find out why “Perfect” became my ultimate favourite of all the songs on Alanis’s breakout album:
Let’s go back there, to the mid nineties: 1995/96 to be exact and my failure to do anything right, no matter how hard I tried.
People didn’t do it on purpose. They didn’t intend to pummel me with expectations and demands on my energy and on my abilities. They wanted me to be a part of my class and the year, to get good grades and thrive socially, but I was barely keeping my head above water. It was a year of confusion and I lived it in a fog of fear and stress and pain.
I was twelve years old when I first heard it. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard, right up there with albums from Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Sheryl Crow. These female singer song writers were my idols, my soundtracks to the decade, with all of its ups and downs.
I wondered what had happened to her, why she was so angry, not having experienced anything close to what she seemed to be describing. Romantic love was not yet a concept I could imagine.
She starts the song saying she wishes nothing but the best for him, rumoured to be Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) from Full House, but I couldn’t actually believe it.
I’m here to remind you of the mess you left when you went away.
You seem very well. Things look peaceful. I’m not quite as well. I thought you should know.
It’s so conversational sounding. Yet, so powerful in its raw emotions.
Now, I understand that feeling of betrayal, at the idea of someone you once loved moving on with someone else.
I want you to know, I’m happy for you. I wish nothing but, the best, for you both.
And every time you speak her name, does she know how you told me you’d hold me until you die, till you die, but you’re still alive.
Such a roller coaster of emotions that I had yet to experience.
All I knew, in 1996, was that the song had a swear word that, most times, was cut out. Ah, aw, to be young and innocent.
You oughta know. You learn.
I would learn, eventually, yes. I would learn.
You live. You learn.
You love. You learn.
You cry. You Learn. You lose. You learn.
You bleed. You learn. You scream. You learn.
I would bleed and scream and cry. Hundreds of needles. Multiple surgeries.
In this song, she specifically uses the words “jagged little pill”. I was having to take a lot of pills in the nineties, literally, but I would one day learn the metaphorical swallowing of life’s difficult pills she was referring to.
I would live. I would love. I would lose.
Loss of love would be one of those difficult pills to swallow.
Alanis must have encountered a lot of sexist treatment, but from the sounds of this iconic album, she stood up for herself, no problem.
Her catholic background, growing up in Ottawa, in Canada all make their appearances, in and amongst her thoughts on men, irony, and pills, as jagged as they sometimes are.
Songs ranged from angry feminist rants, to religious reflection, to sad musings.
What’s the matter, Mary Jane. Tell me. Please be honest, Mary Jane. Tell me.”
In my own head, when I would listen, I would change the name of Mary Jane in the song to Kerry Lynn.
It’s a long way down, on this roller coaster.
It felt like a roller coaster, but it’s funny how much music can help and just how much it sticks with you, bringing back the memories it was there to first witness as they happened.
I learned about irony from Alanis, even if the song is a little much. It’s a classic, all these years later still.
Good thing I learned more about what irony means in English class.
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed.
I’m lost but I’m hopeful.
I feel drunk but I’m sober.
I care but I’m restless.
I’m here but I’m really gone.
And what it comes down to, is I haven’t got it all figured out just yet.
I’m green but I’m wise.
I’m sad but I’m laughing.
I’m brave but I’m chicken shit.
But what it comes down to, is that nobody’s got it all figured out just yet.
What it all comes down to my friends, is that we’re gonna be fine, fine, fine.
These flip flopping emotions were, to me, highly relatable.
I was, most often during those years, putting on the bravest of faces through the pain inside. People began to praise my bravery in the shadow of the medical problems I was dealing with, but deep down I felt that chicken shit thing she mentions, from that first time the doctor said the words “needle” and “surgery”.
Her sad and raging made way for the more hopeful and upbeat.
So maybe she had found acceptance and happiness after all, through writing Jagged Little Pill, harmonica playing not withstanding.
Maybe love and peace were possible, throughout all the turmoil and the growing pains.
This gave me hope that things were going to get better.
Last but not least, it had a secret song! How cool was that, back when I was newly discovering CDs? You had to be patient, if you waited after the last song ended, and there it was.
I wouldn’t truly understand her songs about love and relationships, not until much later, but now I sure can.
If you never heard this one, never had the patience to wait after the album was technically done, I highly recommend you check it out.
It is full of longing and desperation. Sure, it may be a stockerish song at heart, but it is how we all feel, at one time or another, whether we’d admit it out loud or not like she did.
To listen to the album, in its entirety, go here:
Thank you, Alanis and JLP, for getting me through the nineties and the hard stuff. You’re still helping.