Dear Sara: An Open Letter to Sara Bareilles about her book “Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song”

06th February, 2017. 1:38pm

sounds-like-me-9781476727776_hr

Photo c/o: SimonAndSchuster.com

As I was reading Sara Bareilles‘s memoir, Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song I thought a review would be unfair. This is a collection of stories of her life, not some fictional story, and to judge her based on that is just wrong. So, instead, I decided to write what I have to say in the form of short letters (inspired by the chapter, Beautiful Girl).

Introduction:

Dear Sara,

First of all, nice Polaroid of little Sara beside the “Content” page. I was THIS close to pinching those rosy cheeks.😊

Anyway, great first line, too! No, wait. That’s wrong. Great first five sentences; very catchy, and yes, it does sound like you. (Heh!) I first read the Introduction right after I finish my food while me and my brother’s family were still in the restaurant for dinner. I was that eager to read your book. But I didn’t get to finish the entire section because we had to leave. I read it again when we were at the Power Mac Center (our version of the Apple Store) while they were deciding on which iPad to buy and yay, I finally managed to finish the entire chapter!

But I got interrupted again, so when I finally got home, I decided to just start all over again and read them for the third time. I know, I’m crazy, but I feel elated in experiencing yet again the joy of reading a new book for the first time.

And I incredibly enjoyed the intro, and I internally cheered for you for finishing the Introduction page. However, I must say I am a little disappointed that you didn’t choose “Whatever It Is, It’s Not What You’re Thinking” and/or “I’m Not Going To Write You A Book” as the title. I was rooting for those two titles.

Love,
Jhack


Once Upon Another Time:

Dear Sara,

Reading this warms my heart because like you, our relatives also live next door, a whole lot of them in fact (7 families) but it also reminds me about a painful memory as a kid. I can relate to your stories about growing up with cousins and performing in front of the entire clan on special occasions and just being together every day, especially during summer. I was closest to my cousin as well, although her name is not Christy, but Kris (we call her Evert here at home but she’s a lesbian and she prefers to be called “Kris” –her full name is Kris Evert– but fuck her, I’m not gonna change what her childhood nickname is just because she decides she was a man trapped in a woman’s body). She and I spent most of our time together up until she left for another country last year. But most of all, I, like you, went through something when I was a kid that changed my life forever.

jack0001

Me (right) and my cousin Kris Evert (middle) dancing to whatever’s on the radio.
Just another normal day at my grandparent’s home when we were kids.

No, I was never the fat kid, nor my parents got divorced. I was actually a bubbly kid, and I always entertain our visitors, but when I turned 11 years old, I received my first “love letter.” It was 1995, the summer before I turned sixth grade when a boy in our neighborhood threw a crumpled piece of paper at me with the words “I Love You” in it. I was repulsed when I read the note because how rude of him, throwing something at me, right? Since he was with my cousin at the time he did it, I walked towards them and threw his note back at him and stomped my way back home. The next day, he handed me a proper letter asking if he could court me. I thought that was really sweet but I knew I’m not interested so I, the idiot girl who likes to write a lot since she was born, wrote back and kindly told him I don’t want to be courted because we were still too young. Two days later, he wrote again saying that he understood but can he please have a picture of me “as a souvenir?” (What am I, a tourist spot?) I didn’t give him any photo, nor did I write back anymore because there’s not much else to say. I was so sure I did the right thing, until one Sunday when I overheard my Mom asking my Dad to talk to the boy and tell him to leave me alone. I felt betrayed and so sad I spent 15 minutes in the bathroom crying because they didn’t even ask me about it before jumping into conclusions. My grandma even told me, at age 11, that I will be the first among 13 cousins to get married. Because of that, I changed. I stopped entertaining guests. I stayed quiet and started pouring my heart out on my journals because it was the only thing that hears my thoughts without judging me. I distanced myself against my family, and started keeping things to myself.

And you were right, you don’t ever completely shed those feelings because they’re painful, but like you also said, it did teach me a lot as well; empathy, okay probably not humor (you’re definitely waaaaaaaay funnier than me), and compassion. But most of all, and the most important thing I agree with you with this section is that writing helps soothe oneself. Obviously I didn’t turn out to be a rockstar like you, although I found love for dancing when I was 13 and actively participated in our dance troupe up until after college, but I agree that putting yourself out there on stage and baring your soul in a different way is a great way to find acceptance that will eventually take you somewhere special.

Love,
Jhack


Gravity:

Dear Sara,

Remember my tale about the boy from our neighborhood? Yeah, that traumatized me when it comes to love. I’m 31, and I haven’t even been in a relationship. But I can relate to Gravity on another level. In a deeper level.

I first heard Gravity when Kayla and Kupono performed the song on the show “So You Think You Can Dance.” I love that performance up to this day, and if you haven’t seen it, please go and watch their performance. It was brilliantly choreographed by the amazing Mia Michaels and still, to this day, remains one of the best routines that was ever done on the show. In SYTYCD, Gravity was interpreted by showing the female dancer being constantly pulled back with something that continues to bring her down, no matter how hard she tries to escape it. They used addiction to drugs, but it spoke to me on another level.

Mom and J - 25th Wedding Anniv

Probably my last photo with Mom.
Taken in 2002 during Mom and Dad’s 25th Wedding Anniversary (a few months before she died)

A couple of months after my Mom died of Colon Cancer in 2003, my Dad started having girlfriends. That’s normal, I know, but the sad part is he also started pulling away from us. I was 17, I was the youngest, and I just started college, and here he was, acting like a fucking teenager, having girlfriends that are either half his age, or a year younger than me. He spent our money on girls and because we live in one compound, his siblings confronted him about his behavior. They fought almost every week. He got angry because they were meddling with his own life, so he moved out and lived with his then twenty-year-old girlfriend. It felt like we lost both our parents.

For months, me and my siblings (I have one brother and one sister) found solace with one another. I continued writing, even writing him letters sometimes, and listened to music to ease the pain I was feeling. I even called the radio and went on-air to share my story because I was that sad. I hated what he did and what he was still doing to our family, and most of the time I just want to give up and leave him and live alone already because I feel so trapped in this black hole he created around our family. I didn’t because he’s my Dad and I still love and respect him even if he’s an asshole. Besides, my sister still lives with us. So I told myself that I gotta try to be strong for me and my sister.

A lot of people kept asking me why I’m still single and at first I thought that maybe it was because of something I experienced back when I was a kid but after Gravity, I realized that that was because I didn’t exactly have a nice example to want to settle just yet. I didn’t know back then, but now that I’m older, I realized that it was him who was constantly pulling me back. That, no matter how much I want to get away and free myself of his negativity and bullshit, I still find myself back in his arms. It’s tragic, I know, but I guess it’s what you do for family. You stay with them no matter how much of an ass they are being to you.

Love,
Jhack


Love Song:

Dear Sara,

I was a communications graduate like you, and during my early years in college, I was told that I would never be able to work on a popular TV network or my favorite local magazine. I almost believed them, and thought I would never be able to find my voice again, so I stopped writing and focused on dancing, school, and theater (I joined the university theater group because apparently I’m an overachiever who thinks I’m not busy enough with my studies and dance troupe so why not add one more extra curricular activity to stress myself out even more?)

MEG May 2005 cover

MEG May 2005 cover
(where my debut article was published)

But like my Mom, I’m also a hard worker, so I studied hard and tried my absolute best in school. During my junior year in college, we were asked to write a story for our Feature Writing class and decided to write my story about my childhood and my relationship with my Mom. It took me a week to finish the article, because I kept crying every time I relive my painful past, but eventually I finished it. My teacher gave me a high grade, but it wasn’t until I shared my story to a friend who was working for my favorite local teen glossy (we met through the magazine’s Friendster account because she was managing it) that I realized I can actually write. She told me that she showed my assignment to the Editor-in-Chief and said that they wanted to publish my story. But two months before my debut article came out, my friend texted me and asked if I want to actually start writing for the magazine. She said they were beating a deadliest deadline and the EIC suggested me. She said, and I quote, “why don’t you ask Jhack? She can write.” So at 19 years old, and couple of months before we were even supposed to do on-the-job training, I became an intern for the same magazine that people told me I will never be part of. I was also hired as an intern on the said TV station that people said I don’t have a chance of being accepted at months after my internship with the magazine ended. This was my “Love Song” moment. I know, it’s not exactly like your experience, but like what you’ve said in this chapter, doing something you love again (and having the right people pushing you to the right direction) reminds me that I can do it and, more importantly why and how I want to do it.

Love,
Jhack


Beautiful Girl:

Dear Sara,When you're feeling down, I want you to take a look at this woman staring back at you. She's beautiful, and she can do this.

Dear Sara,
When you’re feeling down, I want you to take a look at this woman staring back at you. She’s beautiful, and she can do this.

Dear Sara,

You are beautiful. No I wasn’t talking about your physical appearance, although you’re actually pleasing to the eyes as well. I was referring to your soul and your entire being. It’s funny, because even though I love writing so much, I can barely remember writing letters to myself. Usually, I write letters to other people, but not myself. When I was in high school, I used to write letters to my Mom and tell her things I couldn’t say in person because I always knew they were going to judge me anyway (I gave those letters to her during one of her last birthdays with us), but most of the time, when I write in my journal, I don’t write “Dear Jhack” because I thought that was overrated. Now I’m jealous. I should’ve done that as well.

But Sara, I had to take a break in between reading this chapter because it breaks my heart what you went through between touring and being a judge on Sing-off. I watched that show. Not every episode (sorry!), but I now remember that the few episodes I’ve seen of you doesn’t really seem like you. Your eyes were distant. Your thoughts were elsewhere. I didn’t care much back then, but it dawned on me now how broken you were during this time. I wish I could turn back the time and hug you and tell you it’s going to be okay.

In your YouTube videos about making the record, The Blessed Unrest, you said that you don’t need a radio hit so bad that you’re willing to do anything for it. You said that the integrity of your art is way more important for you and I highly commend you for that. Not everyone in the cruel industry you are in thinks like that. Please don’t ever change. It is also in those videos that I saw how moving to New York turn your life upside down, and I know you didn’t include Manhattan in this book, but after reading this chapter, that song brings a whole new meaning to me. You sound so sad in the studio version of Manhattan, and now I know why. You might have felt like shit during those times but I want you to know that The Blessed Unrest is one of your best work thus far. I love that record so much!

And you’re right. You are doing the best you can. Like you said, “Fuck ’em.” Fuck them haters and everyone trying to bring your confidence down. Listen to yourself. No, not that Sara who agrees with them and pulls you back to your childhood. The other one. That little voice who wrote Love Song and Gravity. The one who keeps fighting despite all the bullshit she is going through. Keep going. You don’t know me, but I’m very proud of you, too.

Love,
Jhack


Red:

Dear Sara,

Sorry I used my sock as a bookmark while I get a cereal bar and marshmallows for breakfast. I took a four-hour sleep after reading “Beautiful Girl” because your sadness makes me sad, too. And also, I paused to watch Lady Gaga’s halftime show. But don’t worry. That sock wasn’t as dirty as you think… I hope.

Anyway. I know you chose Red for this chapter, but all throughout I was just thinking of Hercules. As I was reading this chapter, the line “from on my knees make me a Hercules” keep playing in my mind and Sara, I want you to know that you are. You are strong, and brave, and real. Don’t you ever forget that.

Btw, are you still doing drugs? Please say no. They’re bad for your health and will make you feel shittier. Drinking is okay, but please stop taking drugs. You’re too precious for those stuff.

Love,
Jhack


Many the Miles:

Dear Sara,

I’m not a Taylor Swift fan, but I have seen that performance you were talking about and holy shit, I felt so bad watching that performance I wished I could’ve orbed myself there and put my hands on whoever’s-in-charge-of-your-mic-pack’s neck. It must’ve been so hard for you not to be able to hear yourself but just like your song, you showed everyone how big your brave was and fuck you-ed the feedback, found the right note and sang your heart out because you’re that good. And you were amazing ’til the end! (Mariah Carey should watch your performance and take notes for the next time she experience this herself).

I love Jessica’s story, too. It moved me because, like her, your songs also saved me from getting sucked into that black hole that is depression. It wasn’t Hold My Heart, it was another song (more on that later), but it was listening to your songs that reminded me not to give up and to just keep fighting.

I have never seen you perform live and I gotta be honest, I am completely jealous of those who have seen you live. I once saw a video of you talking to a Filipino audience who flew in to watch your concert in Singapore and laughed at your banter but deep inside, I was secretly screaming profanities because I was angry and sad that you’ve had a couple of tours already and skipped our lovely country. In one of your interviews you even said you were coming to Manila, but that never come to fruition. What happened Sara? Please come perform here soon.😢

Sometimes I wonder why you’re so underrated. That, in spite of being constantly nominated in the Grammy’s, you are still being put to the sidelines by the masses. Your songs aren’t played as often in the radio as it should be. Your singles don’t top the charts as high as the other artists and it makes me mad. But other times, I think that that’s okay. The ones who loves your music and continuously supports you are so lucky to know your beautiful soul through your music, and I think that’s a nice privilege to have. Of course I would love for you to rake awards left and right, and I will fucking celebrate when it finally happens, but for now what we have is enough. I love that you remain true to your art, and how lucky we are to be hearing them straight from your talented ass. (And damn, you are so fucking talented it annoys me sometimes!)

Love,
Jhack


Brave:

Dear Sara,

At the time I was reading “Brave” I was in the bank paying my credit card bill and trying to update my account because it became dormant for inactivity. This was the money that my parents (my Mom, actually) left me that I never bothered thinking about all my life because I always thought I don’t have the right to know about them, let alone think about them. And I had to briefly stop reading because the teller was asking me to sign something and why am I telling you this? You certainly don’t need to know this shit.

I’m hungry, Sara. I’m fucking hungry. It’s 2pm now and I still haven’t had lunch, and I think I’m gonna have to reread this chapter later because all I could think of right now is mushroom soup and mashed potatoes. I know I have something brilliant to say, but the words on the pages went swimmingly by and as I write this I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember what you just said in the last few pages. But that’s okay. I can get hungry for the next hour if I have to. Finishing the book is more important.

30 minutes later and I’m now standing in line at KFC waiting for my turn to order. I had to walk three blocks from the bank because the public transportation union decided to be a brat and conduct a strike… on a Monday. As I was walking I was trying not to laugh because Sweet As Whole was playing in my iPod and, you know, people might think I’m crazy if they see a girl laughing while walking? Did anyone tell you how awesome that song is? It’s my favorite FU song because while it says that that guy’s an asshole and that girl’s a bitch, it’s also telling you to be the bigger person, fuck them and just let it go. But I’m really, really hungry. I’m hungry and sleepy and tired and idk why but I suddenly felt the urge to laugh out loud.

Okay it’s my turn now. Give me ten minutes. I’ll just down my food really quickly and go back to you, okay?

So Brave. I first heard of the song when the lyric video came out. I loved it. I downloaded the song. I listened to it many times until I grew tired of the song and moved to the next track. But the message of the song didn’t register to me until much, much later, when I needed to be reminded to be brave myself. It was when I saw a video of you singing the song with a little boy who was battling cancer. It was then that dawned on me how selfish I was for feeling the way I feel when this young boy is actually fighting for a chance to live. So I sucked it all up and decided I would get my shit together. I would be brave, brave enough to face the challenge I’m facing right now because I’m a woman and dammit I’ve been through tougher shit before. I can certainly get through this again.

Brave Enough was my favorite of all the tours that you’ve done. I think that it was in that particular tour that showed your artistry, how connected you are to the audience, and how talented you are. I know you’ve heard that word a million times before and these words probably won’t even reach your brain, but I’m still going to say it: YOU ARE TALENTED. YOU ARE AN EXCELLENT MUSICIAN. YOU ARE BRAVE.

Love,
Jhack


She Used To Be Mine:

Dear Sara,

I couldn’t remember how She Used To Be Mine landed on my YouTube history because at the time you released the album my mind and entire being was floating elsewhere, but I remember exactly how it made me feel the first time I listened to it about a month ago: I wanna die. I wanna die because it hit me in many ways no other song ever did before.

This was a couple of days after New Year’s. Yup, just this year. I knew that you were slated to write a musical and I was happy for you, but I never paid any attention because I was busy pretending to be brave. But one Saturday evening, I decided I would watch your album release performance for ‘What’s Inside’ without any idea what’s in store for me. It was the eve of the feast of our town’s patron saint and everyone at home is outside watching local shows and drinking. Me on the other hand, sleepless for almost 24 hours, stayed home and put on the show at 10pm with full speakers and home theater on. I was so glad I was alone at that time because when She Used To Be Mine came on and you started singing, I was a wrecking ball. You were just singing the lines “most of these days I don’t recognize me” when the tears started flowing. I never cried for a song that fast for as long as I can remember, and I thought that the song made me emotional only because I’ve been awake for almost a day. I was wrong. I played the song the next day and I was still a mess, and I don’t know why this song makes me want to rip my own heart out, crush it, jump off the building and set myself on fire all at the same time. It was just that bad.

And then one morning, as I was in the shower crying because the song played on my iPod again, it dawned on me why: I can see myself in the song. I was never pregnant, nor married, but I could see a huge chunk of myself in the song and I hope you’re still reading because you’re about to know why.

Me and Dad

Me and my Dad

New Year’s 2017 was the worst for me. I live with my Dad, in my parent’s home, where he allowed some whore (aka his current girlfriend–I said whore because the bitch had a son out of wedlock who she wasn’t sure who the father is. If that’s not an indication of one being a slut, I don’t know what is) sleep here for a couple of days (it’s been 6 years). Last December 31, I decided that I will cook since it’s just “me and him” now (my sister migrated to Reno, NV in May). I also wanted to cook because I never cooked for him before because he was always in charge with food. I wanted to surprise him and let him know that I’m not as useless in the kitchen as he think. I also thought I’d be kinder to him since I know the slut and her kids will go home anyway and won’t return ’til the next day, and really, I want to start the new year right (she had 3 kids in the span of staying at our house for 6 years that, as per my Dad, “were not his”). Oh but I was wrong. The bitch stayed. My Tinapa flakes pasta got ignored. My brother decided not to come by anymore like they used to every year. I felt so alone I wanted to kill someone and die at the same time. When I FaceTimed with my brother and sister a couple of hours after the clock strikes 12, I cried. I never cried in front of my siblings when it comes to my Dad because I want them to think I’m brave enough to handle my shit. My sister stayed quiet most of the time, while my brother laughed at me. I fake laughed and make them think I’m fine now, no need to be concerned, but the truth is that thoughts are swirling in my mind if I could actually kill myself tonight. I was so disappointed with my Dad for treating me like shit and me for continuously letting him bring me down (Cue back to “Gravity”). For the next few days, I stayed quiet and ignored him as best as I can. I stopped doing the things I planned on doing. I just about exist because I was that hurt.

When I heard “She Used To Be Mine” I realized that this song reflected exactly what I was going through. I’ve been giving him a chance to change since 2003 and kept hoping one day he will that I lost myself and my life’s purpose in the process. At some point I even asked myself why am I still here, alive. So I tried avoiding the song. Every time it would play on my iPod I would skip it, but most days I failed. I tortured myself by listening to it more often than I should. I also started listening to your other songs, which wasn’t exactly helpful at the time because they were so depressing and it makes me more sad. There were even days when I don’t know what’s making me sad anymore.

I cried to Hercules, to Gravity, Manhattan, and Brave. The string version of King of Anything made me emotional, and found myself tearing up whenever I hear Chasing the Sun, December, and Bright Lights and Cityscapes; Beautiful Girl, Satellite Call, and Parking Lot sent ginormous lumps on my throat, but it wasn’t until I watched your Radio City Music Hall performance of “Come Round Soon” that made me want to off myself. I watched it using my headphones and I was in the midst of crying as you utter the words “but the bullshit you feed me, you miss me, you need me” that I suddenly had a thought about putting those cords around my neck and strangle myself. I remember looking at my window and wondering whether the cord and the metal bars on my window were enough to hold me ’til my last breath, but as you nearly finish the song, I suddenly remember that my Mom was probably watching me from heaven and would certainly kill me if she finds out I was trying to end my life. So I removed the headphone and cried. Instead of letting myself get sucked into darkness, I started writing again.

I write and I listen to your songs even though they make me sad. I listened to them every day; day and night, in the shower, during brunch and dinner; in the car, in the cab, and inside the bus on the way to wherever. Slowly, I found myself loving what I do again by pouring my innermost thoughts in my journal. It also helped when my sister announced they were pregnant, which was when I decided it’s time for a change for real. I would apply for a US Visa so I could visit my sister and help take care of the little peanut once he or she is born. I have a renewed sense of purpose, and I felt stronger and braver because of you and your songs. Your songs inspired me to fight. Your funny banters reminded me to smile and laugh again.

It’s been almost a month now since I started listening to your songs again nonstop and it hasn’t tire me down. I don’t know if I ever will. Maybe I’ll stop and won’t listen to it for the next five years after today. But one thing is for sure, I will forever be grateful of your music. Even though they made me want to kill myself and get sad for no absolute reason, I will still listen to them. You are that great of a songwriter. So thank you, Sara, for saving my life in a weird, musical way.

Love,
Jhack


Epilogue:

Sara Bareilles - Sounds Like Me My Life (So Far) in Song Quotes

This was from another chapter, but I want you to hold on to this when things go hard. I know I will.

Dear Sara,

In your Introduction page, you said that “nobody out there in the world needs this book.” Nobody but you, and you’re right. I don’t need this book. It’s expensive and I should’ve just used that money to buy something more important, like food or clothes, or use it to pay my bills, but if it wasn’t for this book, I wouldn’t have seen not only another deeper and more humane side of you, but a side of me that makes me understand why I connect with your songs so much. And while nobody but you needs this book, I believe that everyone should read this book, SaraB fans or not. People should read your book because I’m pretty sure that they will, at some point, find themselves in your story. I know, because I did.

Before going home today and finish the Epilogue, I dropped by the church. Like you, I’m a (practicing) Catholic, so I lit two candles: one for you and one for me, and a silent prayer for guidance for what lies ahead both our lives. You said you often feel like the ugly, fat girl, well let me tell you. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Inside and out. Please don’t ever change, and never forget that there are people out there who believe in you even if you think you suck and don’t know what you’re doing most of the time.

PS: I know that writing a book is hard, but can you please write a sequel, maybe in ten years time?

KTHXBYE.

Jhack

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