There is no way I can listen to this song and not get crazy emotional. Whatever you might think of Eminem, if you really listen to these lyrics you have to acknowledge that there is something really beautiful about this song. It speaks to so many truths and experiences everybody has had, and that’s why it’s the most powerful song he ever wrote.
Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment,
would you capture it or just let it slip?
Those are the opening words to “Lose Yourself,” not rapped or sung but spoken sincerely and passionately. They grab me and drag me into the intensity of his brilliance. Say what you will about Eminem, but he can sure as hell rhyme. Whenever I see him perform onstage I am impressed and my admiration for him as an artist grows. I’m not his biggest fan, nor have I always been a huge fan of most rap, but there are particular songs or artists who speak to me. When “My Name Is” came out in 1999 I really tried to not like it, but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t a great song with a funny video! Then I saw “The Real Slim Shady,” and goddammit, I loved that shit, too. “Without Me” came out a couple years later and was on repeat in my car on a tape where I recorded it for 45 straight minutes. (Read my blog about it here.) Maybe I didn’t pay much attention to “Lose Yourself” because it wasn’t funny like the other stuff I liked.
Eminem and I are the same age, and when I hear about this song I think about that and about how many of our cultural references are the same even though our childhoods were completely different. What I admire about anyone who succeeds at whatever it is they are passionate about is how they don’t let bad shit and failure stop them from reaching their goals. Growing up in a trailer park in Detroit with a fucked up family gave Marshall the motivation to make something of himself. A white kid trying to make it in the rap game? That seemed impossible, but as many times as he got booed off stage he got back out there and he kept writing. That’s a tenacity I wish I had when I was younger. Em got big when he was about 27; when I was 27, I was a coffee shop manager and college drop-out who wrote a lot and had dreams of fame and fortune, but I allowed myself to get sidetracked by constant rejection letters from publishers and broken hearts and drinking.
The soul’s escaping, through this hole that is gaping
This world is mine for the taking
Make me king, as we move toward a new world order
A normal life is boring, but superstardom’s close to post mortem
I read a lot of interviews with people I don’t know much about or am not a fan of, because I am interested in people and the way they think, the way they challenge themselves and succeed. I don’t always agree with the sacrifices they make—Nicki Minaj, who is at the point in her career where she can do whatever the fuck she wants, missed Thanksgiving with her family because of work, something I could never imagine doing—but I do respect those who do not let anyone or anything get in their way. “Lose Yourself” is about those struggles and that undeniable and overwhelming passion to do something better.
Success is my only motherfucking option, failure’s not
Most of us have given up at some point, not because we are losers or think we don’t have what it takes, but because we let fear get the best of us. I can’t say that I have ever consciously given up on my goals, but maybe getting so distracted for so many years by shitty jobs and dumbass guys and partying was a way of convincing myself that that’s all life was meant to be. In my teens and twenties I was constantly writing, mostly fiction about things I wanted to happen someday—mad romances and world domination, for example—because I didn’t have any real life experiences yet to write about. Once I started having exciting adventures, I lost myself in them. I figured that they would eventually be great source material for my writing, but in my late twenties and thirties I did very little writing. I missed lots of opportunities during those years, and I try to not be mad at myself for that.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
No matter how old you are or at what point in your life you are emotionally, financially, career-wise, or anything else, I believe it’s not too late to create the life you want and deserve. For many years I settled for jobs I hated because it was easier than trying to do better. I did not devote myself 100% to my writing. To be a writer, one must write every day, no exceptions. To do anything you want to do, you have to be 100% committed to it, 100% maniacal about your desire for it, and nothing can stand in your way. There have been times when I worked three jobs and only had day off every few months, and I used that as an excuse for why I wasn’t able to write. I’ve had anxiety and depression for whole life, I had addiction issues in my twenties and thirties, and there were times when those things fueled my writing. But in the years since I’ve been sober and I’ve had more clarity about everything, my anxiety has been more present because I’m not drinking my way through it. That anxiety has often overtaken me and I feel helpless against it. But I know that’s bullshit. There’s a reason I was so drunk for so long, and there’s a reason I’m not drunk anymore. No more excuses.
Feet, fail me not, this may be the only opportunity that I got
There is a lot of music I discovered well after it was popular, and this another example of a song that I wonder how my life would be different had I been living with it for all these years. And while I certainly could have benefitted from the message of this song in 2002 when I had gotten fired from a job I hated and was still dealing with a painful ending to a fucked up relationship, I think I was meant to hear it now, at age 42, after having been fired from many other jobs I hated, after having my heart broken by many other men, and after having spent so much of my life in a fog of depression and booze. I was meant to really listen to it now, a time when I have a true sense of urgency about my writing, when I am dedicated to being happier and healthier, when I have worked so hard for almost 8 years to get my shit together. Eminem has been criticized and arrested and in rehab, he’s been number one and he’s been out of the scene, but he always stays true to who he is and what he wants to do as an artist. Eminem had talent before Dr. Dre discovered him, and he’s the one who worked his ass off to get to the top. There are plenty of talentless fools out there who are rich and famous, and for so many of them that is all success is. Whatever your talent is, whatever your interest is, you have to define success for yourself. I’m a writer even if I’m not making a living at it, because that’s not what it’s about. I want to be happy with myself. That is the success I want to lose myself in.
You can do anything you set your mind to, man