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If You Follow Every Dream, You Might Get Lost

Last Sunday, my Fiance and I were on our way back from a mini weekend vacation and decided to put on the Neil Young Greatest Hits.  I’ll tell you what, if you want to listen to some heartfelt and inspiring songs, listen to Neil Young.  I like just about every Neil Young song.  I haven’t come across one that I haven’t liked as of yet.  But on the way home from our vacation last weekend, one song in particular caught my attention.  The song is called “The Painter.”

The song itself is about a painter, who spent most of her life painting.  She was an ambitious girl, who took up every opportunity that came her way.  Unfortunately, she spent so much time wrapped up in her work that she missed out on all the important things in life.  The song can have multiple meanings, but I found three that really stood out for me.

1. Don’t let your career get in the way of the important things in life.

“I keep my friends eternally.  We leave our tracks in the sound.  Some of them are with me now.  Some of them can’t be found.”  What I think Neil is trying to say is that some of his friends (the painter, in particular) got so involved in their work that they forgot about their friends and family.  The painter was once his friend, but she got lost in her work and she’s nowhere to be found.

2. Don’t let every opportunity get in the way of your ultimate goal.

The main chorus of the song goes like this.  “It’s a long road behind me.  It’s a long road ahead.  If you follow every dream, you might get lost.”  You may have come a long way in your career, but there’s always much more to come in life.  It’s important to remember what your ultimate life goal is and to make sure that nothing gets in the way of that.  If your ultimate goal is to have the opportunity to spend time with your friends and family, you have to be able to find that point where work and life balance out.

3. If you fail in your career, get right back up and try again.

Toward the end of the song, Neil Young says, “She did the work of too many.  But in the end, she fell down before she got up again.”  You can relate this line to the idea of Professional Diversification by saying if you get fired or laid off, don’t get discouraged.  Take it as an opportunity to get back up and try something new.

So listen to the song and tell me what you think the song means.  Like I said, there’s obviously more than one meaning, so share yours in the comments section below.

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  1. Mark
    August 28, 2015 at 4:12 PM

    The Prairie Wind album was written whilst Neil was dealing with health issues, a brain aneurism. I always view it as a tying up loose ends exercise. When he says `some of them can`t be found` I think he refers to friends who have died, many of whom he has referred to in his earlier works, particularly on `Tonight`s the night`

  2. Roger Felix
    September 25, 2016 at 8:37 PM

    It’s “she did the work of two men” not “…too many”. Just read Neil’s lyrics that come with the album. Neil wouldn’t rhyme that sketchily — he’s too good of a songwriter.

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