Closer To Fine By The Indigo Girls Reminds Me Of My Own Life

I first heard Closer To Fine by The Indigo Girls when I was 16 and since then, it has always had personal meaning to me. Whether I’m feeling overwhelmed or going through something difficult, this song seems to remind me of how important it is to remember that you are never truly alone.

Closer to Fine is a song that I’ve heard a hundred times, yet I never fully paid attention to its lyrics. It was written by two incredible musicians named Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of The Indigo Girls. As they sing in harmony, they make me feel like my experiences are relatable—like I’m not alone. They remind me I am stronger than I give myself credit for. Through all my own challenges and conflicts, I’ve learned to get through with strength and grace, knowing that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger in some way… And no matter how many times we fall down, we have to learn how to pick ourselves back up again!

Many of my memories are tangled in with music, and when I look back on that time period there’s often a song to help me make sense of it all. In 1998 I wrote down two lines from Closer to Fine that would stick with me for years after: I may be different but I’m still a human being. Being an openly lesbian woman in college was a hard thing to wrap my head around at times; I felt like everyone had already written their assumptions about me, and couldn’t imagine them changing no matter what kind of person I proved myself to be. It took more than just telling people who I am; it took living the life of someone I could be proud of.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains

At the time, I was the only female in an all-male college dormitory. It was extremely difficult for me to fit in, and because the showers were communal and had no stalls, I had to get up early in the morning and shower before everyone else woke up. I never spent much time in the communal areas of my dormitory; I was generally sequestered to my room and was lucky enough to not have a college roommate. It’s been years since those lines were first written, but they’re just as relevant now as they were then. With everything happening in this country right now—both good and bad—songs that remind us of how far we’ve come can’t help but provide comfort.

Thomas Slatin
Hodges Hall Dormitory, Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, USA.

Singer-songwriter Emily Saliers penned Closer To Fine as a song that discusses her experiences growing up as a lesbian with depression and bipolar disorder. Sailers suffered from self-destructive thoughts when she was 14, having considered suicide as an option, but was able to channel those negative feelings into writing music. She has since become both a successful musician as well as an advocate for mental health awareness.

Closer to Fine has so much meaning to me because it reminds me of my own life, I’ve dealt with hardships my whole life and it’s not always easy to get through the day without feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Sometimes it’s just good to know that there are people out there who understand what you’re going through even if they don’t have exactly the same experiences as you do. It’s not often easy to talk about what you’re feeling with others, after all. So, writing your thoughts down, like Saliers did with the lyrics of this song, can be incredibly cathartic and help you feel like you’re not alone in the world.

This one of my favorite songs, and it always has been. It reminds me of a tumultuous time in my life, a time when I was struggling with living up to my parents’ expectations of me. This struggle is something that most people can relate to in their lives. At some point or another we all felt like no matter what we did or how hard we tried it would never be good enough for someone else. Sometimes even if you think you are being successful at achieving your goals, it might not be the same as the goals you set out for yourself.

I love this song because it tells the story of a woman who is trying to find her way through life, but she keeps getting caught up on her own self-defeating thoughts and past experiences. One day she decides that she needs to change her way of thinking if she wants to enjoy the rest of her life and becomes happier with herself. She starts finding new hobbies and spending more time outside, just being herself without worrying about what others think about her. It makes me feel so much better when I am going through hard times and listening to this song. It’s amazing how music can take us back to moments in our lives that we may have forgotten about, but remembering them gives us strength to keep moving forward.

I have spent my life being misdiagnosed by doctors and psychotherapists. I was being treated for many things, such as depression and ADHD, that I didn’t actually have. There were so many false assumptions and baseless assumptions made about me by doctors who were supposed to be experts in their field. As a result, I felt constantly misunderstood and out of place.

The doctors and therapists prescribed me antidepressants and medications to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, when all I wanted was to take female hormones. As time went on, my health declined, the medications they prescribed had no effect, and eventually I found that I felt better by not taking my prescriptions at all.

When I was a child, I would disappear into the woods with my dog. I didn’t want to go home. Looking back on it now, I realize it had a lot to do with the fact that at the time my life was so chaotic and unsettled that the world seemed safer in the woods of Upstate New York. Sometimes we would stay out there all night long and sometimes we wouldn’t come back for several days.

I was a little socially awkward, sure, but that wasn’t my biggest problem. I often felt neglected and forgotten—unwanted. So, when it came time for me to go to summer camp, I remember being excited about the prospect of getting away from home. As it turned out, that camp was my salvation; the one place where I wasn’t being abused or mistreated. It taught me how to make friends and helped give me confidence in myself. Even though it only lasted for two months each year, those two months made all the difference.

It wasn’t until years later when I went through some old photo albums that I saw pictures I had taken from one of those trips. As soon as I saw it, the memories came flooding back: The mountain air cold against my skin; looking up at the stars; my dog faithfully sitting next to me. At that moment, far away from everyone I knew, I felt safe. When I listened to Closer To Fine by The Indigo Girls, I remember feeling that same sense of peace. So many people have been able to relate to this song because it captures a universal truth about being too hurt or confused or afraid or angry to be open and vulnerable with someone else, and yet somehow yearning for that closeness all the same.

Even though I was a camp counselor for many years, I’m not sure what motivated me to do it. But, I knew that my life had to have more meaning. Later in life, and only later in life, did I come out as a lesbian. It would have been easier if everyone had understood but that wasn’t how it happened. At camp my fellow counselors were largely straight college kids and there was a lot of partying, which is something I have never really been interested in.

I was molested as a child, and I never talked about it, or thought about how it affected me. I told my doctors and therapists, and they all dismissed it as me simply seeking attention. Those around me knew something was wrong, though no one ever asked if I was okay. I always felt out of place and alone. I spent hours in my room, watching television and playing with stuffed animals. Even though I am surrounded by people that love me, I still feel like I’ve been abandoned most of my life and there’s nothing I can do about it.

When I hear this song it makes me feel better because it sounds like someone else has gone through the same thing. When I sing along to this song, sometimes I even forget what happened to me as a child. I finally got up the courage to talk to my mother about what had happened to me as a child, and how my father could never accept me as his daughter. She told me she had suspected something had been going on for years but she didn’t want to pry too much, fearing it would only make things worse. She said she loved me unconditionally and would always be there for me. Now that we have talked things have gotten much better in my life because now I know where I stand with her.

While Closer to Fine has a very clear meaning that Saliers intended, what makes it such a great song is how each one of us who listens to it relates to that meaning somewhat differently. For me, it is a song that has also brought meaning to my struggles and given me the perspective that songs like this are part of the fuel to keep on going.

This article was inspired by finding long-forgotten photos of me camping with my dog. The images used in this piece were all sourced from my photo album.

The Gender Binary is an Unnecessary Construct | What It’s Like To Be Born With Female Pseudohermaphroditism | My Photography Style Was Inspired By The Feelings Of Abandonment | Camp Chateaugay, In Pictures (1991-2000) | Intersex | I’d Rather Stay Broken | Chasing Cars

One Comment

  • E.J. Hammon

    “Closer to Fine” is one of my favorite songs too. I’ve seen Indigo Girls live a couple of times and they still rock just as hard as they did when this song was brand new. I love that this song gives you peace. It’s such a good one.

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