As 20-somethings (and New Yorkers), the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim never rang truer. We spend too much time panicking about the future. We experiment. We try new things. We succeed. We fail.
But wait! Sondheim’s repertoire holds tiny answers to life’s universal questions. Like any good musical theatre fan, we’ve listened to his music on loop and found someone to commiserate with.
1. When the job interview or audition goes… less well than planned:
Success is like failure
It’s how you perceive it
It’s what you do with it
Not how you achieve it
“It’s a Hit!” Merrily We Roll Along
2. When you feel guilty about that extra glass of wine…don’t:
There are mouths to be kissed
Before mouths to be fed
And there's many a tryst
And there's many a bed
There's a lot I'll have missed
But I'll not have been dead
When I die!
“The Miller’s Son,” A Little Night Music
3. When you’re nervous to share your idea with the group:
Make just a ripple.
Come on be brave.
This time a ripple,
Next time a wave.
Sometimes you have to start small,
Climbing the tiniest wall.
Maybe you're going to fall—
But it is better than not starting at all!
“Everybody Says Don’t,” Anyone Can Whistle
4. When the guy you went on five dates with ghosts:
Men are stupid, men are vain,
Love's disgusting, love's insane,
A humiliating business.
“Every Day a little Death,” A Little Night Music
5. When it’s nearing 5 PM, and your boss drops a stack of work on your desk:
I keep thinking, “When does it end?
Where’s the day I’ll have started forgetting?”
But I just go on
Thinking and sweating,
And cursing and crying,
And turning and reaching,
And waking and dying.
“Not a Day Goes By,” Merrily We Roll Along
6. When you pay your exorbitant rent to live in a closet, but it’s all okay because you live in New York:
I hear a crane making street repairs,
A two-ton child running wild upstairs.
Steam pipes bang, sirens clang,
And what more do I need?
“What More do I Need?” Saturday Night
7. That moment we realize our crush may have commitment issues:
But then what if he knew
Who I am when I know
That I’m not what he thinks
That he wants?
“On the Steps of the Palace,” Into the Woods
8. When you decide to walk through Times Square to daydream then quickly regret it:
There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
And it’s filled with people who are filled with sh*t
And the vermin of the world inhabit it.
“Epiphany,” Sweeney Todd
9. When a friend invites you to happy hour and you spot last week’s Tinder date on another date:
Isn’t it rich, isn’t it queer
Losing my timing this late in my career
And where are the clowns
Quick send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here
“Send in the Clowns,” A Little Night Music
10. When you’re feeling like no one understands you:
Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood
Others may deceive you
You decide what’s good
You decide alone
But no one is alone
“No One is Alone,” Into the Woods
11. When your significant other tries to convince you you’re nothing without them:
Could I bury my rage
With a boy half your age
In the grass? Bet your ass.
But I’ve done that already—or didn’t you know, love?
Tell me, how could I leave when I left long ago, love?
Could I leave you?
No, the point is, could you leave me?
“Could I Leave You?” Follies
12. When you’ve gone on the zillionth date from your tenth app and you feel like:
Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive.
“Being Alive,” Company
13. When despite it all, you have to remember that one day you will be thankful for the rollercoaster that is your 20s:
Let the moment go…
Don’t forget it for a moment, though.
Just remember you had an ‘and,’ when you’re back to ‘or,’
Makes the ‘or’ mean more than it did before.
Now I understand—
And it’s time to leave the woods
“Moments in the Woods,” Into the Woods