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Meaning of ‘Ticking’ by ‘Zach Bryan’

Released: 2023

At the heart of “Ticking” by Zach Bryan is a raw, achingly beautiful narrative about letting go, the passage of time, and the relentless quest for meaning amidst the ceaseless drift of life. It touches upon the universal struggle of holding onto relationships, dreams, and the parts of oneself that seem to slip away with the ticking of the clock. Bryan’s lyrics are a poignant reflection on growth, change, and the bittersweet nature of life’s transitions.

The opening lines, “I’m cuttin’ ties with things that bind my heart to this world/I love you and I’m willing but I cannot keep you girl”, introduce us to the song’s core conflict—the need to move on. The references to physical places, “Philly by the morning and Ohio by the night”, symbolize not just literal travel but the metaphorical distances one must traverse within themselves and in relation to others. The image of a long rope not holding too tight suggests the inevitability of change and the importance of letting go when something or someone no longer fits into one’s life.

Bryan touches on the feelings of isolation and being misunderstood in the lines, “And everyone thinks they know me now, in these/Closed-minded leave-me towns/But I’m too young to even know myself”. Here, he navigates the complexity of identity and belonging, articulating a sense of alienation that resonates deeply with the wanderlust and the search for self that defines much of the younger years. The reference to “Closed-minded leave-me towns” speaks to the stifling feeling of being pigeonholed by your roots and the desire to escape to find one’s true self.

The chorus, with its haunting repetition of wheels and time “ticking on the interstate” reinforces the theme of running—both towards something and away from something else. The interstate serves as a literal and figurative backdrop for this journey, symbolizing life’s relentless forward motion and the constant chase after existential fulfillment. The phrase “I ain’t close to you” can be deciphered as both physical and emotional distance, illustrating the gaps that grow between people as life propels us forward.

In a reflection on the past, “Do you remember 25? Long legs and loving time/Seems like ten lifetimes ago”, Bryan poignantly remarks on the fleeting nature of youth and love. This nostalgia for simpler times, contrasted with the present’s complexities, underscores the song’s meditation on time’s unyielding progression.

The closing lines circle back to the song’s beginning, restating the motif of “cuttin’ ties” and the acknowledgment of high hopes being just as hard to hold onto as a long rope. This cyclical structure mirrors life’s recurring themes of love, loss, and the continual search for meaning amidst change.

“Ticking” is more than just a song; it’s a reflection on the human condition, the relentless passage of time, and the pursuit of connection in a world that’s always moving. Zach Bryan masterfully encapsulates the essence of youthful yearning, the pain of growth, and the intricate dance of holding on and letting go.

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