This Is Us

Thanks for Nothing


Sara Benincasa
Human Parts
Published in
18 min readAug 15, 2020
Photo courtesy of the author.

California is America, only more so. That’s its burden and its gift. It’s so big and tiny, crowded and empty, foggy and smoky yet bright and shining, and it shakes. If you drive the whole length of the thing, 770 miles from top to bottom, you’re going to need some great driving music. If you’re cool, you’ll blast a playlist of all the newer stuff that I never know about until it’s not hip anymore.

I do get to it, though. I’m a late bloomer and I travel slow, but I catch up eventually.

Recently, I asked some savvy friends for suggestions. I needed a soundtrack to complete a therapeutic assignment: a road trip, no small thing for an agoraphobe like me. I was recovering from a recent flare-up of the anxiety disorder that has crouched and snarled in me for as long as I can remember. I’ve been through this enough to know that I’ve got to do my cognitive behavioral therapy homework (like another program of recovery I’m in, it works if you work it). And I know that good music helps. Great music fixes almost everything.

Over and over again, friends suggested one particular artist, a young woman with increasing critical acclaim. I knew the name.

“I haven’t heard her stuff yet,” I said, and people reacted like — well, you know the face they get when you haven’t seen, eaten, read or smoked the thing they love the most on the planet besides the parent they despise the least? That face.

“Oh my gaaaaaahd,” one friend moaned. “How? How have you missed her? She’s so greaaaaaaaat.”

I said I didn’t doubt she was.

Another friend said, “Her last album is haunting and beautiful. You’ll love it, it’s so you.”

I’m a Scorpio and I’m vain, so I appreciated that.

I said, “Thanks! I just don’t know if I want to be, uh, haunted on a road trip.”

My therapist, who specializes in addiction and anxiety disorders, emphasizes baby steps. I decided I would drive a little less than half the length of the state. I’ll do the whole thing one day, when I’m ready.

I took time off from my job at a charity, a career I am deeply lucky to still have. I booked a contact-free check-in at a…



Sara Benincasa
Human Parts

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast.