I’ve recently been going back in time with the help of my Spotify account, since they have the songs I’ve saved from middle school up until what I’ve saved last week. On a few of my college applications they asked for my top three favorite songs of all time. I looked back in my own music time capsule, unintentionally opening up a memory can of worms which, in short, led me to writing this.
The earliest time I can think of was the old CDs my dad kept in his car when I was little. I couldn’t tell you the titles or who is singing, but for some reason I connected the songs to the love of my life at the time: my cat. The week after she was hit by a car my dad played his music during a ride to the grocery store and I burst into tears. I full on lost it in the back seat. My dad freaked out while still trying to drive the minivan, and my sister yelled, “how could you not know these songs reminded her of Ibby?” (because somehow she knew).
The songs I listened to in the spring time of my sophomore year–songs like “Promise” by Ben Howard–can make me feel as though I am drowning all over again. A much more difficult time to remember than my cat dying. The playlist I listened to during the summer of 2016 makes me feel like I’m back to being the complete idiotic, cliche teen again. It also served as the playlist for doing yard work everyday as my parent’s “community service” (didn’t really give off the same vibes though).
Good memories, bad times.
I have the songs that make me nostalgic for the summer when my friends and I could finally drive. The soundtrack to our freedom and inevitable responsibilities. Those late night trips to Boston just for some mediocre cookies and a short walk through the city. The mixtape to our futures.
“How’s It Going to Be” by Third Eye Blind is my anthem to each painful time in middle school. Although it’s technically a song about heartbreak and love, I interpreted it as a heartbreak of my own, the heartbreak of feeling undesired. When I eventually decided to move on from it all, it felt freeing. Even if that “soft dive of oblivion” was something I had to go through, I’m glad I did.
One of the many songs I grew up listening to in the back seat of my brother’s car–“Scar Tissue” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I rediscovered my love for this band while listening to them on my walks home from school freshman year. This was my brother’s favorite band when he was in high school, and it became mine too, even twelve years later. The band released an album in the summer of 2016, making it a big part of that very typical high school summer. Very full circle-y.
“Vienna” by Billy Joel was one of the three songs I included on my college application. I loved this song a few years ago, never fully understanding the lyrics, just relaxing in the vocals and instrumentals that made me feel like I was walking through the streets of Austria. The lyrics “dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true” hits way too close to home for it not to be on my list.
In the song, the city of Vienna acts metaphor for life, making the message of “your life is waiting for you, and it’s not going anywhere” difficult to accept as a little, tiny teenager. But if Billy Joel says Vienna is waiting for me, then I’ll make it wait. I like to tell myself I’m in charge, but that’s not very realistic.
“Is This Sound Okay?” by Coconut Records–my trip to Palo Alto. It gives off a very California vibe, making it appropriate for my trip to visit my brother. Palo Alto was a very cool place, even if our hotel was set up like a Motel 6, it was a very nice Motel 6.
I remember feeling small and insignificant, surrounded by palm trees and people much more cooler than a fifteen year old from a small town in Massachusetts. But at least I had good music taste.
“Bethlehem” by Declan McKenna transports me back to sleep deprivation on a bus, my peers and I from a little town in suburban Massachusetts driving through grassy fields of Germany. How far from home we were. Me, sitting on top of a hill overlooking the Olympic Park in Munich, dying for ten more minutes of sleep. The view was too good to waste on sleep.
I miss it all so much.
Nostalgia is a true killer. In fact, looking at my life and the various memories that have stayed with me, makes looking to the future tiring. I forget that the only reason I am able to remember the good times is because I pushed to make them. I lived my life–I’m living my life, and really, that’s all you can ever hope for. Living a life worth remembering.
Unfortunately, I remember the yelling, the tears, the desperation for safety that only the bathroom lock could give me, more than I remember my dad giving me my first sailing lessons. I remember my grandfather’s last confused glare more vividly than him holding my hand when we walked the beach together.
It’s beautiful though. The memories we keep and hold onto, the ones we are eager to get rid of. The experiences we wish to forget, but our conscience can’t. The way our lives change so easily while we struggle to keep up. The odd quirks we have–like constructing a timeline of our life using the music we love.