Music is a time capsule
On a recent sluggish night, I was deep in an Instagram hole. One of the millennial nostalgia accounts posted a story with a prompt: share your four top albums from the year you turned sixteen. I almost never do these, because why? But with omicron winter in full swing, my streaming accounts depleted of fresh eps, I held down my finger and thought, I wonder if it’s the one I’m thinking of. One album in particular meant everything to me then. 2001. With a quick crosscheck on Google, I confirmed.
Dashboard Confessional, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most. That was the one. And if you haven’t heard of it, congratulations, you were probably much less depressed than I was at 16! Emo was a genre but also a way of life. Me against the world, except for anyone who could stomach this mental merry-go-round long enough to ride. My parents were divorced. I had unhealthy male friendships, which were likely more than friendships, but that’s where they stay when you’re special enough to talk to until sunrise but not hot enough to be a girlfriend. You know, high school stuff.
I turned on the album, and the words found my tongue. Every lyric like an explanation. I didn’t expect to get emotional – my poor husband, he didn’t deserve to be held hostage to this! But the songs took me someplace I thought was gone, and that caught me by surprise.
Music is a time capsule. Acute memories and feelings attach to sound. When we relisten, we revisit. We dig up all sorts of things.
I started to think about the music that I subconsciously affix to certain periods in my life. Then, in an aptitude test of memory and emotion, I tuned in.
This one is weird: Sean Paul. Dutty Rock. Laugh as you will; I am laughing too, but this is a judgment-free zone. Every single time I hear to a song from this album I am back in Gainesville, Florida living out a peak night in college. I am never dry. I am soaked with sweat, clutching the hands of my girlfriends, weaving through the crowd of a humid club and stopping to dance for the perfect song. I taste pizza – there is always pizza. Pizza and Jack Daniels and sun are my constants. I know this isn’t real life, but I pray the real world isn’t far from this bliss. (Deep down, I know it will be.)
Then Alicia Keys, As I Am. My first year in New York City and my first year as a law student. She walks me through the intersection of my past and my future, not knowing which turn is the right one to make. But she decides with me; in every song, a turned corner. Winter’s chill hits and my lips burrow into wool scarves. I walk faster. Her piano accompanies horns from the street. Her voice smooths edges. I see people everywhere but don’t know anyone. She makes this tolerable.
I can’t ignore Taylor, Folklore. My soundtrack of a pandemic. Endless cool spring evenings bleed into summer. Anger and fear and disappointment in people but also grace and grit and new connections. Hands in dough. Hands on this very keyboard. Seeing truth in people. Seeing truth in myself.
I unearthed a mixed bag of feelings from this exercise. As unanticipated tokens of the past filled my ears, they felt almost too tangible, and I must admit, it freaked me out a little. But that’s what is interesting about a time capsule: you open it up, and you are there. You feel it instantly. But when you close it up, it’s gone. You are here again. I don’t mind opening old feelings – even bad ones – because I won’t let them stay.
Music can make you cringe, cry, laugh, and smile. It travels across time. And sometimes, it makes sitting in the silence of the present strangely comfortable. My negative space today appreciates yesterday’s noise. It prepares me for tomorrow.
What music brings you where? Don’t be shy: email@example.com.
The little things
Back on my shoe thing. These are for a friend, which makes me love them more.
I appreciate Twitter. Despite some sour takes, there are a lot of good people just looking to connect with other good people. I met James Werner there, and he was kind enough to bring me on his podcast, Voice from the Hills, this week to discuss my career, writing, and how to find *pause* in life without an off button. Check it out.