The soundtrack of our lives
Dedicated to Kate Funes. May music guide you on your journey, keep your memories alive, and remind you that you are not alone.
I was dicking around on Facebook the other day in a perfectly good mood, when I came across a song post from a friend. The song was Chris Pureka’s “31 and Falling.” Within moments, I was balling my eyes out and listening to it on repeat so I could ball my eyes out some more. I had never heard this song before, and yet her words and music brought me to tears.
There’s something about music that is deeply embedded in our emotional existence as human beings. It is, for me at least, as tied to my emotions as smell is to memory. The place inside of me in which music is processed is the olfactory system of my soul.
I have never had a heartbreak that did not have a soundtrack. I have never driven home smiling after a happy occurrence without a song to match my spirits. There is music to help me experience anger, regret, sadness, and joy. Songs become ghosts of old lovers, memories of days gone by.
I would not have gotten through my heartbreaks in college without Fiona Apple, nor would I have recovered from an abusive relationship without Regina Spektor. To this day when I hear certain Counting Crows songs I am taken back to my first broken heart at age 17. And I will never hear The Beatles’ “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” without remembering that my father taught me to sing that song before I learned my ABCs.
There is some music I simply can’t listen to because the emotional memory tied to it is too strong. There are artists and songs that get skipped on my iPod 99 times out of 100 because I don’t care to remember the man who destroyed my self worth and brought me to the brink of desperation and beyond. I skip over songs an ex put on a mix tape, and often find it too hard to listen to songs that remind me of the love I had to leave behind.
Conversely, there are songs that lend themselves to the same situation over and over. Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, and Regina Spektor can all be called on to assist with heartbreak, while Ben Harper’s “Walk Away” is a must-have for any painful break-up with lines like this: “Oh no, here comes that sun again. That means another day without you my friend. And it hurts me to look into the mirror at myself, and it hurts even more to have to be with somebody else.” Don’t even get me started on Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah.”
I have Mika’s “Grace Kelly,” Patrick Wolf’s “The Magic Position,” and Mily Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” (yes, I admit it) for when I’m feeling happy. When I’m in a shitty mood nothing feels as good as Poe’s rant in “That Day” or Rilo Kiley singing “I promise you I’m doing the best I can” in “With Arms Outstretched.”
There is music for every mood and experience. Artists and songs are like old friends or old demons that I let out of Pandora’s box as needed. Sometimes a song will invoke a feeling in me or stir an emotion that I need to deal with. Other times the feeling drives the music, and I listen to songs that will help me get it all out, whether “it” is tears or venting or sentimentality or joy.
I believe John Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change” is the political anthem of my generation and the generations that come after me. No article or news story encapsulates the apathy and frustration of my peers as well as lyrics like these: “We see everything that’s going wrong with the world and those who lead it, we just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above and beat it. So we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change.”
Music is a mode of shared experience. Whether a song incites us to action or lets us know that others have felt this kind of heartbreak and lived to tell about it, music speaks to us and says that we are not alone. Someone else has felt this way. There is a song for this moment. There is a soundtrack for our lives. Turn it up.