I’ve always used music as an escape – in some alternate universe, where I actually had a decent singing voice and genuine musical talent (not just a rehearsed ability to play the piano thanks to perfectionism and skill with repetitive tasks), I would probably get a guitar and do the whole live music thing. It’s crossed my mind repeatedly over the past few weeks to actually just pick up a cheap one and spend my evenings teaching myself to play and get over my fear of singing in public and try it. I mean, I’m not totally tone deaf. I think I just lack the confidence more than anything.
I go through phases though – phases of types of music, of what I listen to, of how much I listen to, of where I listen to it – and I’ve started to realize over the years that it’s cyclical and clearly parallel to whatever period of my life I’m in emotionally. In Charleston I was pretty much only tuned in while driving in the car, windows down, salty marsh air, blasting Zac Brown or modern country, because that’s just what fit. Maybe life was simpler in the South – I think I associate, and will forever associate, South Carolina with that overwhelmingly calm and free feeling, and when I want to be back there, I blast ‘Jump Right In’ and pretend I’m cruising out to Sullivan’s on a Sunday morning.
Throughout the past few months, it’s been random and sudden wake up in the morning with a song stuck in my head that I haven’t listened to since either junior year of high school or senior year of uni, both of which were distinctive dark periods of my life where I sunk deeply into my head. Several months ago it was Bright Eyes’ ‘Waste of Paint’. Or the Counting Crows’ ‘Anna Begins’ with a whole new meaning. Or DMB’s ‘Grey Street’. Songs that are packed with obvious and hidden meanings that I can listen to on repeat for a few hours and then never want to hear again, because they take me back so distinctly to specific times and places and things I can’t forget or overwrite.
I keep a running (for running, yes, but also just running) playlist (currently ‘Train’, because this one started on Day 1 of BART-ing) that I add and subtract to as and when, and its evolution over the past six months has been fascinating and sad and happy, like a little hidden soundtrack to my life. Oddly during one particularly hard night last week, I somehow ended up with five songs on repeat during a late night trip from the East Bay to downtown… which were Michelle Branch and Avril Lavigne circa 2002, that I have not listened to since circa 2002… and the next day, off they went, and I was suddenly on a Lumineers and indie kick that has slowly been transitioning into Maren Morris, who I accidentally found but had me laughing out loud at some lyrical silliness and its contrast to Mumford and Sons, which played right before.
Maybe that sums up my life right now though – one moment I’m on top of a mountain staring down at the world below and laughing at how crazy life is and that I am actually living in this amazing world where people are fascinating and unique and everything is so complex it’s so beautifully simple; the next I’m crashing down to the harsh reality that I’m rewriting my life and what that means on every level. I’ve learned over the years though that as long as I’m still able to feel – and genuinely feel – those highs and lows, I’m okay. It’s when I stop looking at a sunset and not being able to smile or when harshness and hurting don’t bother me that I start to worry.