"Wherever you go, go with all your heart." -Confucius
“How many times are you going to play that song tonight?” Nick asked from across the room. It was She’s So High by Tal Bachman.
“Probably a few dozen,” I replied.
He probably thought I was being sarcastic, which was the funny part. Even if I only played it five times while our group of friends was hanging out in my dorm room that Saturday night, I’d certainly play it on repeat to myself as I got ready for bed that night and again in the morning.
It’s a habit of mine, this replaying of a certain song, and I’m very strategic about it. If I do it correctly, I can transport myself to any moment in my life years later when I hear the same song. I discovered this after playing Drops of Jupiter by Train every night as I fell asleep at our family cottage the summer after 7th grade. When I returned home, I heard the song playing in a store and started seeing pictures in my head. If I closed my eyes, I could see a video of the cottage. I could see the ceiling with all those knots of wood in it and hear the waves lapping a few hundred feet off. I could hear the creaks in the floor boards as my parents walked from the bathroom to the bedroom to go to sleep after they tucked me in.
And that was it. Afterward, I found I could use music in a way I could never before have imagined. The next summer, I made a playlist called “Summer 08” and filled it with Jack Johnson, Metro Station, and Sugar Ray. Four years later, when I hear those songs, I’m fourteen and about to enter high school. I’m riding my bike to the ice cream store down West Spring Lake Road and taking silly pictures on the dock under the sun with new friends. Needless to say, “Summer 09,” “Summer 10,” and “Summer 11,” are equally as magical. “Summer 12” is obviously the current favorite.
The more and more I played with this concept of music as a way to jog memory, I found it could also become increasingly dangerous. Just as easily as Dog Problems by The Format takes me back to Abby’s 15th birthday party weekend in Chicago, The Scientist by Coldplay makes me cry. Every. Damn. Time.
It was February, junior year. I was sitting in the left seat in the middle of the Keizer’s crimson van. It was late at night as our high school’s jazz band drove home from a festival. Next to me was the guy who had been my ex-boyfriend for about six months at the time, though we had dated a year and a half. Everyone was listening to music and sleeping, but he and I were having a rather dramatic conversation. He was telling me that we couldn’t be even friends anymore because it was “too hard.” As I started to cry and face the window, I put my i-pod in. Of course, The Scientist, only the most beautifully sad song with perfectly accurate lyrics, comes on shuffle. I knew the song would make me cry harder, but I wouldn’t turn if off. Instead, I played it again and again and again until we got home.
It was like I needed to capture that pain. And I did. I can’t tell you how many times the song has come on while with friends, and I’ve had to ask them to change it. I honestly cry. I hear the opening, and I’m in that stupid van listening to him tell me we can’t be friends anymore! But, it’s okay. I’m glad that song can bring me back to that night. It’s part of my teenage years, and if when I’m fifty, I can remember half of that emotion in my seventeen-year-old self, I will be blessed.
As I’ve gotten older, I found I was doing more than just hearing a song on the radio and remembering a moment from my life. I was actively seeking out these songs and listening to them repetitively in order to never forget the smallest memories. No one forgets their high school graduation or their wedding, but how easy it is to forget that fun night around the campfire with friends or that drive to a country concert one summer.
As I entered college, I was more determined than ever to connect the most insignificant moments of my life, as well as new friends, to a song. Now I have the most beautiful list of melodies that transfer me to another place and time. More than taste or smell or touch, I can hear those songs and relive the best eight months of my entire life.
When And We Danced by Macklemore plays, I feel myself on ledge of Phi Psi on a football Saturday morning with a cup in my hand. I can picture thousands upon thousands of people in maize and blue pouring into Michigan Stadium chanting “Go Blue!” from all around.
When Take You Away by Cris Cab comes on, I can watch dozens of moments with my friend Conor flash before my eyes: coffee at Espresso Royale, long talks in the dorms, and shopping in downtown Ann Arbor.
When I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts plays, I see my roommate across our small dorm, snuggled up in her blankets after a long day of classes and studying. I’m waiting for her to announce she “has to pee,” like I’d heard several times every night of freshman year. I can feel my eyes growing heavy and hear the voices of Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, Chandler, Monica, and Joey running around New York City. I know I’ve seen the episode before, of course.
And when She’s So High starts on the radio this summer, in two years, or in twenty, I know I’ll hear Nick, asking if I’m going to play the song again and again. She’s so high, high above me… I’ll picture the people that became my best friends sitting on chairs and beds in my dorm room on a Saturday night. She’s so lovely… Maybe if I’m lucky, I will be able to hear their voices and those stories that caused us to cry from the loudest laughter. I’ll smell Conor making ramen. She’s so high, like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, or Aphrodite… I’ll hear Kelsey asking if we’ve been sitting in the same place for over six hours. I’ll remember how I replied that it had been more than six hours.
“Try eight,” I laughed.
Music has got to be one of the most powerful forces in the world. Thomas Stearns Eliot said, “you are the music while the music lasts.” He couldn’t have been more right. As the songs of my life flow through me, they leave vivid images of a blessed life. My life. I will forever be in amazement that with the click of my mouse or the tap of my i-pod can teleport me to almost any moment in my short nineteen years. Maybe one day, I’ll even make the “Playlist of My Life.” It’ll be the best mix of music I will have ever heard.