Life is a Mix Tape

Okay, I know I should be rolling my shirts into big cottony cigars and relegating my liquids into little containers and choosing what book I want to pretend to read on the plane while I secretly imagine what it would be like to be in a plane crash but…I’m distracted.

I’ve had a song stuck in my head on loop for the past few days. It’s the kind of obsession that makes quiet moments seem foreign and wrong, like something is missing. All day at work, my pen tapped to the bass line playing in my head. The minute I got home, I made a playlist, put this one song in it, and pressed loop.

This is nothing new, but it got me thinking about music and the strange thing we call the brain.

I’ve loved and lost this song before. Years ago, in another time and another place and with slightly different hair and much larger headphones, I looped this song and tapped the bass line with my pen non-stop. I listened to it so much I wore it out, just like I did with my favorite pair of jeans, which ripped in awkward places and faded to the colour of sea foam. Like the song, I moved on from the jeans, but they still hang at the back of my closet amongst the ‘ghetto-fab with a dash of emo’ gear that marked my preteen years.

While I am not quite as embarrassed about my old music tastes as I am about my clothing choices, listening to songs from past lives brings back feelings I have long since forgotten. While this particular song is from a more recent past, nothing brings back my childhood like the albums that defined it or at least played in the background of it.

The Forrest Gump soundtrack will always bring me back to the road trips my parents and I would take every Christmas from Toronto to Boston, when I would stare out the window for hours on end imagining a life full of the drama and dreams that lingered amongst the lyrics of The Supremes, Bob Dylan, and the rest. For years I thought that Bob was singing about people being stoned (like, with rocks) in “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” and wondered what that metaphor meant…but I digress.

Silverstein‘s music will always take me back to the moment I fell in love with live music. Two of my friends and I went to their hometown show at the YMCA, wearing our school uniforms of American Eagle and pink. It was my first show (okay, my first was actually The Backstreet Boys, but live music doesn’t count if the band members look an inch tall), and I had no idea what to expect. Like any terrified 14-year-old, I prepped myself with vodka and Calgon Hawaiian Ginger body spray and made my Mom drop us off out of the view of the other concert goers. Walking up to the lineup, we met stares and laughs. Clearly, black and ironic tutus were the uniform of the “hardcore” teens, which we clearly were not. Despite a host of unwelcome and overly aggressive bum grabs, we survived. People were screaming and pushing and punching and fighting, and I had never seen such an animalistic expression of musical love. Needless to say, I jumped into the fray, got punched, fell on my face and fell in love. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for their music because their songs take me back to a time when everything was sparkly and new.

Neutral Milk Hotel came into my life at a precarious time, and I will always associate Jeff Mangum’s broken harmonies with renewal, a reminder that everything is temporary and every moment means so much.

The Lion King soundtrack.

Pet Sounds.

The Best of Marvin Gaye.

The Used.


…times and places and sounds and memories. Music and life and the mashed up mix tape of a forgotten self.

I was never good at keeping a journal, and I’ve got the memory of a gnat. The video recorder broke when I was four, and social media wasn’t even a thought until I was sixteen. Music brings back the people and situations that have been pushed to the back of my brain, and they are a welcome reminder that who we are is constantly under construction and changing with the wind.

So, with cloudy memories close by, I’ll be tapping my feet and annoying fellow passengers tomorrow, adding to the musical library of curiosities that make up a life. Yes, I’ll still be jamming to screaming longhairs and stoned poets when I’m 80. Yes, you’re welcome to my funeral. It will be jamming, and it may just bring back some of your memories that you didn’t even know were there.

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