Music is a funny medium. We seem to connect with it on a deeper level than other art, innately feeling its compulsions to move. We don’t need to understand it or be able to replicate it to treasure its place in our lives. It has run through our various cultures for centuries, carrying our styles, emotions, and stories. Before we have the ability to read or write, we learn to sing along with songs. We come together as communities to listen to performances and we hide in our rooms to wallow in the emotions of lyrics that feel entirely personal.
At a recent event billed as a night for “young professionals”, I laughed with a new friend about how the DJ’s choices identified the age range of the party goers. We danced the night away to 90s hip hop and top 40 hits, recalling every note that had characterized our childhoods. I always used to roll my eyes when my mom would hear a song and recall how old she was or where she was when she first heard it. Suddenly I’m finding myself in the same place. The melody, the words, the memories, put you right back in that moment.
As life changes, those moments change right along with it. The cheesy pop songs from our youth start to sound like little more than ridiculous noise. Sure you still remember all the words, and your body can’t help but recreate all of the dance moves from when MTV still showed videos, but the tunes have a way of making you feel too young…taking away the knowledge you’ve gained since you put them all on a mix tape or stole them from Napster.
I never went through a break up before this one (talk about zero to sixty!). Never related to the sad stories interspersed in albums’ track listings, and for a time recently I even denied any connection to them because I couldn’t face my own truth. Suddenly, I find myself singing these anthems at the top of my lungs. Feeling empowered by a different lexicon. Taking comfort in the reassurance that others have experienced and moved on from the very same places. Not that I’m surprised this is happening, but it’s new.
What stands out to me the most as I listen is how music actually created a finite dichotomy in my marriage. Being opinionated apparently made him feel that there was music he could and couldn’t listen to without drawing a mocking word from me. I’ve never been a fan of Bruce Springsteen (sorry Jersey), but why does that mean he couldn’t enjoy the man’s songs without me? Why did my disinterest always have to supersede his interest? Being able to own what you love, to connect with your own story, and to truly march to the beat of your own drummer are pretty important in life. I’ve found ways to express myself, whether singing in the car or putting my feelings in writing. Each has played a significant part in reclaiming who I am. Sometimes what results is more creative than others, but it’s mine.
Don’t let anyone take away your narrative. Don’t give it up because you think it’ll make someone else happier. It won’t. Make your own story. Grow and change and learn. Listen to the song in your heart and follow it because you’re the only one who knows its tune. You’re the only one who can sing it back when life gets tough and you’re the only one who can lighten the world with its harmonies when you’re filled with joy.