In My Life: introducing a series of aural associations

Alas, I haven’t written much lately. However, I’ve been employed now for 9 months, which keeps me busier than last summer. I like the job, too, which always helps. And I’ve been hibernating lately – staying home, “doing” less, saying no, giving myself room to think and do as I please, honoring my sensitivities, learning new ways to do things, and deconstructing things that hold me back from where, or how, I want to be. Heavy stuff, right? But good stuff.

There’s a lot of ink in my blood so I’m honoring that now. Lately I’ve been thinking of a series where I write about what a song reminds me of – mostly personal stories I connect with it, rather than lyrical interpretation. We’re fortunate in this day and age to have a vast, accessible soundtrack accompanying our lives. Along with scent, music is one of the most powerful sparks for vividly recalling a feeling, a time, a person, a specific moment. Everyone has some song that always makes them think of something in particular. I have many.

Some of this series will be only tangentially related to the song’s content. Also, the content won’t necessarily be part of my cocoon work, at least beyond me honoring my desire to write more. BUT MAYBE SOME OF IT WILL! The series may go on indefinitely; I just filled a whole 8.5″ x 11″ page, 3 columns, of songs to include, and could’ve kept going for a long time. My sister and I collaborate on a Spotify playlist of songs that we enjoyed together at some point; we’re about to hit 300. I’m calling the series “In My Life”, and if you’ve ever heard that Beatles song (and who hasn’t?) I don’t need to explain further. The first verse is particularly relevant.

A radio-DJ friend of mine did a blog series called “45 for 45” where he wrote about 45 songs from 45s when he was 45. He suggested I do “33 for 33” because he hadn’t. However, that’s 3 years from now (okay, 2 years and some change) and although I appreciate vinyl, the format doesn’t hold particular significance for me. I grew up on cassette tapes, compact discs, and radio. I listened to my parents’ records but didn’t own any of my own. The whole concept of “singles” and “B-sides” was fading fast during my childhood and teen years. Those years spread out across two millenniums; by the time I finished high school in 2004, downloading mp3s (legally or otherwise) had become commonplace, and cassettes were nowhere to be seen. Every teenager’s car and bedroom were still strewn with tons of CDs – mostly store-bought, but increasingly, burned albums and mixes too. iPods were cutting-edge.

In college, I bought some songs on iTunes, but mostly collected files from everyone in the dorm via a shady little program called MyTunes that let you see and download music files from everyone using your ethernet or wi-fi network. It opened up endless doors of musical discovery for me, right at the age when it’s so important. My long-haired, deadly-serious-about-music, Pitchfork-reading philosophy-major boyfriend highly disapproved. At our first-anniversary dinner, I mentioned a particular song in passing. After a while, I noticed he’d become sullen. I asked why. “Because when you mentioned that song, I thought, ‘I bet she stole it online.'” He scowled the rest of the evening; I was incredulous.

Absurdity aside, he had a point. I’d never think of shoplifting a physical item. But I was too attached to the thousands of songs I could listen to anytime I wanted. Plus, I paid money to see a lot of artists live, and the music industry sent out all sorts of contradictory messages about whether it was right, wrong, or amoral.

I haven’t done it in years – although one could probably credit music-streaming programs rather than ethical convictions. That and the computer viruses that inevitably sneaked in with the songs. These days, I listen to most of my music on Spotify or the trusty old radio, although I always have a few CDs in my car for long drives. (Recent ones include childhood’s Jagged Little Pill and Tragic Kingdom; college’s You Could Have It So Much Better, Night Ripper, and Songs About Jane; and “my entire life”‘s Prince’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1.)

But liking a song isn’t reason enough to include it in this series. I DO like most of them – in fact, some are all-time favorites – while others annoy me or mean nothing to me if stripped of context. Many of my favorite lyrics, songs, and artists will not be included here. Perhaps, as Chris Cornell sang, much of my favorite music is my favorite precisely because “it doesn’t remind me of anything.” Memories, both good and bad, have always felt weighty to me. Some of these will be unhappy stories. I don’t know how deep I want to delve on here. I know I’ll keep some R-rated stories to myself for now (although most are hilarious), and I’ll only decide upon certain painful memories when I can draft something and ponder it individually.

One of my main conflicts when writing about myself is balancing exactly how much to share. This is particularly relevant when the internet gets involved (and it usually does.) I admire memoirists who lay it all out for the world. I don’t think I could, at least not at this stage in my life. I don’t know if or how that impacts the stories I do tell, except to say I strive to be as honest with my words as I can be. Not necessarily “honest” meaning “spilling every secret and leaving nothing private”, but “honest” as in, “each word is carefully weighed to see if it reflects reality (as best I can see it), and if it doesn’t, it should be clear it’s an exaggeration for comedic effect.”

That said, I expect most of these recollections to be light-hearted and/or amusing, perhaps with a poignant edge. That seems to be my main voice, and I like it. Oh yeah, and full of digression. It’s in keeping with a comment made by my 8th grade math teacher, albeit in a different context. After showing my class how I solved an algebra problem, which apparently involved more steps than necessary, she shook her head and said, “Kati, I bet you’ll be popular with the boys, because you always take the long way home.”

Can’t say she was wrong about that either, but, well, I digress…

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