Memories Through Melodies
An essay about processing life through music.
Written while listening to 11 Hours - Branchez Remix / Wet on repeat.
6 minute read.
Sometimes I don’t know what I feel until I put on my latest Spotify playlist.
Sometimes I attempt to switch my mood with a thumping beat of Avicii; I browse my Spotify playlists like I’m shopping for a certain feeling. Let’s go with… “Diva Part 2” this morning.
Pushing play on a song might increase the volume of the difficult moments I attempted to mute.
Suddenly the melody is a memory, and I’m transported to the front seat of his car in the backroads of Maryland when I smoked pot for the first time.
A song can rewind the moments I didn’t want to end and let me push replay.
Instantly I’m back in the lacrosse locker room at Brown, feeling sore from front-squats and giddy in anticipation for a party at the boy’s lacrosse house.
Sometimes I have to create my own music, and that’s good, too. “Cinda, stop doing the yummy dance again. It’s a banana and there’s not even any music on,” Matt pleads.
I’ve used music to meditate and to celebrate since the moment I was tall enough to reach the shelf where Tracy Chapman’s “Revolution” album was stacked.
When I still couldn’t say my r’s, my mom would come to tuck me in and find me listening to 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Trying” album under my teddy bear quilt. I shyly brought down my headphones, not realizing the beat thumped beyond my headphones as she’d ask, “What are you listening to? This is not bedtime music.” For me, bedtime music was anything that allowed me to daydream once more before I dozed off. During this time, I forgot that I couldn’t say my r’s and was too shy to talk to my crush, and I created music videos in my head where I wasn’t shy at school.
In 8th grade I was the School President and DJ’d our small, awkward middle school dances. I shifted from being shy to social. I began sharing my love for music through burning CD’s for friends titled“~~ 7th grade summer obsessions!! ~~”
Every morning junior year in high school I did 50 push-ups and four minutes of core. I repeated Rihanna’s “Breaking Dishes” for the amount of time it took to get through the exercises. Putting on a sports bra and shorts and rubbing off the sleepies, I envisioned all of the cross-country and lacrosse recruiting letters I’d get. Once I got in the shower I’d see if I had a 6-pack. (It never came).
When I was a junior in college and my lacrosse teammates were getting summer internships on Wall Street and medical centers, my mom exclaimed, “Why don’t you try DJ-ing this summer!?!?”
I’ve made a CD or playlist for every boy I’ve dated, casually or not. In a list of 20 songs, I mix romantic songs with fun ones, leaving it up to them to read between the lines. I deleted Edwards’s iTunes playlists when he left for college. I kept Ryan’s playlists for Steven to see. I made Kyle a CD and regretted it two months later. I made Austin playlists he never saw. Looking back at playlists is like reading chapters of my life.
I’ve now created over 350 Spotify playlists. I am not sure if it shows my fluctuation of moods and processing, a love for sharing music, or what...
I’ve made playlists for the basement of the library and the 11th floor of the library; for bedtime and for rise and shine; for pregame locker-room and for post-game locker-room; for keg races and for wine nights; for car rides with Bre and for runs with Grace.
Maybe it's because I like setting up and anticipating the mood for certain situations — enhancing moments with melodies.
When I fell into a state where I slept more than I was awake, I couldn’t remember the last time I opened Spotify. I couldn’t be vertical for more than 30 minutes a day and had no idea where my headphones were.
Slowly, I tried turning back to my music library. Activities I couldn’t experience and friends I didn’t see came through the speakers. The music triggered me to visualize the life I used to have. I thought about all these things that were out of my reach as I lay in bed on a health leave from college.
I was proud of myself when I found music that I could listen to without getting upset: hip hop. While I felt weak, the bass reminded me I was an athlete. I felt vulnerable, and rap compartmentalized my sad feelings and put them away on the shelf for me. When I felt isolated, Big Sean reminded me I didn’t need relationships.
When the light came back into my eyes, my mom heard music playing from my room. When I began to make my own meals again, I started making playlists again. Once I started glowing with energy and health, I could listen to my music library in its entirety again.
Music allows me to feel my emotions. I can process negative feelings and move forward. I can savor the positive ones. I will celebrate all of them.
photo by Shon Purdy