“Memories, Moments, and Music.”

“When you’re happy, you enjoy the music; when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics.”

Frank Ocean

I once read a quote by artist Jean Michel-Basquiat that “music is how we decorate time”, and I often think about that when I listen to my favorite songs. I’m often surprised by how the memories flood into my mind and I feel like I am right back where I was the very first time the lyrics or melody impressed upon me. Like when I hear Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, I feel my mind transport me back to the 1980’s. I can clearly see the sunlight streaming through the windows of the bedroom my sister and I used to share; the way it glistened off the pale yellow painted walls, and the way the gold butterflies on our cream colored curtains shimmered, reflecting the natural highlights shining through my sister’s hair as she danced around in front of our dresser mirror. She was singing into her hairbrush, the haze and fumes from the AquaNet hairspray can infiltrating my airway and stinging inside my nostrils. I was listening to her voice, watching her every move, and just taking it all in. “She’s just so cool.” I thought, “How lucky am I that she is my sister?”

But when I hear “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor, I am taken back to one of the saddest of times – just one day after being notified of the deaths of our parents. I feel the pain rise up in my chest as I remember waking up beneath the heaviest cover of grief. Feeling completely powerless, beat down by the sadness. I could barely bring myself to get up out of bed… even just breathing felt as if it required Herculean type strength.

I remember putting that song on repeat, listening to it over and over again as I cried. Some might consider this a form of self-induced torture and perhaps they would have urged me to turn it off. But I found it to be 3 minutes and 20 seconds of comfort – an emotional release that needed to be repeated again and again until now, nearly 5 years later, when my tears have almost completely dried.

Perhaps the reason why we find ourselves listening to the same songs, over and over again, is because they are bookmarks for feelings that we’re still processing through? It’s such a small detail and yet, for me, it’s a window into something I am still learning how to do: to slow down and allow whatever discomfort, ambition, or rambling thoughts I have to unravel and rest. This is personal for me. For whatever reason, my brain collects more information than I want it to and it can get tangled very quickly.

It doesn’t always have to be about the past either. My heart is always open as new songs play out on the radio, especially while I’m driving. I listen closely, searching the lyrics for deeper meaning and personal application into my present or future life – especially in regards to the athletic goals that I have set for myself. The music helps to motivate me, reminds me never to lose sight of my goals, and elevates my mindset away from the mundane, day to day struggles, helping me to envision the overall journey, as well as, eventual success.

I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m probably always going to be one who places millions of “bookmarks” on songs, creating playlists for every mood and memorable moment in my life.

This doesn’t mean that I am fragmented as a human being. There is a sense of wholeness here that is taking a lifetime for me to unpack, and that’s okay. I’ll keep placing little “bookmarks” for myself, all along the way, and I’ll keep trying to see how it all connects in real-time. Maybe I’ll never be able to figure it all out and maybe that’s just fine – because maybe this life really isn’t meant to be figured out afterall? Perhaps it is simply meant to be felt?


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