Music & Memories: How Music Provides an Invisible Scrapbook of My Life

I plugged my phone in while driving to pick up an old friend from the airport. I’m not sure why, but when I do that it plays music from my “purchased” playlist in my iTunes. I usually turn it off immediately, but it was dark and raining, and I didn’t feel like messing with my phone. I let it play.

Music does something weird for me. Every song is an anthem to another time in my life. Some songs evoke happy memories while others drop me right back into really painful periods of my life. As each song seeped through the speakers, home-movies played within my mind, my imagination running wild with memories.

My dad was famous for attaching songs to stories. We would tease him that he could tell you where he was and what he was doing with every song he ever heard. I guess I’m more like him than I thought.

Coldplay, The Scientist.

2013: Sitting in my office in Buies Creek with the song on repeat while convincing myself the right thing to do was to let go of an important friendship. That one stings and tastes like salty tears.

Collie Buddz, Light it Up.

2014: Running down T.T. Lanier Road toward our house in Buies Creek after Amanda convinced me to download the song and run with music. This one is full of hope and determination. 

Watsky, Strong as an OAK.

2016: Sweeping the floor at my last job in January. I was in the process of trying to get a car loan (I’d been driving a car that my parents loaned to me for over two years). I felt broke (I’d been there before). Broke or not, we were fine. We’d be fine. Strong. Like an Oak. It hurts a little but reminds me of humble beginnings. Thank God for the new-to-me car I was able to purchase only a few days later.

Pink, Try.

2013: Sitting on our old couch in the living room of our house in Charlotte only days after Jonathan moved to Buies Creek. I listened to the song on repeat trying to cope with unbearable pain. The depression was settling in and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I marinated in this song for months. Again, thankful for the reminder that time passes and things get better.

Gnash, I hate u, I love u.

2016: Running aggressively on the treadmill trying to process a shitty situation one of my best friends was experiencing with a crappy guy and trying to sort out my own feelings about it. Some people out there have no conscience and have no problem duping others. The title of the song is incorrect, it should be I love u, I hate u.

Sara Bareilles, Brave.

2014: Sitting at my desk in my office in Buies Creek trying to collect the courage to tackle the revision process of the book I’d written just after college. “This is Annie’s song,” my sister/editor emailed me one day while we were in the middle of working on the project. Annie was my main character. I guess I found that courage. This one makes me feel proud. The first time I ever heard this song bravery felt impossible. I didn’t think I had it in me. I guess I was wrong. Buy Yeah, Maybe here.

Music helps me cope. When I can’t find the words to make sense of what’s going on in my heart, the lyrics to a song can.

It’s kind of fun looking through the imaginary scrapbook music conjures up. Maybe I’ll to do this again. It’s oddly cathartic.

Does music transport you? Share a specific memory attached to a certain song in the comments. I’d love to know I’m not alone here!

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  1. Alyssa

    December 7, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I’m like you and your dad—songs are like bookmarks on my life, opening me back to chapters I’ve long since closed. Sometimes it’s a good, happy thing; other times, not so much. It is always exciting when a song that I could not listen to for a period of time finally becomes okay again because I’ve had enough distance from whatever sad or bad thing it associates itself to in my mind though, hah. But really, every song has a person, place, or thing; every person, place, and thing has a song in my mind.

  2. kristen

    December 7, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    i find it hard to remember specific memories attached to songs off the top of my head, but it absolutely happens when i’m just listening to the radio and transported back or whatever. i should write them down more often lol.
    brave is such an awesome song!

  3. Carly

    December 8, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Loved reading these and seeing what memories they sparked for you! Music definitely has the ability to stir up a memory, for me songs remind me more of a time period in my life- not a specific memory.

  4. Runwright

    December 14, 2016 at 11:42 am

    One of my favorite songs of all time is The Dance by Dave Koz/Bebe Winans. It’s mostly instrumental but towards the middle, Bebe sings I’m glad I didn’t know the way that it would end, the way that it would go. I might have missed the pain but I’d have missed the dance.
    I play that song in my head whenever I go through a bad experience.

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