I have this distinct memory of riding the bus when I was in high school, headphones on and a book open in my lap, only to realize that I was somehow reading the book and singing along to music at the same time. I’m not even sure if it ever happened besides that one time. I’ve never noticed it since, but that could be just the thing—I haven’t noticed.
I don’t know when it happened, but I started spending more time listening to podcasts and audiobooks than music. It could have been instigated by that ever-present capitalistic need to feel “productive.” Rather than sitting, knitting, and listening to music, I listen to a book or a podcast and learn something or shorten my TBR list by just a little bit more. (At the same time, I’m aware that I like to knit while watching TV because the knitting makes me still feel—you guessed it—productive.) I think about how much music used to mean to me, to so many of us, when I was a teen and a young adult. Certain songs and albums still resonate, still make me want to cry or fight or both at the same time, but I realized that I don’t find new music like I used to. I don’t gravitate towards music the same way I did a decade ago. When I noticed this as I was rediscovering songs from high school, I was flooded with confusion and sadness and nostalgia.
I’m always surprised to find out how many lyrics to songs I still remember when I listen to a song for the first time in ten years (or more). For the past few years, I’ve tended to rotate through the same handful of albums (Taylor Swift’s Folkore, Green Day’s Revolution Radio) and the same iteration of a single playlist on Spotify reworked to look like a bunch of different playlists. It’s all aughts pop punk that I mostly tune out while driving since my podcasts aren’t generally toddler friendly, and the gremlin isn’t interested in listening to people talk for an hour anyway.
Once in a while, though, something comes along, a deep cut from when I was thirteen, fifteen, eighteen and the wave of emotion is almost too much. Today? Today it was Liz Phair’s self-titled 2003 album. I don’t even remember what prompted it, but I searched her on Spotify, and there was my music for the day, and it’s just…weird. It reminds me of a time when I would hang out by myself in my bedroom, listening to music on my Discman, scribbling lyrics in a notebook or playing The Sims until two am. It reminds me of trying and failing to learn to play guitar. It reminds me of cleaning my bedroom with my stereo on and the one radio station I’ve ever really liked playing the soundtrack to my life in that moment.
It’s another of those reminders that life now is so different from the way it was then, no matter how much I might feel the same most of the time. I didn’t listen to podcasts and audiobooks then because I simply didn’t have them. If they were an option, would I have? I honestly don’t know. There’s no way to know, short of time travel being figured out for that sole purpose. I am a woman caught in a riptide of nostalgia, and it’s shattering me to the bones.
I wish I knew how to find the balance between my beloved podcasts and the music, old and new, that I want to immerse myself in. Do I figure out how to simply pare down my podcast subscriptions? (Probably, if I’m being honest. There are…a lot in my Spotify library.) (Okay after I wrote those last two sentences I opened both Spotify and YouTube and did a serious cull of subscriptions and playlists. Yay for me?)
Maybe—just maybe—writing blog posts will help. I’ve been listening to more music as I’ve been working on posts that have come to mind lately. It’s exactly what I was doing when I decided to listen to Liz Phair again. Who could have guessed writing again would be so positive? (Anyone. Anyone could have guessed that if they know me just a little bit.)