Today I’ve hit shuffle on a specific playlist in my Spotify account, a playlist a friend challenged me and several other friends to make. A playlist to sum up who we are. This was 2019, and I was granted 15 songs with which to do this. I divided these 15 songs into five phases–Childhood, Adolescence, College, Early Adulthood, and Recent Years–and each of these five phases would be allowed three songs, and in this way I put guardrails on a life that has been injected with music since the moment it started and framed things enough that I thought, yes, I can accomplish this.
So it’s this playlist that I’ve hit shuffle on today, to bring me to a random song from a curated list. Controlled danger, like a roller coaster.
And the fates inside Spotify have given me The Juliana Theory’s “We’re At The Top Of The World.” This song was introduced and gifted to me by my college-days boyfriend–“gifted” meaning “put on a burned CD and forever associated with a guy, a girl, and those days”–“those days” being the landscape that was necessary to bring together two people, as well as the landscape that resulted from it.
The funny thing about this song, as I think about then, is it’s a song of pure happiness, of optimism, that I had started to drift away from. It was in my sophomore year of college that I first experienced the crippling depression and anxiety that has chased me into adulthood, appearing just infrequently enough that I downplay it when it’s gone even though I’m debilitated when it’s here.
Maybe it was new enough then that I didn’t believe it would really hold me. Maybe I was young enough then that there seemed to be too much on the horizon–that the happiness and optimism of this song was really the truth–that the pain couldn’t POSSIBLY be persistent and enduring. That the bleakness would be timeboxed and only exist as a patina on memories, not an indelible part of the person nearly two decades out from that phase of her life.
We’ve got a lot of time, they sing.
It’s weird the way that I feel a claim on happiness now, just as much as I did then (despite its persistent nonsensicalness), and we use the same word, but it’s scarcely the same meaning behind it. Then, happiness was the mountaintop, the possibility, the options–now, it is a thing I doggedly claim in spite of what’s happened after coming down the mountain. As we converge with others who have also stumbled down and set up camp in the valley.
Today’s prompt: Turn on the radio or use the shuffle features on your Spotify, Apple Music, whatever. Write something inspired by the first song you hear.