By Torie Shakespeare, VI Form
Music achieves success in its ability to connect. People listen to music that they enjoy and select particular songs; those songs can unwrap feelings, replay memories, and attach to human’s lives. Music was prominent on this earth before language existed. It appeared as a primitive source of expression, and this simultaneous birth of musical expression and the human race is not a coincidence. It is a synchronicity, an event that cannot be explained by fate or concurrence, during which humans and music interwove with a significant connection. Due to their shared beginnings, people will always have a bond with melodies and song. When listening to my iPhone’s shuffle setting, synchronicity is found between each played song’s theme and how those themes relate to aspects of my life regarding my personal relationships, future, memories, individuality, and attitude toward change.
When I go to a dinner party or family reunion, the first question any adult asks me is if I have a boyfriend. For my whole life, the answer has been “no”. Part of me likes it that way. My cousins have all been in steady relationships throughout their high school careers, and they tell me stories. Some stories catalyze drama, while other stories I envy. The first song that played, “Hey Soul Sister” by Train, is indicative of this envy and the part of me that wishes I had a relationship. The song talks about details. It speaks about a girl and how she dances, smells, and thinks. The narrator loves this girl, and with his love comes a desire to display her, an appreciation of her soul, and his ability to express himself when they are together. The synchronicity between this song and my life is about how I want to love someone. I love my family because I have to, and I love my friends because they support me, but I have never loved anyone in a romantic way. This song depicts the relationship I eventually want.
My future has a tendency to feel prearranged. I am supposed to follow a plan, and if there is any deviation from the societal and parental expectations, everything I have done for the past seventeen years will amount to nothing of substance. I do not know if I want to adhere to the path of college, grad school, job, and family, because many adults I know who followed this path now resent something. Mothers resent their children for taking them from their career, husbands resent their wives for the changes in their marriage, adults resent their parents for what they did not teach them, and this bitterness is unappealing. “Alison” by Elvis Costello represents my fear of eventual resentment. I wish to exist never regretting or resenting anything. The song is about a man seeing the woman he used to love. He sees her and realizes that she is not happy. The woman looks unimpressed – with her husband, her situation, and her life. I fear growing old, looking back, and being uninspired by my accomplishments.
Nostalgia and I have always been close friends. Appreciating memories more than the occurrence itself is a personal flaw, because when I have something I diminish its value, but the moment it disappears, I heavily mourn its absence. I do this with people. I occasionally put work before my friends and think doing so is acceptable, but the moment they put something else before me, I realize how instrumental they were. “Down by the Water” by the Decembrists resonates loss and despair. The song relates a harbor town and how, over time, its significance lessens until the “season rubs wrong” and what once was descends to inexistence. The narrator then sings that he would “bear it all broken just to fill his cup,” referencing religion and a desire to have faith again in what was lost. The narrator becomes obsessed and so centered on what went missing that he returns to the old instead of pursuing the new. I am similar to the narrator in this way. Too much of what I do reminds me of the past, and this can be inhibitive of my progress.
“Mirror in the Bathroom” by the English Beat is about narcissism. Narcissism is the obsessive love of oneself or an extreme form of vanity. The narrator sees the reflection of his “own sweet self” everywhere he goes and asks it to speak freely to him. The fact that he asks the mirrors to be honest with him demonstrates less self-obsession and more of a desire to acquire self-love. The song is about how what he is doing, constantly looking in mirrors is narcissistic, but although he does the action, he does not necessarily feel the result of self-satisfaction. The synchronicity between the lyrics and myself is literal and hidden. I have heard from acquaintances rather than friends that I can be supercilious and condescending. This song could be an acknowledgment of personal flaws. Contrastingly, the lyrics could also connect to my insecurities and how I am at a stage in my life, similar to most people my age, when I am still trying to identify myself as a person and what those strengths and weaknesses are.
The final song that played was “Tangled Up in Blue” by Bob Dylan. The song tells a story about a man who loves a woman, and despite constant change, is unable to relinquish her. This song is sending me a message. When I was in grade school, and before I knew what lying was, I would tell my teachers fallacies about growing up in Japan, how I had ten siblings, and about all the extravagant pets we owned. Everything I never had has always excited me. When I got older, I would ask my parents to move, and this want of change resulted in my enrollment at St. Mark’s. This has been my attitude toward the college process. I want something as different as possible because I wish to move forward from the last seventeen years of my life and experience discomfort, fear, and growth that a new location provides. While relocating would provide new opportunities, what I have failed to realize, and what this song is trying to tell me, is that wherever I go, I take myself with me. I can relocate and adapt to any sort of new situation, similar to the narrator, but ultimately, it is personal change not locational that will result in the biggest impact.
Had I done this assignment a year ago and heard the same songs, my answers would have been altered. These reflections on aspects of my life have been affected by a variety of recent situations. Everything I am involved in this fall asks me to question the way I think. Advanced Government makes me doubt our country’s leadership; in Social Justice, I have become open minded on equality and discrimination; in Getting LOST (for which this paper has been written), I have been asked to confront some of the most thought provoking questions. What I am participating in this year has forced me to evaluate and transform my opinion on a range of topics. Alongside these conversions are approaching events like my eighteenth birthday and attending college. It is petrifying to think that I am going be a technical “adult” when there is still so much I do not know. Simultaneously, it is liberating to know that in less than a week’s time, I will have “legal” full responsibility over myself. These songs at their core all contain the conflicting views I have between staying young and growing up. At their conclusions, the songs, much like my future decisions, end regardless of them being a positive or negative termination. They all resolve somehow, and none of the songs finish remaining stagnant.
Torie Shakespeare is a VI Form day student from Southborough, MA. She enjoys reading, science, and singing, and she spends her free time writing in her journal or learning new songs on the piano.