Music takes me back, keeps me in the present, and inspires hope for the future—all at once.
When I was young—but old enough to know better—one of my hobbies was pilfering spare change from my parents’ pockets. I’d collect the coins in a Mason jar under my bed for weeks. Unlike most 8-year-olds, the money wasn’t going to candy, baseball cards, or video games. It was going to music.
On one occasion, after I amassed a then-staggering $9, my mother took me to Globe Records—a now-defunct store not far from our home. I’ll never forget its interior. It was dingy and poorly lit. Tattered posters of rock bands covered the walls. The hardwood floors looked war-ravaged; the patrons like the Island of Misfit Toys. I didn’t belong there—and I loved it.
Eager to expand my collection of cassette tapes, I made a beeline for the new releases with one purchase in mind: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics. I had heard the song weeks before and was awestruck. Annie Lennox sounded like nothing my 8-year-old ears had ever heard. I had the tape in my Walkman and played it on a loop. To this day, I still search for the Eurythmics’ signature song on Apple Music when I exercise. Technology has changed radically in the last few decades, but the feeling of that song sends me back to my childhood bedroom.
However, “Sweet Dreams” wasn’t where my love for music began. Ever since I could remember, my parents had music playing in the house. I knew the lyrics to every song on Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” before I could read. I was conscious of Motown, Bob Seger, Elton John, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Carole King, and Steely Dan before I knew who the sitting president was. Music—from Nina Simone to New Jack Swing—has always been in the background.
High school and college were my contemplative years, when Nirvana, U2, Tracy Chapman, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and James were on steady rotation. I’d close the blinds in my bedroom, light the patchouli (to the revulsion of my parents), listen to “The Joshua Tree,” and ride the waves of my faux angst.
Now, as I am well into my 40s, I still listen to artists from my parents’ era and my own, but my playlist has diversified. I can’t pass on the opportunity to listen to Arcade Fire, Clare Maguire, or Bon Iver. My tastes may have shifted, but my love for song is stronger than ever. I feel centered when I’m listening to it, closer to a holier place. Music takes me back, holds me in the moment, and inspires hope for the future—all at once. I need only close my eyes and listen.
Sweet dreams are made of this.