I have always been inexplicably taken with song lyrics. Most people who look at my writing and hear me talk about my need to soundtrack my daily life (always having my iPod on) might not be too surprised to learn that I have been paying an abnormal amount of attention to words and the weight behind them for as long as I can remember. But from the inside out, I still do not understand this attraction to lyrics and I think it goes far deeper than anyone knows or I can explain.
Here’s what I do know: I can remember being 4 years old and crying my eyes out every time I watched the very end of my favorite movie, The Land Before Time. The song that plays over the credits is If We Hold on Together by Diana Ross and the chorus of: “If we hold on together I know our dreams will never die. Dreams see us through to forever. Where clouds roll by. For you and I” caused me to grieve (and re-grieve) the lose of my grandfather who had recently passed away. One day in kindergarten while on the school bus, Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” brought me to tears, much to the dismay of the driver and my classmates. A lot of the adult-like sentiments in the song were over my head, but I had seen the music video and heard the song several times and when I heard that title line: “it’s all coming back to me now” it literally brought back to me all the memories I had of my grandfather who passed.
When I was 6 years old, I remember staring silently out the window of a car full of crazy loud kids reflecting on the chorus of “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty. Again, a lot of the adult sentiments were lost on me but as before, the title line: “You don’t know how it feels to be me” really resonated with me and caused me to close in on myself, my thoughts and my emotions: something I would make a habit of. Around the same age, I was in the car with my dad when the song Last Kiss by Pearl Jam came on which is about a fatal car crash. Again, I started crying. When my dad asked what was wrong I told him I was scared he would die in a car crash like the person in the song. I often worried about my dad who drove to work every night in the dark and through unsafe driving conditions. Hearing the lyrics in that song forced me to confront my fear of losing him.
Around the age of 8 I made my grandmother listen to Everything I Own by Nsync because it made me think of my grandfather and I thought that it might help her cope with missing him too. At the age of 10 right after both of my mom’s parents passed away within 6 weeks of each other, I called her into my room and played the song I’ll Be There For You by the Moffatts. I must have hoped that the lyrics of the song would speak for me and express what I couldn’t say to her out loud but desperately wanted her to know.
The story continues on in the same way throughout my whole life. I transcribed all the lyrics from numerous songs into my diary as a 5th grader. I spent hours and hours looking up and reading through lyrics in the computer lab in middle school instead of doing my work. I wrote out lyrics in my “agenda book” instead of paying attention. Since somewhere around 7th grade, the time I had my own CD Player, I have sound tracked my entire life. Every stage of my life, every season I have been through is marked by certain songs containing lyrics that express and give a voice to the warring of my soul. Seventh grade was The Used, self titled album. Eighth grade was My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. Fall of 2005 was Hawthorne Heights’ The Silence in Black and White. Spring of 2006 was Streetlight Manifesto’s Everything Goes Numb. Junior year was every Dashboard Confessional song ever written. Last spring of 2011 was Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons. When I think back to those particular times, all I can hear are those lyrics. Songs and their lyrics are such an integral part of my life, there is hardly anything that I do without having that soundtrack playing. I always had the music on full blast in my car. I never walk or ride anywhere without my iPod. I sleep to music. I get ready for the day with music. Whenever I am not listening to something happening in the outside world, I am listening to music and internalizing lyrics.
Because of all these things songs/lyrics have the power to dictate my disposition. This was extremely dangerous, especially in 8th grade when the music I listened to and the lyrics I internalized only perpetuated the depression I had fallen into. I have learned to harness the power of lyrics over my mood to effect positive change in recent years. It involves making the conscious choice to listen to encouraging music when I feel overwhelmed instead of losing myself in songs with dark, angry, self-destructive lyrics. But it also means allowing myself to continue to identify with lyrics that express emotions like sorrow, despair and helplessness in a realistic, honest, vulnerable way. Words are my coping mechanism of choice.
Song lyrics have played an unbelievably huge, central role in my formation as an individual and in my identity. Judging from what I’ve shared above, it seems I have always been excruciatingly empathetic and introspective. The simplest way I know how to explain what goes on inside me is just to say that I feel things…really, really hard. Going back through some of these stories reminds me that I’ve always been this way, even before I found out it wasn’t exactly normal to agonize over every emotion, question or internal struggle the way that I did. I’ve concluded that I experience the world through “relating.” The primary way in which I seek to understand others is by “relating” their experiences to my own and I consequently often take on the pain and emotions of others. I internalized lyrics as child and continue to do so today because I can “relate” to them,…because they speak to the unrelenting stream of compulsive thoughts flooding my brain all day, everyday.
I’m not saying its a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t know why I took to lyrics as a 4 year old. I don’t know why words carry such weight with me. But at least it’s led to some good poetry!
Lyrics were the input, read about the output here: You Were Never Meant to Read This