Old by Subhadra Jayaraman

I took a different route back home from work today. The usual highway I take showed 20-minute delays due to multiple accidents on the way, and I decided I will circumvent that and take a longer but traffic-free route. It was the typical drive back routine – turn on Spotify, mount the phone on the dash, and start driving. Now comes the topic of my Spotify playlist. Being too lazy to create specific playlists and organize my songs, I generally just hit the heart button on any song I like, and it all gets dumped into one huge “like songs” playlist. This list of mine has songs I liked for the past five years. Often, I end up just listening to the first few songs in the playlist everyday when driving to and from work, but today I decided to shuffle play. So, when I was on the road, songs I added many years ago started to jingle through my speakers. There’s this magical characteristic of music – it transports you. Not to the music video or the place where it’s happening, but to the place in your life where you used to like it and play it on loop.

For some of those songs on shuffle play, I couldn’t find the “skip to next” button on my car fast enough. And after a while I realized that I could categorize these songs quite well based on where I was in my life. The Long Nights In The Lab songs, the I Am So Drunk I Don’t Care songs (which was just a collection of cacophonous screaming about booze and cars and twerks), the I Love Driving In The Mountains songs, and you get the idea. What was striking about this shuffle play epiphany was that memories are fascinating. My brain could precisely connect every song to the exact time I added it and the exact situations I lived in when I listened to them. There was a song I used to listen to during my commute in an exceptionally difficult time in my job. And just the first few seconds of the song brought back such a terrible feeling that I was appalled! There was another one our group of friends used to always sing along to all the time, and that brought a wide grin and I solo chorused it on the highway! And then there was one that I ‘Shazam’-ed once in a Mexican restaurant in Boston which was a pleasant surprise! A song I heard from a neighbor’s loud stereo, a song one of my best friends used to love, a song I was hearing when I got the news that my mother was admitted to the hospital, a song that somehow always reminds me of my boyfriend, and a song that he says always reminds him of me.

As my playlist settled into a Willie Nelson melody that Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec always listened to, I couldn’t help but think that very few of these songs was a radio hit or a sensational piece that rocked the world. They were all old, worn out, forgotten pieces of music that were special to me at some point in my life. That brought back memories of different times, that made me revisit the past. In one 30-minute drive, I relived a hundred occasions, brought back old buried moments to life, and for a while at least, remembered who I am and who I was, vividly with a background score. 

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