Tag Archives: adolescence

When the Music Matters

It’s no coincidence. We feel a stronger allegiance to the music that provided the soundtrack to our teenage lives than to any period of melodic exposure arriving before or after the very specific ages of 13-15. Firsts are firsts, and there’s nothing quite like the initial unwrapping. Memories are locked, markers are stamped, and we will summon those songs for the rest of our days.

As an audiophile, these neuro-fireworks may have exploded with a bit more impact for me than the average bear. But when those headphones hit my ears, wholly unfamiliar pathways opened, and a burst of color detonated behind my eyes when that perfect marriage of lyrics and harmonies flooded my brain. It was an indescribable introduction to a lifelong romance and endless quest to rediscover that unlit fuse. To feel all your senses simultaneously awakened with the abrupt urgency of a shotgun blast in a hibernating bear cave is both overwhelming and invigorating.

Why does everyone wax poetic about the bands and artists that shaped their developing years? It’s not nostalgia. It’s chemical. These songs occupy a very special spot in the psyche, and we will be left defending their merits for the rest of our lives. The music is inextricably attached to adolescence, and the weight of the world sits on teenage shoulders.

Coming of age in the 90s provided a limitless roster of musicians who planted their flags in the hearts and minds of a generation stuck between two very disparate worlds in the pre- and post-technological revolution. But talk to anyone who drops their eggs in baskets of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc., and you’ll most likely hear a similar story. We know what we know and we love what we love.

No single experience will ever equal the rush of adrenaline that shot through my bloodstream the first time the first line of “August and Everything After” sent its perfectly crafted message down my ear canal…and night drives spent listening to a complete catalog Counting Crows shuffle still hits me in the soft stuff.

If that’s not chemical, what is it?

Adolescence Interrupted

Start the Presses

press2After the initial words were put on the page more than five years ago, I’m happy to report that my first book is finally in the publisher’s hands. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and the fact that something only alive in a cavernous bedroom’s computer will be shared with the world is surreal.

Because this is a work of nonfiction, I am figuratively walking into the literary cocktail party without clothes. My exposure and vulnerability will be put on full display, and I need to be okay with that. I signed up to be the monkey in the cage, so there’s no sense trying to give refunds now.

Taking the steps necessary to complete a survival story required more emotional investment and mental time traveling than I could have imagined, but the result is a piece that speaks to the center of my soul. That felt like something worth sharing.

My hope is that the pothole-covered path of my adolescence can serve as a road map for anyone faced with the prospect of insurmountable obstacles. Sometimes the only way to traverse 10 feet of solid granite is to put your head down and start to dig.

We can all find inspiration in the lines of someone else’s script. The human condition allows us to examine our own fortunes when we’re forced to see the hardships of others.

I am proud of my life. I am proud of the hurt and I am proud of the fight. Psychological sludge be damned. The residue is the reason I remember.

Perhaps this was the grand purpose behind the pain, and using personal trauma to help lighten someone else’s burden is the greatest gift I could hope to deliver.

Midnight Flashes

midnightThe power of music to transport me back in time, across distances, or just out of my quicksand brain is something that has always been fascinating. But, with those carefully-crafted melodies come the inescapable memories.

With certain songs, the faint plucking of a chord progression in the first few seconds of a track is enough to rocket me out of my present pondering and into the skin of a younger—and often more wide-eyed—version of myself. I can take a break from being an almost-adult and find some peace of mind in the fascination of youth. It’s a welcome respite from the modern grind and it feels like a familiar visitor from a less complicated life.

Music and lyrics course through these veins with such potency, it’s impossible to listen superficially. When memories accompany striking harmonies, I’m defenseless. It’s like an elevator with a snapped cable dropping through a bottomless shaft. It’s futile to fight, so I acquiesce and enjoy the ride.

Maybe there’s an extra serving of nostalgia on my plate this week because I learned my high school girlfriend—and first love—is pregnant.

There are few musical memories more vividly distinct than the soundtrack to that all-encompassing, heart-exploding period of adolescence. I can still picture myself programming repetitive playlists of specific songs we listened to so incessantly, it’s a wonder the stereo didn’t reject our choices in a moment of sentient defiance.

We spent more nights than I could count, pulling the blankets over our heads, blocking out the burden of time, and living in a world of our own creation. To be a teenager in love is to feel the Earth spin on your finger like some colossal Harlem Globetrotter. Everything is waiting for you, and anything is possible.

I’m grateful for every second I was able to learn about hope and heartbreak, and I’ll never forget the artists and albums that held my hand through all the hills and valleys. I take comfort knowing I can travel back there whenever I choose—and whenever I need to be reminded of where I’ve been and where I’m going.

It only takes the push of a button. So…I guess I’ll hear you soon.