The Playlist That Saved My Life When I Was Drowning In High School Angst

In these wild times, I’ve been endlessly ruminating over how much art impacts our lives.

As a girl who has always, always been of the creative elk (even when it was completely uncool and deemed “weird” to be an artist, by the velour-sweatpants-clad army of eighth-graders in Suburban Connecticut) I’ve never not been immersed in the arts.

It’s not even something I think about, to be honest. I mean, I came tumbling out of my mother’s womb with giant headphones strapped to my baby face, fiercely listening to music like my life depended on it because it did.

It still does.

I’m always nose deep in a book, poking my sleeping partner, waking her out of her deep slumber just to say “babe, listen to this line.”

I’m the bitch who can’t help but yelp at the screen at the movie theatre because I can’t separate real life from the movies.

I’ve never been able to separate real life from the movies.

But right now, I have a newfound, more conscious appreciation for the arts. I mean how the fuck would we survive the coronavirus quarantine without books?

Without long-winded, beautifully written, confessional essays posted, tirelessly and fearlessly, to the great expanse of the internet?

How could we survive these long, isolated days without comedy and movies and actors?

For me, my greatest muse has ~always~ been music. Maybe because music is such a  mystery to me because I don’t make it. I just cling to it. I live my life to soundtracks. Even when songs are not playing, they’re playing in my head. Everything I’ve ever written has a song attached to it. In fact, my forthcoming book Girl, Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup has a playlist. Each chapter has its own song, the song that catapulted me into each scene so viscerally, I didn’t even have to think about the words I was writing, they spilled out of me, recklessly like Lindsay Lohan tumbling out of a cab in 2005.

I’ve been encouraging people to make playlists during this strange time of isolation. In particular, playlists that take them back to high school. Because I believe that the music you listened to in high school — no matter how embarrassing or dated as it might be today — is the most important music of your life.

You grip onto music when you’re a teenager because it’s the vessel that carries you to your chosen identity. You play songs, again and again, to remind you of what you smell like outside of the school hallways that reek of drugs and socks and Ritalin.

Music carries you through your first heartbreak, your first kiss, the unceremonious loss of your virginity and all the moments you felt like you were going to crawl out of your skin because you had so much festering beneath the surface, you were certain you would explode! But you didn’t, the song exploded on your behalf. How gracious.

When you listen to the music you listened to in high school it takes you back to a time in your life you might have buried deep into the sand. It’s like a dog digging out an old bone you long forgot was in the yard.

It takes you back to the messy person you might be trying to blur away in the thick fragranced cloud of your important, grown-up career.

It takes you back to the first time you dabbled with reality with no adult holding your hand, teaching you how to move through the world. It takes you back to when you finally learned that life is better when you move to your own beat.

That’s powerful shit. Shit that you don’t want to ever forget. Shit that’s to be honored and memorialized.

You don’t want to ever forget when you came of age.

And sometimes listening to your high school music, blasting it into your eardrums to drown out the banality of school and parents and homework, like you did back in those angst-ridden days, reminds you of who you are at your core.

Of who we are.

Who we are beneath these silly adult clothes we don’t even like, if we’re real with ourselves. It connects us to the parts of ourselves that are earnest and creative and ever-questioning. But most importantly it brings us back to life. Were you ever more alive then you were in high school?

So please, for the love of Lana Del Rey, make a playlist honoring your teen self. And share it with me. I want to see your insides, when they were young and raw, long before they were marinated and breaded and served with a side of wine.

Here’s mine. 

32 Flavors, Ani Difranco

Fade Into You, Mazzy Star

Bullet With The Butterfly Wings, The Smashing Pumpkins

Silent All These Years, Tori Amos

The Police And The Private, Metric

3rd Planet, Modest Mouse

November, Azure Ray

Everlong, Foo Fighters

Angry Johnny, Poe

Needle In The Hay, Elliot Smith

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, Sleater-Kinney

Ex-Factor, Lauryn Hill

I Don’t Blame You, Cat Power

Hurt, Nine Inch Nails

You Said Something, PJ Harvey

A Song To Pass The Time, Bright Eyes

Rebel Girl, Bikini Kill

Calculation Theme, Metric

Not A Pretty Girl, Ani Difranco

The Fragile, Nine Inch Nails

The Sound Of Settling, Death Cab For Cutie

Never Is A Promise, Fiona Apple

Girl, Tori Amos

Miss World, Hole

Waste Of Paint, Bright Eyes

Hyper Ballad, Bjork

…& On, Erykah Badu

Sullen Girl,Fiona Apple

Drive, Melissa Ferrick

Traffic, Bitch and Animal

Follow this playlist on Spotify,and follow me on Spotify because I make sick playlists.

My debut book GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP: THE BAD GIRL’S GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR SH*T TOGETHER is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and BAM! If you send me a screenshot of your preorder, I’ll send you swag!

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