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Recipes for getting by

| Monday, February 9, 2015

Recipes for getting by: one bad day, several hours of negative energy, 12 to 14 songs that make you cringe, at least one Nickelback song,

I’ve always been amazed by music’s ability to set a mood and how the lyrics and melodies of different tunes can capture memories and moments. Each track is like a little Pandora’s box, capable of releasing the feelings of a past moment in time upon being played. Music and life events are so easily intertwined, and this works to our advantage … for the most part. Listening to the country station, for example, has the power to take us back to long drives on warm summer nights or even the bleakest of South Bend winter days. Freshman year throwback playlists are only completed when filled with tracks that restore the sentiments of getting ready for the weekend to be spent with dorm mates we barely knew and following the sound of music through hallways that signaled where our first dorm parties would be found.

Just as individual tunes can renew the bliss of a certain point in time, they can also awaken the emotions of occasions that were not so great. I can’t listen to any song off One Direction’s “Midnight Memories” album anymore because that’s all I listened to during finals week two semesters ago. Even a few seconds of “Story of My Life” and I involuntarily start doing accounting cash flows in my head — no fun. I totally understand when people ask for a song to be changed because the one playing is tainted with negative emotion or a sad memory.

Despite multiple attempts to bend the natural course of time, time-traveling machines still remain a hi-tech fantasy. And, while pictures and videos are perhaps our best tool for freezing moments and capturing memories, I think that music can be utilized in a similar way. I’ve started to use music as capsules for holding both the good and the bad. For instance, after getting back a good exam grade, I pick a really upbeat, feel-good track to play as I savor the success of the moment. Then, the next time I walk into an exam, I play the exact same song, and with it comes a rush of relief and confidence, as it reminds me of the potential for success. In moments when I feel particularly motivated, I listen to songs that help me hold onto that energy. These are the tunes I set as my morning alarms or as workout music, as they revitalize and release that energy when it’s needed most.

It’s quite unfortunate how easily a great song can be spoiled by a sucky moment. I used to listen to my favorite music on my worst days in attempts to cheer myself up. Although this works, somehow my most cherished tracks are never the same after I do this, and I am always reminded of how mad, sad or frustrated I was in those moments. Hence, I’ve stopped playing good music when I’m not in a good mood and have instead started selecting the worst songs I can find.

I recommend keeping a playlist on your phone or computer, iTunes or Spotify, doesn’t matter, and title it “These Songs Suck.” My playlist currently consists of a lot of Nickelback and Drake Bell’s newest album. It’s super convenient. If ever you think, “God, this moment really sucks right now,” start playing your newly created, moment-appropriate playlist, for it will serve as a disposable capsule for all that negative energy.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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