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Lessons and Lyrics: A Playlist About Freshman Year

As my first year on the heights comes to a close, I can’t help but notice how much my memories are defined by music, from the songs we sang along to at the football games to whatever was blasting at the mod party where an acquaintance turned into a friendship. So it seemed only fitting that my reflection on the year would be accompanied by the songs that defined it. Here’s a playlist about a year that alternated between exhilarating and exhausting.

“Young New England” – Transit

If you’re too drunk to walk / Along the streets of cobblestone / You know Boston never drinks alone / Boston never drinks alone … We traded in our small towns / For those big city dreams

“Home Is Not Places” – The Apache Relay

I need to run, I need to go. / I took my time, I got no more. / So take me somewhere I don’t know. / ‘cause Home is not places, it is Love.

“Good Gone Girl” – Mika

Hey you what’s a good girl like you / Doin’ in this crazy world? / Where’s the good gone girl? / Dance, dance to the life you wanted / When you were only 17 / With your good girl dream

“Seasons (Waiting On You)” – Future Islands

Seasons change, / And I tried hard just to soften you / Seasons change, / But I’ve grown tired of trying to change for you … People change, / You know but some people never do / You know when people change / They gain a piece but they lose one too.

I’ve written about this song before, but I decided to include it again for several reasons. Firstly, it holds a special place in my heart because it was the song I used for the first article I contributed to for The Rock, the Best of 2014 Music That Rocks. Joining the Rock was one of the various changes I decided to make second semester, and I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Secondly, I love the way this song talks about wrestling with change, an inevitable theme of freshman year, as you deal not only with personal growth and change, but also the change of environment, your perspectives, and your friendships.

“Harbour Lights” – A Silent Film

You and I know I had to leave / And the harbor lights, I cannot see / But you were my rock never my stepping stone. … We both know I cannot come home. / The water rose faster than I could run. / Oh my load has bruised my grieving bones. / Forgive my sins for I haven’t found God / And I don’t know when I can trust my heart

This is an amazing song, and I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen, but full disclosure: I’m using it as a way of framing some of the darker aspects of freshman year. I was so desperate to leave Iowa last August, but I never could have imagined the toll the distance would take on a lot of my personal relationships. It’s hard not being able to see people you love on a regular basis, and it felt like my college experience was worlds away from those of my friends. Additionally, it’s very difficult to balance your newfound independence with staying true to yourself and those people you left behind. I also feel this song touches on some of the other themes of my year and adolescence in general, such as unapologetic recklessness (which I would later come to regret) and confusion about who to trust.

“Shake It Off” – The Spinto Band

You say it hurts that it’s taken so long but / I was the one waiting and it’s worse to be strung along

“Heavenly Father” – Bon Iver

I was never sure how much of you I could let in / And I’m free now

“Mr. Brightside” – The Killers

It started out with a kiss / How did it end up like this / It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss 

“Blank Space” – Taylor Swift

Saw you there and I thought / Oh my God, look at that face / You look like my next mistake

Believe it or not, this may be the most important song in this playlist. Until this year, I really wouldn’t have said I had much in common with Taylor Swift, but then I decided to dabble in “serial dating.” And there’s where things got messy. On the off chance anyone reads this searching for wisdom about freshman year, here is one big takeaway: DO NOT DO THIS. I was hesitant about whether or not to write about my experience with this all, but it would’ve felt weird not to include it in this synopsis of sorts. Basically, quasi-relationships aren’t a substitute for friendships when you’re lonely first semester. If anything, you’ll just feel lonelier when it’s over and realize you were too busy spending time with that person to get to know other people. In my opinion, committed relationships aren’t something you should jump into freshman year, either, given the fact everyone’s still getting adjusted. I am really not a person to give relationship advice, but the message here is just to focus on yourself and your own college experience first.

“Grey Street” – Dave Matthews Band

Oh there’s a loneliness inside her / And she’d do anything to fill it in / And though it’s red blood bleeding from her now / It feels like cold blue ice in her heart

“Are You Satisfied?” – Marina and the Diamonds

It’s my problem, it’s my problem / If I feel the need to hide / And it’s my problem if I have no friends 

I genuinely had no idea how hard it would be to go into college and have to completely start over in terms of friendship. It was hard to be vulnerable and bold and introduce myself to people or admit that I actually did want to come along to something. In all honestly, I basically had to set my pride aside and outright indicate to people I wanted to be their friend. Which is scary as hell, but completely worth it in the end.

“To Be Surprised” – Sondre Lerche

I’m not gonna state / Obvious observations everybody makes / But baby, be prepared to be surprised

It’s pretty trite for me to say this, but I’d be remiss not to mention the fact that basically nothing in college goes according to plan. You might go out more often or less often than you expected. I haven’t worn the vast majority of things people told me to bring to college “just in case,” from cocktail dresses to business clothes. People change their majors and drop pre-med. It’s inevitable to have personal opinions evolve. Get rid of any expectations, and enjoy how life happens anyways.

“This Is the Day” – The The

This is the day your life will surely change / This is the day when things fall into place

“L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” – Noah & The Whale

L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. / You’ve got more than money and sense, my friend / You’ve got heart and you’re goin your own way / L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. / What you don’t have now will come back again / You’ve got heart and you’re goin your own way 

“Settle” – Two Door Cinema Club

The city will pull you in / Romantic and drenched in sin / But you only have an amount of time / Until this place / Will swallow you whole.

Heavy stuff aside, I couldn’t be more grateful for the people I’ve met and memories I’ve made this year, even if that meant making mistakes or having to step outside my comfort zone. And yes, I did put this playlist on Spotify for your enjoyment.

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