The weather app lied to me. What I thought was an overcast prediction turned into an 85 degree roast. Either way, I didn’t think I’d be standing outside the library for four hours trying to get people to write on this damn whiteboard. An undesirable occupational hazard, but I guess that’s what comes with the job.
Working for the social media department is the most fun job I’ve ever had and our latest idea was content creation gold: creating a playlist of student suggested songs. Organizing a Spotify playlist as part of my job? Sign me up!
Ok, I’ll confess that the idea didn’t initially jump out at me. I didn’t have the highest hopes for our student body. My expectations ended at some pop schlock that I’ve heard on the radio a million times over. I have no shame to admit my distaste for [redacted for fear of being hunted down by a certain fanbase]. Despite this, I knew we had to go ahead with the project.
A white board was set up in front of the library with a single question: Name a song to define the year you were having. Pretty simple, or maybe not depending on how your year has been.
At first, it was difficult to get people to come up and write something. A blank white board can be quite intimidating. But, after some coaxing of passing students, it slowly, steadily started filling up. Soon enough, we didn’t have to ask. Students came to the board with excitement, thoughtfulness and even a little mischief (I’m looking at you “Donkey Kong Country Theme”) as they named songs that meant something to them.
After four hours of talking to strangers and sweating in the sun, I was ready to sit down and start the playlist creation process. As I started going through the board, I was surprised to find that I didn’t even know half of the songs. Soon enough, I was engulfed into an epic listening session that lasted four days.
I slowly chewed through each song. Reading the lyrics if they had them and let the emotions drag me under into a suspended state of empathy.
82 distinct songs, each with their own voice, mood and emotion.
They were depressed, remorseful, excited or relieved. A few were about breaking up and moving on. Several confusedly explained that “it’s complicated” while others talked about the ease of falling in love for the first time.
Whether they were conscious of it or not, each student who wrote on the board shared something going on in their lives, like gloomy subtext hidden in a groovy bop (“Woods” has no right to be so melancholy, yet go so hard). Some told me secrets, some asked me how I was and some just gave me straight vibes — “Tangerine” by Chet Baker had me FLOATING.
Each song was its own world that I slipped into like a daydream. I had a conversation with a communications major going through heartbreak with the help of Frank Ocean. I laughed with friends running home in the rain to WILLIS and celebrated with a biology major after acing a biochemistry exam as we danced to “Pink Pony Club.”
To whoever put “Cruel Summer,” my deepest condolences.
From George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” to Smoke Dawg’s “Still Remix,” I laughed, cried and partied my way through every genre available. It was absolute bliss. Soon after this marathon of audio-powered emotions, the playlist was posted and it was onto the next project. But something kept me tethered to this one.
As someone in their fifth year at UP, I find myself drifting farther and farther from the college experience. Everyday I walk onto campus and recognize less and less people. I feel like I’ve done all I need to already, my time ran its course and I’m just on a farewell tour reminiscing on the memories I've already made. One foot is hanging onto campus by pure nostalgia and the other is hanging off, ready to jump into the unknown abyss of post-grad life. It’s daunting, frightening and oddly liberating all at once.
This playlist surprised me not just in its uniqueness, but in its ability to remind me that I’m just as lost as the next person. Despite my know-it-all boastfulness, I still haven’t figured it out and yet, neither has anyone else.
Everyone is on their own wildly confusing path and I’m where I need to be on the one that I need to take. In the meantime, maybe I should lift my head up, open my eyes and recognize that there are memories that I have yet to forge, friends that I’ve yet to make and a lot of head-nodding songs to fall in love with.
This old head still has a lot to learn … and listen to.
Gabe Eugenio is a senior nursing major at the University of Portland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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