Connecting Through Music

Childhood drama does funny things to you. As a kid, you make choices that the adult version of you may or may not agree with in retrospect. Or, your experience may shape your entire perception of a topic, situation or item no matter how many years away from the experience you get.

As you may know, I was teased a lot as a kid by classmates. I didn’t want to give people any more fodder and be made to feel more miserable than I already did (and as many of us do in adolescence), so I hid the things I loved for fear of being singled out.

One thing that was commonly used for singling out someone was a person’s music preferences. In retrospect, this is ridiculous. But, childhood, right? So, I kept information about what music I liked hidden from classmates so they couldn’t make fun of me. The idea of someone saying “You listen to _____?” with that condescending tone in their voice made me shake with fear.

The funny thing is, I grew up in a family who loves music. My parents work in the music industry and have since the 1970s. Music feeds their souls in a way that I didn’t quite connect with until recently. When I watch old home movies, my mom always had something playing in the background. We’d have dance parties during the holidays after eating Christmas eve dinner.

But, as a result of what I witnessed at school, I rarely shared with people what music I listened to even though I grew up going to concerts and hanging out backstage while my parents worked (when I was really young). If people started talking about music at school, I’d walk away, or keep quiet, or just agree with whatever was being said so I wouldn’t be singled out. My experience was far different from those stories you read about teenage characters connecting with one another through music like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, though I did go to concerts with close friends as I got older. Even in adulthood, this isn’t information that I offer up automatically. It just became a habit, I suppose.

Childhood experiences can do funny things to you, as I mention above. But so can wedding planning. Wedding planning has brought out drama and small joys in unexpected places as I’ve been going through this very intricate process. The other day, I was over at my parents’ house and my mom and I were talking about how our ceremony would look and what music we would play. My mom got very excited and pulled out her iPad. She can tell you how many thousands of songs she has in her iTunes account and I like to tell people that my mom has the most eclectic taste in music of anyone I’ve ever met. Her iPad is full of 1960s anti-war music, modern hip-hop, soulful ballads, boy bands, classical music, musicals and more. I’d put anyone’s music collection up against hers and she’d win for variety hands down.

While we were sitting there, I played the song my fiance and I had selected as our first dance song. I wanted our first dance song to be different, something you don’t necessarily hear on the radio all the time. It was a song that my mom had never heard before and she loved it. So, I was feeling pretty good about my music selection.

Then, we began to talk about other music the DJ could play during the reception and before the ceremony. She had the fun idea of having him play love songs and very excitedly started playing all of her favorite love songs on her iPad while we were sitting there. Things only grew from there and I started playing songs I liked for her too. It was like those teenage movie scenes where the characters sit around and jam to music together. I never did that as kid. But I just did it with my mom.

And while I was sitting there with her, I realized a few things. I was reminded that people can connect with things beyond words (though yes, music does often have lyrics). Like I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been realizing throughout this entire planning process that there are ways to convey things that don’t necessarily involve words. This may not seem revolutionary to you. And it’s not, really. But, I think sometimes I get so swallowed up in my craft and using it to express myself and the organizations for which I work/have worked, that I forget about all of the other ways people can express emotions and connect with others.

I also was reminded of the little moments in life that are seared into your memory. While a wedding is a big moment and the planning is cumbersome and sometimes tough, there are sweet moments to be found there too that are worth pausing and reflecting on. This was one such moment.

From a writing perspective, I believe that this experience will only enhance my work. When creating characters or building character interactions, I now have another avenue through which I can convey my characters personalities, their connections to one another and more. I’m not sure that I’m ready to use this as a strong motif throughout a story. But, music is something that I can consciously bring through in my writing in some small way.

The next day, my mom texted me and said she had made an entire playlist on her iPad of love songs and that it was four hours long! I laughed and replied that I thought we only needed a quarter of that.