Kelly and I ventured out to Whidbey Island last weekend in order to visit some of our literary homies at our alma mater, the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. It was a hot, beautiful, sunny day and so of course the ferry lines were disturbingly long. Waiting in the car, trying to distract ourselves from our ever-increasing sweat puddles, Kelly and I took turns playing DJ and discussing how music has shaped our memories, and how certain albums will never be the same for us. We agreed that because music has the intense ability to bring us back in time, neither of us can ever listen to albums like Radiohead’s Kid A or Beck’s Sea Change because we each obsessed over those songs during difficult times in our lives. Back home in Seattle, I found myself paying special attention to how my playlists for my morning dog park runs, work hours, and writing sessions affect my moods.
After a visit from a long-lost friend from my undergraduate days, I’ve spent some time this week remembering the relationships I had and things I experienced during my time at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. College life was not for me what it is supposed to be, what it is for most people. I spent the years that were supposed to be the “best” of my life shuttling between hospital waiting rooms and cold, barren airports in Washington, Arizona, and Wisconsin. From the moment my dad was diagnosed with cancer until several years after he died–about seven years in total–my thoughts were constantly with him. Even when I went to parties, hung out with friends, and exhibited all the signs of having a good time, it was at least in some small part an act of pretense; there were heavier things on mind than makign it to class on time and nurturing a social life.
When I think back to my time at UPS, which I actually don’t do all that much, I tend to only remember the hard stuff. I’ve remembered college as being stressful, lonely, and alienating. My coming-of-age-years filled with more pain than joy. None of those landmark experiences were for me what they are supposed to be; everything happy was compromised and weakened into, at best, the bittersweet.
And truly, the person I was at that point in my life no longer exists. Certainly most people grow and change a great deal when they leave the college environment and enter the real world; the amount of maturation that takes place between the ages of 21-30 is of course a significant, quantifiable amount. But for me, there have been other things at work than just entering the work force and growing up. The person I am now is so remarkably different than the girl I was in college, and I haven’t really enjoyed thinking about that other Tanya because I’m not proud of her—not proud like I am of myself now.
I’ve spent these last seven years since graduating from UPS just determinedly moving forward without feeling any need to go back and examine that part of my own history. I’ve given myself a free pass on all that whole era. However, this week I feel as if I’ve turned some kind of corner, and I’m allowing myself to reminisce a bit. I’m lifting the curtain that has been covering those memories and when I peer behind it I can see that it isn’t all so bad. True—I might not have behaved in ways that I am proud of at all times back then, but there were some good times and good friendships that are entirely worth remembering.
I’ve done a lot of reconnecting with old friends this year, and I can’t describe adequately how good this makes me feel. With my friend, Noah, in town for a few days I was able to continue this trend. Noah and I had a little trouble piecing together the exact order of events from when we were friends back in college due to the absurd amount of partying we did then, but we managed to sort it out and share some good laughs. We reminded each other about the terrible taste in music we each had then, and went through my music library pulling up and singing songs, and bits of songs, from our time together. My taste in music is eclectic; so many of the albums in my library go unheard for long stretches of time. But hearing the music I loved circa 2003 transported me right back to who I was and how I felt back then.
When Noah and I spent time together at the end of my senior year, he helped me cultivate a skill most people probably wouldn’t associate with a pair of Jewish kids: we loved rapping along to an Eminem solo on a track by 50 Cent in the car. Noah remembered the rap perfectly and I giggled while he recited it to me, remembering how cool I thought he and I—two of the whitest white kids in all of Tacoma–were for being able to spit out this roughly minute-long rap solo. Okay, so maybe I was never actually very good at rapping, but just reminding myself that I had fun trying was enough to warm my thoughts this week.
Before work this morning, I made a new playlist comprised of songs I loved throughout my college years. I listened to this mix during my commute and throughout my work day, giving myself permission to let all those bad memories of college fall backward, which, in turn, allowed some of that long-buried good stuff to come forward.
And yes, that 50 Cent/Eminem song, “Patiently Waiting,” made it on this mix. I can’t say that my cubicle-mates have enjoyed listening to me rap—poorly–all day long, but so far I’m just awful enough to elicit a lot of laughs from my coworkers. It may seem an unlikely connection, but the rap song has served as an excellent realization for me today; I’ve waited a long time to get to a place where I can forgive my former self for whatever trouble I went through or brought upon myself. I’ve weathered more than my share of storms, and it’s time to enjoy the good stuff now.