As long as I’ve known her, my friend Rachel has made a playlist for her birthday every year. The concept is simple: the length is determined by the age she’s turning (so, 19 songs for her nineteenth birthday) and the songs are meant to represent her prior year, to sum up the person she was at that age. I’ve always loved the idea that, simply by pressing ‘play’, you’re instantly brought back to the feelings and unique experiences of those twelve months.
Music has a unique power in evoking nostalgia. Hearing pop-punk anything brings me back to my middle school emo phase, regrettable blue hair and all-black outfits included. My summer playlists make me think of days spent down the shore, driving with the windows down, sitting around a campfire and watching the stars with my camp friends. I’m sure that one day, songs like “Everytime We Touch” will have a similar effect, reminding me of the excitement of being packed into the student section at Cameron waiting for the players to run out.
For my nineteenth birthday, I tried to follow her tradition. In all honesty, summing up what it meant to be eighteen was much more difficult than anticipated. Eighteen is a strange age: for all intents and purposes, you’re an adult, but you still feel very young. You’re at a big turning point in your life where you’re expected to have things figured out. It’s precisely a transition phase, but it feels like one that should be taken in stride, not influenced by indecision and worries about the future. While these aren’t particularly novel takes, they did make creating my playlist a challenging task.
What part of 18 do I focus on? Should the playlist be a happy one, filled with songs that reminded me of my final months with my high school friends and the first few with my college ones? Or should it be more introspective, filled with songs that I connected with,that made me feel seen? In the end, my playlist ended up being a jarring assortment of songs that were sunny, melancholic, angsty, nostalgic – an absolute mess. Just like 18. I started off on a nostalgic note. After all, 18 is the official ‘adult’ age, the end of something, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. In this spirit, I included some true classics: “Just Wanna Be With You” from High School Musical practically defined my childhood, setting the relationship bar high with Troy and Gabriella and giving me lofty expectations for my high school experience; “Mine” by Taylor Swift has been a lifelong favorite and no milestone playlist of mine would be complete without its inclusion.
The Taylor theme continued with my more reflective songs. “Nothing New” is a frustratingly relatable song released by Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers in 2021. Coming into college, I thought I knew exactly what to expect. “Nothing New” reminds me that this ‘radiance’ and my misplaced confidence was not foolish, but rather typical and simply part of growing up. Likewise, “Ivy” by Frank Ocean illuminates the inevitability of romanticizing past memories while learning to accept that the past cannot be changed. “Ribs” by Lorde rounded out this selection. It’s is the quintessential song about growing up, exploring feelings surrounding getting older, moving away from the people you love and longing for times when things seemed simpler. These songs represented the mix of emotions I had going into this year and the transition period I’m still going through in life.
Despite the depressing section that precluded this, I promise my eighteenth year was not all sad reflection. I included a multitude of songs that reminded me of some of my happiest moments this year. “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All),” also by Lorde, which I listened to for the first time with my first college friends during O-week; “High Horse” by Kacey Musgraves, a song that reminds me of the last few weeks of my senior spring; “No Control” by One Direction, which was made for playing loudly in the car and singing with friends; “Time of Our Lives” by Pitbull which makes me think of my first concert in college (yes, it was Pitbull, but honestly worth it, he’s great live) and the mess that was making it to and from Charlotte without a car; and “Rainclouds” and “The Spins,” both Mac Miller songs that remind me of some of my best friends. Every song in this section makes me think of a happy moment and people who have helped make my year the wonderful one that it was.
In making this playlist, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my eighteenth year, way more than I thought I could in the simple curation of 19 songs. The playlist was messy and constantly changing, even now. I don’t think I’ll end with the ‘perfect’ playlist on my hands. And that’s okay. My year had good moments and bad moments and while I know I’ll look back on it fondly, like my playlist, it was definitely a bit of a mess. While it took longer than anticipated, I’m happy knowing that in the future, I’ll be able to bring myself back to this moment simply by pressing shuffle and be reminded of the good, the bad, and everything in between.—Sasha Provost, social media editor
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