Music has always had a huge impact on me. Growing up, my mom would play all the classics on the way to school: The Beatles, Britney Spears, N-SYNC, the Backstreet Boys and ABBA.
I grew up loving car rides because of the happiness “I Want It That Way” would bring me. Based on a strong foundation, I’ve come to realize the significance that music has on me, particularly in shaping my high school experience. Each year, the songs I listen to are representative of a different version of myself.
My taste in freshman year reminds me of a difficult transition into a new environment. A majority of that year is encapsulated by upbeat pop music, as I had yet to be exposed to how daunting life could really be.
My introduction to Shawn Mendes is reminiscent of my first homecoming, making new friends and losing old ones, and the innocent naivety of being 15-years-old. In fact, “Fifteen” by Taylor Swift was my anthem during freshman year — a reminder of the end of my childhood and the beginning of my maturation.
Sophomore year was a time of heartbreak, growth and change. I remember waking up each morning, scrolling through my music library and searching for the perfect song to jumpstart my day.
As I drifted apart from my middle school best friend while battling numerous mental health issues, Lorde’s album “Melodrama” held me together. Lofi music played in the background as I grinded out homework and studying; SZA’s “Ctrl” was my confessional to the complexities of young love; Olivia O’ Brien’s song “Love Myself” empowered me to work for a more confident version of myself and a happier future.
That year, the music I listened to reminded me that I was more than a reflection of other people’s actions and words; it reminded me that I mattered and I was not alone.
Next up was junior year — supposedly the hardest year of high school. Late school nights of studying for AP Chemistry, stressing over a possible pop essay in AP Language or staring at my computer for Khan Academy’s SAT prep were alleviated by Joji’s “BALLADS 1.” “YEAH RIGHT” was on replay every single night.
And as quarantine began, Frank Ocean’s album “Blonde” reminded me of sweeter times, with his warm voice reminding me of a sunset at the beach. Tyler, the Creator’s music is a testament to the carefree mindset I developed over quarantine, as his upbeat songs keep my hopes up that I will be able to see my friends again and life will go back to normal someday.
And as the second quarter of senior year begins, I’m working on college apps and preparing to say goodbye to people I’ve known my whole life. As a bittersweet memoir of my teenage years, “Space Song” by Beach House is on replay every single night; every time I listen to it, I feel like the world is completely quiet and I’m ascending into heaven.
While I learn to drive, LANY, the Neighborhood, Harry Styles and BROCKHAMPTON are blasting on high volume with the windows down, and I feel like I’m finally in my teenage coming-of-age movie moment.
Quarantine has been difficult for me and my mental wellness, but like many others, good music has been one of the only things keeping me going. It has in many instances saved my life, and as I type this, I listen to “OK” by the Wallows because I vow to continue getting up and trying to feel OK again after difficult times.
I hope that other teenagers have found a safe haven for their thoughts, regardless of the medium. For me, I’m just going to keep making playlists.