Music Changed My Life (and probably yours)

The music you listen to when you’re on the cusp of adulthood shapes your future musical preferences and affects the rest of your life – at least that’s what I believe. When you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be, the soundtrack sets the stage.

When skinned knees and summer nights on the playground give way to self-consciousness and high school football games, there’s a preoccupation with figuring out who you are and who you’re meant to be. Music tastes change somewhat, can take on more of a meaning, or can veer into an entirely different genre. In a way, time stands still – responsibilities are right around the corner but they’re not here yet. And that makes all the difference. It means you stop and savor the time you have and assess who you really are and how you want to be.

For me, the big transition was from middle to high school. It was a tough time – I was the weird, quiet kid, sitting in her domain at the back of the classroom and I wondered if the rest of my life was going to be like that – for me to be on the periphery of things. Whether I was destined to be the invisible girl forever with passions and interests different from everyone else she knew. I felt out of place and out of time as if I belonged in the era of the characters from my favorite old literary novels. I felt like I didn’t belong and that my friends wouldn’t understand.

But everything changed when I heard that one band. You know what I’m talking about since you probably have “that one band” too. It’s the band that connects with something inside you, that turns something on which you weren’t even aware existed, and expresses the feelings that no one else gets. It’s important to have something like that, especially when you’re growing up and trying to find your place in the world. Once I found this, I didn’t care about fitting in anymore – at school or with my age group. It was irrelevant because I knew I wasn’t alone and that there was something or someone out there who felt the same way as me and had the ability to channel it through art.

Nirvana (Image by Mark Seliger via Flickr)

For me, that band was Nirvana (figuratively and literally). They were not of my time which made sense since I never fit into my own. They were misfits when they burst onto the scene, surrounded by leftover ’80s jock rock. They also didn’t present themselves as anything other than who they were – they weren’t serving glam looks, they were dressed in flannel which is what people wore in the rainy Northwest, and they didn’t care what people thought of them. And to top it all off, their music was loud, angry, and meaningful but still managed to be melodic. The punk attitude and ethos they embraced, centered around authenticity, simplicity, and non-materialism, which made perfect sense. The chaos within me was still there but now I knew I wasn’t alone and I had found something to anchor it.

Becoming a fan of alternative rock music changed my life. It wasn’t just a preference, but a lifestyle. I embraced being the real, authentic me. It didn’t matter if that made me the weird kid or different from others, it was who I was and I knew there were others like me out there. And of course, this was a relief, especially since popular music at the time was about partying, money, and superficial appearances. All of which didn’t matter in the slightest to me.

Sometimes I wonder how things would have been if music never became such a huge part of my life. I probably would have tried to conform and fit in with what was “cool” – who knows? I do know music has always been there for me – in times of happiness, sadness, or whatever. I’m that person who is revitalized every time they hear the opening chords to “Everlong”, feels the fierce pride permeating “Rooster”, and remembers that girl sitting alone at lunch when I hear Nirvana. Music changed my life and it’s become home.

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