BY RUBY GORDON//
It is the second semester of my sophomore year of college. The world is emerging from the confines of a pandemic, D.C. was recently under siege by radical and violent dissenters, and I moved into my college apartment. The latter of the aforementioned may seem insignificant in the grander scheme of nationwide upheaval, drama, and loss; but, I am someone who views every event as a milestone. My all-encompassing ability to romanticize the everyday is a gift in terms of self-expression but also a puddle of emotional instability (or is it emotional stability since I am emotionally stable enough to feel the emotions and recognize what they are?) Maybe it is an attempt to cope in a cold and scary world or maybe it is simply my Cancerian star alignment. Amidst all the emotional turmoil, a ray of hope streams over my consciousness: music.
Music seeps out of my ancient pair of earbuds—not Airpods, I have to add—and into my mind where I rapidly cling to the lyrics that resonate with me. Quarantine has especially taught me to value good music. The days spent shut in my childhood bedroom were broken up by which Mac Miller album I would choose to listen to on repeat, what Phoebe Bridgers song made my soul feel seen, and then creating long hyper-niche playlists made to suit every single mood I could ever experience. Honestly, not much has changed, except now I am in a petite apartment in downtown D.C. I like to think that the hours and hours passed absorbing lyrics helped shape me into a brighter more introspective person in a period of time where I was really struggling to see the value in myself and everyday life.
Now distanced by both time and space, I think of my months in Quarantine as a time of healing and self-reflection. I listen to “Where’d All the Time Go?” by Dr. Dog to lean into the nostalgia. The lyrics are tinged with longing for a time that was, but hope shines through.
This brings us to the topic of this verbose column: music that encapsulates the last two months of my regained adulthood.
I like to think of myself as a spontaneous person. I have pierced my own ears, dyed my hair from pink to blue and back again, and slit my left eyebrow—all of which I did the moment the thought crashed into my head. I think I had been in D.C. maybe 36 hours before I texted my roommate Mallory, “I want to cut bangs.”
“Right now?” she replied. Fifteen minutes later, my three roommates and I huddled over the sink in our bathroom while I partitioned off the front section of my hair. Mallory handed me the good kitchen scissors and I cut blunt bangs that hit right at my eyebrow. I have had bangs before. They’re not exciting, but something about this time around made me feel independent and mature. Our first song, Girlpool’s cover of “Cut Your Bangs” resonates with me in a different way now. “Your long hair flowed down in blues and whites // I just stood there, bathed in the quiet // No, you say you’ll cut your bangs.” The singers chime in perfect unison, their voices so raw and unfiltered you can feel it in your heart. The song describes a fraught relationship caught up in the “small stuff,” which is analogous to the action of cutting your bangs. Something that isn’t permanent, but it resonates with you until the moment passes.
Naturally, I cannot behave in the same way I was before I cut my bangs. My bangs are a statement, blonde fringe positioned in the very center of my forehead with the rest of my dense dirty-gold hair falling down my back and over my shoulders wherever it so chooses (it should be noted here that I am feeling quite confident today.) My confidence translates into my independent spirit and further exaggerates my main character complex. “Kilby Girl” by The Backseat Lovers constantly plays through my head. Whenever I hear “Kilby Girl” I feel young—the kind of young that existed before covid. My favorite lyrics go “I overheard she was 19 // She’s got a fake ID and a nose ring // Those kind of girls tend to know things better than I do // And I’m dying to figure out what she’s hiding // She’s just playing it cool but she’s lying, better than I do.” I am 19, I have a nose ring, I don’t have a fake ID (but I like to think I have the energy to pull one off), and I’m desperately trying to play it cool even though I am constantly questioning myself.
Self-doubt is not something unexplored in music. It’s something that I wrestle with daily, especially in this new era of my life. New apartment, new classes, new seasons, new people, new decade. “20 Something” by SZA is one of those songs that when you hear it for the first time you feel like you are watching a music video of my life. I am 19 ½ now, nearly 20. I feel a strange kind of apprehension about entering a new decade. I don’t feel like I have fully experienced my teenage years or matured enough to be considered a “20-something.” SZA finishes the track with “Hopin’ my 20 somethings won’t end // Hopin’ to keep the rest of my friends // Prayin’ the 20 somethings don’t kill me, kill me.”
To be honest, I don’t think my 20-somethings won’t end me. I think I have a lot of growth left in me. The time is flying by, but I am trying to revel in the small moments and cling to feelings that make me feel human. As I finish writing this, the sun is streaming through my window, I can hear my roommate typing, and it’s almost the weekend. It’s going to be ok. I’m definitely going to wallow in my feelings some more, but as of right now I believe that I’m going to be ok.
#1: Where did all the time go? – Dr. Dog
#2: Cut Your Bangs – Girlpool
#3: Kilby Girl – The Backseat Lovers
#4: 20 Something- SZA