I was watching a Vlogbrothers video in which John answers a question – “What have been the most important songs to you?” And he says that’s a good question because the most important songs are not always the best songs, or your favourite songs.
And finally something that I think about way too often for some reason was put into words. I never know what to say when people ask what my favourite song is, because I feel like that answer changes all the time. My favourite song of the moment is probably something that came out within the last few months, or maybe an old one that I’ve ascribed new meaning to. Songs that I absolutely adored 10 years ago are still incredibly important to me, but not ones I actually listen to very frequently anymore.
So, here’s a list of some of those songs, the ones with specific stories attached.
(There’s…a lot of Taylor Swift and Marianas Trench.)
Iris – The Goo Goo Dolls
This song is just kind of sentimental. I mean, it’s a great song, but I have no particular reason for loving it other than that it was playing when I first thought I had experienced true heartbreak. (I hadn’t. But the memory remains.) I was 14 and attending my first high school semi-formal , wearing okay shoes with an okay dress and very not-okay makeup (oh, and braces, don’t forget those). The first (and I think only) slow song of the night played, I gathered up the courage to ask my crush to dance (reasons why I had a crush on him included that he sat next to me in class because his last name started with Ric too, he was vaguely nice to me, and he was small and non-threatening)…only to discover that he was already dancing with someone else.
How dare he dance with someone else when I had so clearly been flirting with him all semester by doing basic things like saying hi and talking to him in the one class we had together?!
Didn’t he notice the elaborate efforts I’d gone to by asking a mutual friend to hang out with both of us at the same time once?!
What about that one MSN conversation, where he thought I was the other Chelsea in our grade?
Was nothing good enough?!
All of these thoughts swirled in my head as I stared blankly at the dance floor, and the extremely depressing words of “Iris” floated into my ears…
“When everything’s meant to be broken, I just want you to know who I am…”
YES. GIVE ME MORE.
Obviously, I got over this pretty fast (like, within a few days fast), but until then, I listened to “Iris” on repeat. It’s still one of my go-to heartbreak songs, for that stage right after a breakup when you still think that person is the bees’ knees, before you get angry.
(That line is also still one of my favourite lines in any song ever. I considered having it tattooed.)
Beside You – Marianas Trench
I’ll be right beside you, nobody will break you.
This is a song that will probably be on every list (mental or otherwise) I ever make due to the fact that a lyric from it is tattooed on my arm.
I had a really turbulent and dramatic relationship in high school, to say the least, and “Beside You” was our song. Our relationship was built on the promise of always being there for each other even when no one else understood, and this song by our favourite band seemed appropriate. “Nobody will break you” were his parting words in our yearbook, for me and, I suspect, also for him.
Years later when everything had fallen to shit in ways that I could not even have imagined, I had that line tattooed in his handwriting (taken from a card he’d given me once). It was my way of preserving what was ours – even though everything around me was changing, I could make this one thing permanent, frozen in time forever.
At the time, it was because I loved him so deeply and didn’t want to let go, but I also knew that even if my feelings one day changed (which they clearly did), I never wanted to forget those 9 years of my life, because they changed everything, for better or worse. Those were formative years and our relationship shaped all of the decisions I made that would direct the course of my life forever (not that you can’t start over, but it is significantly harder once you’re past your mid-twenties).
For that reason, I don’t regret it. I want my body to be a scrapbook of every major life changing experience I’ve ever had. So far, it’s just been the one that I can without a doubt say was permanent, but it won’t be the last.
The Outside – Taylor Swift
You saw me there, but never knew
That I would give it all up to be
A part of this, a part of you
And now it’s all too late, so you see
You could have helped if you had wanted to
But no one notices until it’s too late to do anything
After I’d been ruthlessly cut out of my group of close friends in grade 11, a project came along in a media class in which we had to analyze a piece of media and then present it to the class.
Post becoming a social outcast, I’d gone from being a casual Taylor Swift fan to being a full on Swiftie. I chose to do my presentation on “The Outside”, a song Taylor Swift wrote about being bullied in middle school. Taylor Swift always had my back in terms of heartbreak, but this deep cut from her first album made me feel like she had my back in terms of my friends, too. I felt represented, like girls like me mattered.
A large part of my presentation focused on how Swift highlights the “bystander” aspect of bullying and sheep mentality, which I felt then (and still feel to this day) was a big reason for my circumstances.
3 of my former friends, including my ex-boyfriend, happened to be in this class too.
I GAVE A PRESENTATION ON BULLYING TO MY BULLIES.
I’m not sure if this is really embarrassing or really badass.
Bruised – Jack’s Mannequin
I listen to this song during takeoff on every plane ride ever since my parents took me to New York City when I was in grade 11. They meant to just go by themselves, but I’d just lost all my friends and I think they were either worried about me or wanted to cheer me up or both, so they ended up bringing me too.
Listening to this song on the plane, it occurred to me that away from school, I was already feeling better, and that maybe I could move forward. That attitude kept me afloat at least for a few months.
Takeoff always feels like the beginning of a new start to me, like just by going somewhere different I am changing my life.
Ever After – Marianas Trench
You say I would make a better liar
And never face the music when it’s dire
And I breathe disaster, ever after
Don’t pull away from me now
“Ever After” was one of the songs I listened to a lot during the few months that I was considering whether or not to make a huge life change – leaving my boyfriend who I lived with at the time, but who, I’d come to realize, I didn’t truly love. I was only 19 with no savings, so making this change meant leaving the city I had fallen in love with, moving back in with my parents and going “backwards” much further than I would have wanted to. I was terrified, but I knew I had to face the music.
I also then ended up re-starting that high school relationship, which I REALLY should not have done because a year later it crashed and burned again, but…still.
It’s just a beautiful, really romantic song, and I’d love for its opening bars to be played prior to the first dance at my wedding someday.
End of an Era and Dearly Departed – Marianas Trench
If we shadows have offended
I hope your heart can still be mended
I hope you know that I don’t blame you my dear friend
Always will love you still
But Astoria must end
Although I was already mostly over it, the release of these two songs in 2015 felt like official “permission” to let him and that whole situation go.
“End of an Era” and “Dearly Departed” incorporate lyrics and movements from past albums to tell the story of a long, meaningful relationship that spanned the course of those albums and inspires everything they do, even after it’s over, just like ours did for me.
Astoria as a whole felt like the musical expression of all of the pain I experienced in the two years prior that I needed but could never find, not quite. Nothing captured it perfectly, except for these two songs.
It seemed appropriate that it came from our favourite band that provided the soundtrack for our relationship while it was ongoing. I took comfort in knowing that he was surely listening to the same songs, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t think of me too.
Never Grow Up – Taylor Swift
Moving out of the house I grew up in was hard for me. It still is.
Wildest Dreams – Taylor Swift
I thought heaven can’t help me now
Nothing lasts forever
But this is gonna take me down
He’s so tall, and handsome as hell
He’s so bad but he does it so well
I can see the end as it begins my one condition isSay you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams
I had a 3-month affair with someone who had a live-in girlfriend once, which surprises pretty much everyone (including me). Everyone expected me to be ashamed of it at the time, or at least to start feeling remorse afterwards, but I never did. The way I saw it, it was his responsibility to be faithful, not mine, and if it wasn’t me it would have been someone else.
I also couldn’t let go of all of the good that I got out of that experience. He boosted my confidence, I learned a lot about myself, and most of all, he was nice to me. Like really nice. Nicer than any guy had ever been to me, and much nicer than you would ever expect someone to be to their “side-chick”. He raised my standards, because if someone who didn’t even have a lot of time to dedicate to me managed to make me feel cared for almost 24/7 for so long then surely an actual boyfriend could do that too. Those higher standards helped me find my current partner.
It’s also the only “relationship” I’ve ever had that ended with no hard feelings – it ran its course, just like it was intended to, just like we knew it would from the start, and we both decided to end it when it was clear that neither of us was getting what we needed from it anymore. It stands alone as a nearly perfect anomaly in my mind, like a classic movie with no sequel.
“Wildest Dreams” was already one of my favourite Taylor songs, but this experience solidified its place in my heart. It’s a perfect example of how something can be beautiful and good and worthwhile even if it is temporary.
Hands Down – Dashboard Confessional
When I met my current partner, I was in a questionable state and so I wisely decided to swear off dating for a while. It took a few weeks for me to decide that maybe that rule was worth breaking for someone truly exceptional.
He took me to a work party one Saturday night, just as a friend (although, he’d clearly told everyone and their mothers how he felt about me, given some of the odd comments made over the course of the night). We were sitting outside on a patio in warm summer air when I realized – this was exactly the kind of experience I’d wanted to have all throughout high school and university but never did. A bunch of really cool, non-judgmental or catty people were just chilling while somebody played requests from the group on their guitar.
At some point, Guitar Guy asked me if I knew “Hands Down” – I said yes, that it was a song I listened to a lot in high school, but I didn’t know all of the words.
So he played it, and I sang the words that I did know at the top of my lungs. It was so fun, and I couldn’t believe that I was comfortable enough to do that in front of this guy I’d known for less than a month. It’s still not my favourite song, but I know that when I hear it I will always think of my current partner.
Something shifted inside of me then and I knew that I wanted to do this – I still wasn’t sure if I should wait, but I knew that it was going to happen. I guess he picked up on that somehow, too, because he held my hand and put his arm around me and cute things like that for the rest of the evening.
It was a magical night. We started dating the next day.
Begin Again – Taylor Swift
Took a deep breath in the mirror
He didn’t like it when I wore high heels
But I doWalked in expecting you’d be late
But you got here early and you stand and wave
I walk to you
You pull my chair out and help me in
And you don’t know how nice that is
But I doAnd you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ’cause he never did
I’ve been spending the last eight months
Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again
And also, I did a little cover of this song on Instagram when I got home from the aforementioned magical night, because I realized that A) this boy made me feel just like that, and B) that our first date (that wasn’t really a date) actually was on a Wednesday in a cafe.
IT WAS FATE.
The Next Ten Minutes – The Last Five Years
Will you share your life with me for the next ten minutes?
For the next ten minutes, we can handle that
We could watch the waves, we could watch the sky
Or just sit and wait as the time ticks by
And if we make it till then, can I ask you again
For another ten?
And if you in turn agree to the next ten minutes
And the next ten minutes till the morning comes
Then just holding you might compel me to
Ask you for more
There are so many lives I want to share with you
I will never be complete until I do
Getting married was always a dream of mine, and one day I was faced with a situation in which I had to consider if that was something I really needed to be happy.
To help me with my thoughts I listened to the soundtrack of The Last Five Years – I’ve seen the movie a few times and I also watched it with my partner. It surprised me that “The Next Ten Minutes”, one of my least favourite songs on the soundtrack, gave me the answer.
Yeah, I do need it.
Or rather, I need someone who feels the same way about me that Jamie does about Cathy in this song, and if they feel that way, then they would want to marry me. And I need to feel that way about them, too, of course.
It’s not optional.
Realizing that mentally prepared me to make some tough choices should I ever have to, and it felt empowering to have the answer to that “what if”. It helped shape the way I’ve approached certain issues since then and has helped me to view things with more of a ‘big picture’ lens.
I See The Light – Tangled
I was watching Tangled with my current partner several months ago, and halfway through this scene, during the part above, he said something like, “That sounds kind of like our story, doesn’t it?” Which was amazing because I was thinking that too, but I would never have said it. And now it’s our song. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know that, but it’s true.
It was the first time since “Beside You” that I’d had that experience with someone, and I was so happy that he felt the exact same way about me that I did about him. We’re not always on the same page, but I know that we’re on the same page where it counts the most.