Songs That Were My 20s: 6-17

Jun 27, 2013 by

Recap:  I’ll be 30 years old in a mere 11 days, and to commemorate this milestone, I have compiled a list of 30 songs that were my 20s.

These are the songs that, when I hear them, I am instantly transported back to a certain time in my 20s, maybe even a certain place in that time, and I remember explicitly what was happening to me, who the most prominent people in my life were, how I was feeling, and the worries I lost sleep over.  For the majority of these, I can also look back now and know exactly how each moment in time would play out, which things would resolve themselves, which people would stay and go, and what I would remember or regret.  I have learned things, but each of these songs is a portkey back to a time before I knew them, or thought I needed to know them.  Together, they are quilt of experience that I can cover up in and be transported, safely, to some unsafe and unpredictable and joyous and ridiculous times.

Not all of them were hits, and not all of them were current when I latched on to them.  But all of them are the soundtrack to my second decade, and their importance is real to me.  The photo above each is circa the described time period.

Songs 1-5 are here.

And now, below, I give you songs 6-17.


#6. Little Jackie, “The World Should Revolve Around Me”

Ashley, Me, and Julie hosting our annual Pride Parade party, June 2008

Ashley, Me, and Julie hosting our annual Pride Parade party, June 2008

It is summer 2008, and if you’re at our fabulous apartment on Halsted Street, in the heart of the Gayborhood, you’re listening to this song.  I don’t remember how it entered our lives, but once it got in, it stuck like glue.  SO MUCH TRUTH in such a catchy package.  A mantra in 3:18.  An anthem for single girls in the city, who occasionally wake up and have to pick their way over passed out bodies strewn across their floor, or blow half their rent on clothes, or have hangovers interrupted by literal parades that demand attention and the boys DO NOT UNDERSTAND.  Elation and celebration, pretty-much non-stop.

Party Guest: “What is this song?”
Second Party Guest: “I don’t know, but they’re listening to it every time I come over here.”


#7. Florence + The Machine, “Dog Days are Over”

Sailing with my sister on Lake Michigan, summer 2010

Sailing with my sister on Lake Michigan, summer 2010

It’s summer 2010, I’m deeply in love, I’m working with 40 artists/designers/directors/actors/geniuses to produce a new 3-play cycle I wrote about science, and the world is delicious.  I wake up in the morning excited because I get to listen to this song on repeat all the way to work.  I get on the brown line at Belmont and stare out the window as the rickety metal caterpillar carries me toward all the best things I have ever known.


#8.  Fionn Regan, “Put a Penny in the Slot”

Me at one of Trevor's dinner parties, 2007

Me at one of Trevor’s dinner parties, 2007

It is late summer 2007, and I have lived in Chicago for a year.  I want to get a tattoo, but I don’t know what it should be.  My five-and-a-half year college relationship is finally over, after a grueling eight-month breakup.  I am dismayed to find out that this is such a common phenomenon, it’s practically a cliché.  I haven’t been single since I was 18 years old, and I didn’t do a lot of dating before that.  Figuring out how to navigate these waters in Chicago is treacherous, and mystifying.  I give mixed signals to boys I’m not crazy about, and I cling like a leech to boys who don’t want anything serious.  All I know is serious.  Why is everyone not serious?  This is supposed to be fun, right?  Not an endless stream of bars and taxis and phone calls that don’t come.  I latch onto the moody simplicity of Fionn Regan songs and stare into space.  And wait for a kind of numb comfort to set in.  Eventually I decide on a fleur-de-lis for my tattoo, and my roommates Kate and Becca and best pal Matt come with me to the tattoo parlor.  I bring a coupon.


 #9.  Bob Dylan, “Boots of Spanish Leather”

Me, Ashley, Kevin, and Dan take a Christmas photo, 2009

Me, Ashley, Kevin, and Dan take a lovely non-frightening Christmas photo, 2009

It is fall 2009, and there are still parties and parades, but suddenly the hangovers are harsher.  I can’t get by on three hours of sleep before work anymore.  The mistakes I make are fewer, but bigger.  This particular autumn brings with it a strong feeling of time passing.  At the end of the parties, when there are just a few of us left, we lie on the floor in a heap and listen to Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits on vinyl, and start to miss each other, even though we’re all still right there.


#10. Regina Spektor, “On the Radio”

Me, Justin, Elizabeth, Lindsey, Lauren, Garrett, Desiree, and Robert at the camp, 2006

Me, Justin, Elizabeth, Lindsey, Lauren, Garrett, Desiree, and Robert at the camp, 2006

It is summer 2006, and I’m finishing up Grad School.  I am so beyond ready to move to Chicago.  I am acting in a show, my first in years, and for some reason it is as magical as it is terrifying.  I am in love with my college boyfriend and certain he will move to Chicago with me and we’ll get married.  Suddenly, everyone I love has the new Regina Spektor album, and we all know every word.  She has summer in her voice.  We listen to the songs and sing along as loudly as we can in our cars, in the dressing room, everywhere we are.  This voice is going to carry me to Chicago, and I’ll sing along loudly as I drive down Clark Street from my first apartment in Rogers Park, exploring.  This voice will carry me through the breakup of that doomed college romance, and its subsequent incarnations will soundtrack other important moments later in my life.  But this first song, this first kiss, is still the most magical.  This is how it works.


#11.  Damien Rice, “Delicate”

Me, Elizabeth, Chris, and Justin

Me, Elizabeth, Chris, and Justin

It is fall 2005, and I’m a 22-year-old college senior, directing my Honors College Senior Thesis Project.  I feel strong, I feel like I am headed in the right direction.  I feel like I am making all the right choices, except for those nights I panic about my future.  I wish I could stay in my college cocoon, where people like what I make and I’ve figured out the system.  I don’t want to move on, I don’t want to grow, I don’t want to change.  I long for a bigger city, but I’m so afraid to fail.  I sink into Damien Rice and Rufus Wainwright; I’m so enraptured by them that I use their songs in the play I’m directing.  I’m tiptoeing up to an edge.


#12. The New Pornographers, “Go Places”

Lauren, Claudia, Me, Jane, and Ashley at my 27th birthday party (Photograph by Austin D. Oie)

Lauren, Claudia, Me, Jane, and Ashley at my 27th birthday party (Photograph by Austin D. Oie)

The Tripod is made up of me and my best gal pals Lauren and Claudia, kickin’ it since the year 2000 (and the age 17).  We’ve seen each other through breakups, bad haircuts, marriages, kids, ill-advised fashion and romantic choices, and too much tomfoolery.  We have belted, harmonized, and mix-CDed many, many songs over the years, and this one is no exception.  When I hear it, it is summer 2010 and they have come to visit me in Chicago together for the only time, for my birthday and to see (a)Symmetry Cycle.  And to meet my new boyfriend Miles.  And to meet my most excellent roommates, Jane and Ashley.  The five of us are a Venn Diagram.  Now I am in Virginia, Claud and Laur are in Louisiana, Jane is in Alaska, and Ashley is in Chicago.  I will love them until I die, no matter where we live.  Stay with me/Go places.


#13. The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy in the UK”

Brian, Me, and Meredith at the Mundocom Office Christmas Party, 2007

Brian, Me, and Meredith at the Mundocom Office Christmas Party, 2007

It is winter 2007, and I have started my first real job.  I have also started dating a string of guys who are into punk music.  I do a lot of online research about punk music (arguable the least-punk think on earth to do) and watch documentaries about the Ramones, the Clash, and the Sex Pistols with my new friend Levi.  Levi loves this stuff, too.  Suddenly, all the cool kids are into punk music.  I go to a punk show, wearing a brooch.  I am hooked.  To this day, there are some days when I wake up and I know that it will be a Sex Pistols kind of morning, or no kind of morning at all.


#14. The Arctic Monkeys, “Fluorescent Adolescent”

Me and Levi, 2008

Me and Levi, 2008

This song isn’t a song, it’s a whole lifestyle choice.  And that lifestyle choice in 2008 is me and my new best pal Levi, riding his scooter through the streets of Chicago, singing really loudly to keep warm.  And eating too much cake.  And hitting up karaoke at the Holiday Club every single Wednesday night, no matter what.  There is no way to really encapsulate that time period, when the boys were all electric and so were we.  We even went to see the Arctic Monkeys in concert at the Riv.  Levi was there that day I thought I had cancer.  And that day that dude broke up with me.  And that day that really good thing happened.  And that night we ran into like EVERY PERSON we’d ever dated, at the same birthday party.  And years later, he was there the night before I got engaged.  And the day of my first reading on the West Coast.  Levi was just… there.  And he still is, even though he’s in Los Angeles now.  He’s my kindred spirit.

(PS: Levi, “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” was a close runner-up for this slot, as was “She Moves in Her Own Way,” but there could be only one.)


#15.  MGMT, “Time to Pretend”

I loved this song so much, I made it the background music for a montage.  You know that’s serious.  Instead of a description and a picture, I give you this.  The 2009 Montage.  (The second song is “Five Years Time” by Noah & the Whale”


#16. Little Joy, “No One’s Better Sake”

Jon, Me, and Mike on New Year's Eve, 2009

Jon, Me, and Mike on New Year’s Eve, 2009

It is summer, 2009.  I am starting to feel like I’ve gained a bit of momentum in the Chicago Theatre world — I have two shows I wrote in festivals this summer, and one I directed.  My family comes to town to see them.  I have joined a performance group, Cabaret Vagabond, and I’m very excited about it.  My sister gets an internship in Chicago, and moves in with me for the summer.  I make friends with Jon and Mike, and stand at the starting line of two friendships that will last indefinitely.  I buy Little Joy’s album on vinyl.  One summer night, Ashley and I sit around the kitchen table with Jon and Mike for hours, telling stories and taking shots, and listening to Little Joy go round and round.  When we got up from the table, the world was spinning and some new trajectory was set in motion.  Nights like those cement a girl’s identity.


#17. Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

girls in abingdon 2012

Hannah, Abbey, Holly, Wendy, Me, Erin, and Parris at the Martha, 2012

Even though I don’t have any recent ex-boyfriends, this song is still a belter.  It’s summer 2012, and I’m finally beginning to feel comfortable in Abingdon, and making a few good friends, like Erin.  Erin and I listen to this song really loudly on the way to see some movie in the theatre, and we’re the only ones there.  We get back in the car, and continue to sing, same song.  We go back to my house, and convince Holly to come over.  We lie on the bed and giggle.  I am 29 years old, but I feel like I’m 14, and instead of my parents in the other room, it’s my husband.  A few months later, Dan and I will rock out shamelessly to this song in Chicago after a Hobo Robo Festival performance.  A few months after that, I will try to explain this song to my nun sister, and fail to capture its greatness.  Guess you had to be there.  29 was a pretty great year.

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