The Songs of Unextraordinary Memories

I have always found it curious that certain songs bring me back to precise moments in my life.

One might think that these moments would be ones of intense emotions, imprinted on the mind because of their impact and importance. But more often than not, songs bring me back to mundane moments and seemingly banal snippets of my memory.

Vividly, I remember walking down CoRo listening to Pearl Jam’s “Hold On.” As I was walking to the stop to head into town, I saw two of my friends. After a brief smile and a wave, the interaction was over and I headed on my way. That is where the memory ends.

I remember sitting in my forced-triple room in Cheverus doing calculus homework listening to “Think” by Kaleida on repeat. I remember glancing out the window as the dry February air whipped tree branches and snow violently about. But the sun was shining. And I can almost picture the exact problem I was doing at the time.

During my senior year of high school, I remember walking into my house one day to be greeted by Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft” as Sinatra sings the verse, “And I’ve got no defense for it / The heat is too intense for it / What good would common sense for it do?” The memory seems to end as I place my keys on the table.

Further back I remember with the utmost clarity sitting on the bus on my way to school listening to Alice in Chain’s “Man in the Box.” As the bus rolled up to the next stop and rain continued to flood the street and more heated bodies began to pack into the seats, the windows began to fog.

Most of these seem like ordinary events in my eyes. This led me to wonder why I have them as memories. I suppose we never really know when we are forming memories, that is, when we are making lasting connections within our neural framework, but it still begs the question. Why did my subconscious value these moments?

When thinking of memories, I believe we often consider the circumstances around what we were doing in those moments. The things we recall are everything happening around us. These are family gatherings, holidays, and graduations. But those things are just tethers to the emotional state we were in. For memories, the most valuable aspect of these small recollections is the tether to the emotional world. We can recreate the circumstances, but the memory is used to link to a unique emotional state.

That is what I have tried to uncover with these and other memories: the emotional state I was in. I seemed to find that I was often content—simply content and happy with a sense of disregard to what was going on around me. These memories are much more internal to me and the music helps me see that.

Imbued in the songs, seemingly forever, are these tethers to those moments and how I felt. Whether or not I was reaping a sense of content from the songs themselves, I have yet to determine, but they will forever house these notions for me.

The emotional connections we forge in our minds are a guiding force throughout the rest of our lives. With that said, even the most ordinary of moments can be fueled by a multitude of feelings.

As a college student, it is almost depressing that the mind, when left to its own devices, will retain seemingly inconsequential information in a time dominated by lengthy equations, verses, and concepts. Down the line, however, in the later years of our lives, these seemingly small inconsequential moments, will likely be a greater source of joy than anything that can be tabulated on a spreadsheet.

I believe it is in these smaller moments that we truly find ourselves. Songs help us dig past the superficial ephemeral moment and dig deeper.

“Music is what feelings sound like,” – Unknown Author.

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About Caleb Griego 152 Articles
Caleb Griego is the arts & review editor of The Heights. He has put his earphones through the wash at least a dozen times and they still work. He still doesn't know who to thank, so he prays to all deities just to be safe.