I’m rounding out my last undergraduate semester. One of my classes tasked me with the final project of writing creatively about who I am, and who I’m becoming in response to what I now call the Quarantine Era. I got to choose the format, and I decided to resurrect an idea I never got around to last year. It’s a little advice column about the way I’ve seen the world ever since I knew how to use a computer. I call it “Byte-Size Mindfulness,” or, Using Technology to be Better at Emotions.
The basic idea is that life is super complicated. It’s hard to understand my emotions in real-time. Computers can simulate all kinds of moments in ways I’ve never even thought of. So I should use my understanding of technology to build lasting metaphors. I can’t quite explain it, but maybe I can show it.
A song walk is something I do when I have an emotion stuck inside me that’s really powerful and lasts more than a few minutes so I can’t focus. Hopefully I have my phone and headphones with me, because what I do is choose a song that really resonates with my feelings, and I put it on a loop. Pretty loud. And I go for a brisk walk.
Tonight as it started getting dark I was mired in a feeling like, “Are you kidding? This has been all the world had to offer me today?” I needed something to happen to make it feel like time was even still moving.
|I put on my coat and went for a walk listening to “Anna” by the Menzingers. (Spotify||YouTube)|
The first cool thing about a song walk is, obviously, catharsis. None of the people you walk past know you’re a doofus listening to the same song on repeat. Once you get far enough away from your own neighborhood you might notice the street is empty (because everyone is socially distancing, as they should) and get the confidence to just belt out the chorus. It feels amazing.
I HAVE SO MUCH TO TELL YA / PLEASE COME BACK TO PHILADELPHIA / THIS PLACE AIN’T THE SAME WITHOUT YOU, ANNA
Hey, the singer’s voice is just as sad and lonely as I feel, and that makes everything better! Wow. Just replace Philadelphia with “the entire planet” and Anna with “a life that includes embodied interactions with friends and wonderful people to meet and enjoy the world with.”
The other thing about a Song Walk is that your song (if it has lyrics) might have more to say about your feelings than you could have picked up on if you only listened to it once.
But I will wait for you, babe / I have so much to tell ya / I have so much to say / Take as long as you need to take / I have so much to tell ya / I have so much to say
Life can take as long as it needs to. I will wait.
But it will come back—that’s what the scientists are saying for now, anyway. Right? Right???
Maybe I need to go for another walk.
Other song walks I have taken
Another Menzinger’s song: “House on Fire”. I think I was walking in Downtown Salt Lake during when I lived in “luxury” student housing that was falling apart and basically uninhabited by anyone else to talk to. Seriously, dozens and dozens of rooms were empty in this place. And every time I would walk outside, I’d see people without homes living in tents outside the library. It was fucked. But maybe I am matching the wrong song with that memory.
Once I was on a trip to New York and got waves of anxiety walking by myself at Times Square. I listed to “Sleeping Lessons” by the Shins about five times and felt better.
I listened to “Melody Circus” by Savant on a walk the morning after one of my first poetry open mic nights back in high school. When I got home, I wrote this poem about it that was eventually published in the lit mag. Maybe you like the poem, maybe it’s bad, gimme a break it was high school.