Notes on a playlist: that one day in October 2017

Courtesy of Annika Sethre-Hofstad.

On a random weekday in October, a pretty cold one if I remember correctly, I sat for hours in a velvet window seat at a coffee shop in Fargo, ND, working on Chinese and AP Chemistry homework. It was my senior year of high school. The day didn’t feel significant at the time. And it wasn’t—with school done for the day and no tennis practice or dance rehearsal that night, I had a rare afternoon to myself. The kind of afternoon that was so mundane, it was special. 

This time in my life was a whirlwind; it felt like juggling two different worlds. After a tumultuous junior year and summer, I was still settling back into myself. I had begun my “lasts” of high school, yet I was in the midst of applying to colleges and imagining what my life would be like in a year’s time. I was concluding my childhood and adolescence in one town, yet carefully crafting a plan that would allow me to leave the following year. I was living one life, yet imagining another. As a result, I was feeling very weightless, detached from reality. 

One playlist ended, and I just let the recommended songs play, allowing my mind to wander while I stared out the window at a busy street (as busy as it gets in Fargo). 

People watching always makes me feel at peace. In catching glimpses of other’s lives, I feel more content with my own. It distances me from the deep, overthinking part of my brain in which I spend much of the day. This is what I remember most from that day: feeling at peace.

Most of the songs are easy on the ears, and remind me of feeling like I was floating through life in the best way. In “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)” by the Decemberists, a sweet chorus of harmonizing male and female singers invokes a warm beige. In “I’m Here Now (Bonus Track)” by Motopony, gentle background guitar plucking and an untroubled beat is accompanied by a comforting, crooning voice. In “Garden Grays” by Wildcat! Wildcat!, the repeating falsetto lyric “play while you’re still young” conjures teenage nostalgia. In “Lily of the Valley” by Francis Moon, the raw guitar, distant vocals and building bassline practically begs for zoned-out contemplation. And when I reminisce about this afternoon, a one-liner from “Dizzy On the Comedown” by Turnover immediately comes to mind: “How do you pass the days?” 

The mundanity of coffee shops and of a weekday where nothing extraordinary happens— these moments are where life is found. It’s not always the most anticipated moments, like graduations or milestones or “first days,” but in the simple passage of time. Usually, mundanity makes me sad. But on this ordinary October afternoon , it made me happy. 

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