When The Beach Boys’ “Graduation Day” started blasting through my speakers back in February, I immediately thought to myself: It is way too early for this. As much as I may have been looking forward to making the most of some lasts with my friends, I always thought that the urge to make final memories would really manifest itself as the countdown went from months to weeks and eventually to days.
In many ways, that’s exactly what happened. And—as many a senior will say—it all happened so fast. As I partake in some of the many lasts that have made for a memorable end to my Vassar experience, from my last first day of classes to the last bite of Deece carrot cake, I am also reminded of the music that saw me through it all. I feel comfort knowing that the songs, just like the memories, will stick with me wherever I go.
When I think back to my first year, I’m reminded of daily fall afternoon walks with Tyler the Creator’s “Flower Boy” hammering in my ears. Having only been released a month before orientation, the album saw me through the tumultuous ups and downs of adjusting to college life. “Boredom,” “Glitter” and “See You Again” remain as some of my favorites from the album, and in a way that I still struggle to put into words, “Flower Boy” truly anchored me that first year.
In my sophomore year, both members of one of my favorite bands of all time, Her’s, passed away in an accident. I can still remember coming across the news while brushing my teeth in a rush before a 10:30 a.m. class; a deep feeling of sadness washing over me at that moment. I regretted not finding the opportunity to see them perform live. I didn’t even know how to respond, and for some time I questioned whether or not I had the right to mourn someone I’d never known. In 2018, the year prior to their passing, the band released its sophomore album, “Invitation to Her’s,” and it has remained one of my most beloved albums of all time. This is the album in which I find the most solace when life tosses me overboard. It’s funny, charming and effortlessly warm; every time I listen to “What Once Was,” “Dorothy” or “She Needs Him” in particular, I feel enlivened again, and I remember to live life in constant pursuit of my dreams.
Junior year threw me for a loop—that loop being COVID. After a lively fall semester with my lovely friends as my housemates and a brief stint in intramural volleyball, I soon found myself on the other side of the world in the spring. For two weeks, I feasted with family I hadn’t seen in well over a year and revelled in the cleanliness of the Seoul subway, all while anticipating my semester abroad at Yonsei University. But come the end of February, the pandemic started and I had to let go of a dream that I’d held since my freshman year of high school.On the plane ride home, I fell asleep to Maurice Ravel’s “Le jardin féerique” from his Ma mère l’Oye suite, a piece whose empathetic instrumentation I’d constantly come to seek throughout the months-long quarantine.
And now, I finally find myself at the end of the beginning: senior year. Having studied remotely in the fall and then in-person this spring, I’ve experienced a mix of moments that have ranged from being rad to downright “unhinged,” as they say. As I write this, I’ve already had to say some goodbyes that have made the upcoming end of this semester all the more real. It makes it difficult for me to pinpoint the songs and artists that have defined the short time I’ve spent back on campus. But in the interest of saving the waterworks of nostalgia for the day I’m handed that $100k scroll, I’ll keep it short and sweet. Two words: Beach Boys.
What music has meant to me is likely not too different from the reasons that have made it meaningful to you, especially so at Vassar, where the arts— especially music—are allowed to thrive. We can all think of moments in our lives in which hearing or finding the right song did just the trick, and as long as there is music in the world, those YES moments will never go away. Perhaps the question posed in this article’s title might inspire you to string together the memories you’ve been lucky or unlucky enough to gather. And so I ask: Where has music taken you?