My youth’s soundtrack
On iTunes I have 735 songs that take up 4.36 gigabytes of my laptop’s hard disk space—a digital pile of all the music I listened to at different points in life.
There’s the 2008-2011 complete Justin Bieber discography that I downloaded back in junior high; My Chemical Romance, The Click Five, Avril Lavigne, and the OPM playlist that reminds me of my childhood; soundtracks from the movies “(500) Days of Summer,” “50/50,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and the TV shows “New Girl” and “Community”; and discographies of Lorde, Simple Plan, and Taylor Swift—which I
In high school, a friend, Andrea, once wrote in her blog about how she noticed me usually alone, walking down the road from school to our house, with headphones on, visibly lip-syncing to whatever song was playing.
I love music—not that I would ever enroll in a music class (I often just sleep through them) or start my own band, but that I love listening to music, because in it I find solace. It’s the same way some people just love reading, but would sleep through an English class discussing the stylistic techniques of Murakami or cry when they’re given a writing homework. It’s just casual between music and me—pure friendship, but one that goes a long way back and involves shared memories.
Until I was 11 we lived in a compound with my grandmother and all my aunts and uncles on my mother’s side. Our house was a concrete box with just two rooms—the small bathroom and the rest of the house or the main living area.
At night, we would turn off all the lights except for the one in the bathroom. The bathroom’s walls didn’t reach the ceiling, so the orange glow from the light bulb would bleed into our bedroom, making it light enough to see the silhouettes of my parents and my three younger siblings as they slept, and dark enough so the rest of the house was in a void.
My parents had this old radio they kept on throughout the night, tuned to a local station that aired only old love songs. As a child, I always had trouble sleeping.
It bugged me that more than half of my days were to be spent sleeping and not having fun, and I feared that if I closed my eyes I’d never open them again. (I was very morbid as a child: In point of fact my favorite films used to be the “Saw” and “Final Destination” franchises.) So I stayed up late, watching the figures of my family in the dark, making sure their chests continued to sink and rise, sink and rise, sink and rise, listening to love songs by people whose names I’ve long forgotten, and were probably many years dead by the time I first heard them.
In the beginning the music was just there—in fact the voices haunted me. They put the house in somber, eerie tones that, mixed with the orange darkness, made me frightened to look into dark corners or go to the bathroom at night. But I was sure that if I turned the music off, my parents would wake. So I never bothered, and soon I fell in love with it. In the occasional mornings that my siblings were at school, my parents at work, and I was home alone, I would turn the radio back on and lie in bed until lunchtime.
In my bedroom, on the topmost level of my bookshelf, stacked next to DVDs of my favorite movies, are some of the albums of Taylor Swift, Simple Plan, and Owl City—CDs I stumbled on in yard sales and discount stores, and some I received as presents for Christmas or my birthday. I’ve only played them once. When I get a CD I import them into iTunes and store it with the others.
I look forward to when I’m over 50 years old, with children, when I’ll show them my collection and tell them about my youth. And then I’ll compel them to listen to these
“classic” songs. It is because this is the music I grew up to. These are the songs I played at full volume when I would lock myself in my bedroom, or through headphones during the commute to school. And knowing this, remembering my past, I realize how much one can learn about a person from the music in their playlist.
I’ll admit that the songs I listened to weren’t exactly the best. I don’t have a penchant for classic songs—something that all intelligent people must have, according to a friend. But I love them anyway because at the time, they were perfect for me. They put into words just the things that I couldn’t (“Me and Milee,” “You Kissed Me at the Dundies”—All Caps, for my first high school love). They entertained me (“Don’t Unplug Me”—All Caps, for a girl named Stephanie). They comforted me when I felt bad (“Perfect” and “Welcome to My Life” by Simple Plan, for when the teenage angst set in).
Since childhood I never had a lot of friends; usually I had just one or two. I am very intimate, I guess, that I can socialize well in a small, closed circle; being with many puts me on a disconnect with them. I preferred to find the few people with whom I could be very close, and so when it came to other people I found difficulty socializing. I guess it’s easier to divide and distribute your trust and understanding to fewer people, and I don’t have lots of those things to give a crowd.
I can’t trust a lot of people. And I can’t express myself well enough with other people. With many, you’re divided, and so you have to say the things you want said well. I’ve always wondered how people who had lots of friends did it—like, is there a manual I can buy at Booksale that can teach me the words to use and the questions to ask? How do I express myself in a way that doesn’t put off people or make them leave, like they always do with me?
But music was like the friends I never had and always wished for. If a diary is the friend that listens, music is the friend that talks. It makes you realize things, gives you encouragement, lightens you up by saying hopeful things, and helps you tell things to people that you normally can’t. And most of all, when you listen to a song that speaks of a feeling you have, of a longing, or of sorrow, you realize that you are not alone in this world, that there are in fact people who think and feel the same way as you, and the music connects you.
And thus is the soundtrack of my youth.
Dominic Dayta, 17, is a statistics student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He maintains a blog at septemberstorm.tumblr.com.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.