Inspiration, move me brightly

♪♫♪ The storyteller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice / His job is to shed light, and not to master

You likely noticed already that I consider music an enormous influence in my life. It’s hard for me to imagine going through a day without listening to my playlists because I rely on music so much to get through the day. Frankly, I’m addicted to my headphones. Whether I’m running laps on the track at the rec, cramming schoolwork at the library, or just walking across the Quad from LCA to BSB, my fingers always compulsively reach for my earbuds to catch even a few minutes of a song. And I don’t listen to the first song on shuffle either – I am very meticulous and picky about the song I listen to at an exact moment, because music plays one of the biggest influences on my mood, demeanor, and emotions at any time.

In my psychology class, we covered memory and its effects on the brain during our last unit. Something we covered was retrieval cues and how the brain uses encoding specificity in order to preserve long term memory and make the process of remembering more smooth and permanent. While there are many songs that I am apathetic towards, I believe that certain songs – especially those that have grown so familiar to me that I am able to anticipate every beat, every dynamic, every rhythm – have encoded themselves so firmly into my memory that they evoke the strongest grip of emotion for me. They remind me of a time, place, or person, and I am taken from wherever I am to that time. Sometimes the experience is too hard for me to handle and I find I have to skip the song even before it starts playing.

I’m sure this all sounds very melodramatic, but music has always been that powerful for me, and that is why it has always been my greatest mechanism of escape and remembrance. It’s why I am constantly making playlist after playlist that are titled with names, locations, dates, or obscure meanings only I could discern. The memory unit in psychology was fascinating to me because it helped me realize how music plays such a profound influence in my everyday life. It astounds me that procedural memory, an aspect of long-term memory, involves actual physical changes in the brain when it is being stored. To me, this signifies that certain songs – and by their associations, certain people and places – have literally changed the structure of my brain because of the impact they have had on my life.

All of these thoughts in class made me happy that I switched to a Neuroscience major. It excites me to be able to explore the dynamic changes in the brain when we undergo powerful emotions and experiences in life.

In contrast to the songs that I skip because they might make me too upset to listen to them, there are also many songs that hold the exact opposite effect for me! I listen to them specifically because they are personally uplifting and improve my mood at the moment. Even if they can be childish or silly, sometimes just hearing them can improve my worst day and motivate me. In case you ever find yourself in need of some uplifting music, check out just a few songs on my uplifting playlist:

  • Peaches by New Heights
  • Slow Me Down by Emmy Rossum
  • Romantic Flight – John Powell
  • Nothing Ever Happens by Rachel Platten
  • Wunderkind by Alanis Morissette
  • Stay Stay Stay by Taylor Swift
  • Olsen Olsen by Sigur Ros
  • Boats and Birds – Gregory and the Hawk
  • Anna Sun – Walk the Moon
  • Daydream by Tycho

If you’re ever feeling down, consider looking up one of these songs! Perhaps they may lift your spirits as they do for me.

You’re back in terrapin, for good or ill again, for good or ill again. ♪♫♪

Terrapin Station - Grateful Dead

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About Sarah Lee

Hi, I'm Sarah! I am a junior Neuroscience student in GPPA Medicine who is still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in my life. One day I want to be fluent in Russian and explore Eastern Europe. In my free time, I love running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. I currently live in Courtyard residence hall as a Peer Mentor but my home is in Naperville.

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