The melodies that fit each day, hour, and moment in between

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Jessie Warren

I pulled over on the way home from my dad’s house to take this photo, in a moment when the music in my car sparked imminent joy.

I have never truly grasped the subtle impact of music until—after years of dragging my feet—I finally got my driver’s license.

There is an abundance to how the speakers sound through my tangerine-tinted Subaru Crosstrek, resting tacitly on each downbeat and emphatically on each spike. Driving from location A to location B each day, no matter the scenery when I get there, has provided me with a foreign sense of tranquility.

I used to hate driving, but now I find solace in the music that carries me softly between moments, and it’s that solace that inspired me. Each day has a melody—melodies that are so much sweeter when shared.

Monday mornings and afternoons, with fingers frigidly stationed upon the steering wheel. 

Each day just before sunrise, I open my eyes to dread. The dread of the outfit that lay planned out across my couch, pressuring me from across the room. The dread of what my hair will look like or what earrings I will pair with my sepia and subtly aquamarine locks.

Most of all, the dread of getting into my ice-box car and driving through the permanent freeze

Nearly every morning, my fingers go numb by the time I pull into the parking lot, and nearly every morning, I begin my day already prepared for it to end.

Yet, I’ve recently discovered a playlist that waves away a minuscule amount of my dawn-time apprehension, and it is the absence of a melody that has made my morning all the more exceptional. Instead of scouring my curated collections, I’ve found myself putting on a podcast to listen to while I tour the roads that connect my home and FHC.

In finding a specific creator that I adore and seeking out their content, I am in charge of what my day becomes. Whether a comedic commentary or an educational editorial, podcasts have brought light to the times before sunshine.

There is an abundance to how the speakers sound through my tangerine-tinted Subaru Crosstrek, resting tacitly on each downbeat and emphatically on each spike.”

Weeknights carving out a technicolor path between East Grand Rapids and Kentwood. 

On the nights when homework is little and energy is high, I often end up on Breton Road, going 35 miles per hour in my fear of breaking the speed limit, listening to an amalgamation of all things growing up.

“Heroes” by David Bowie echos through my vehicle—a song reminiscent of the times before coming-of-age, when it was seemingly all I wanted. Wallows, Nirvana, and Lorde intermix to create a musical puzzle, all the pieces with discordant edges that somehow fit together.

These are moments when I feel like a teenager, layered in a resonant soundtrack for a Lady Bird-like film that plays out in my mind each time I climb behind the wheel.

And even at the most inconsequential of moments—like driving to Joann Fabrics at 5 p.m. to pick up tote bag-painting tools for Natalie’s birthday gift—these songs always feel special.

Saturday thrifting excursions and tepid chai tea lattes. 

To me, the beginnings of weekends have always felt like the air within an antique store—light scintillating through dust particles, memories that belonged to someone else finding their way to you. And in this vein, my Saturdays are often spent in the car, a once boiling cup of chai tea slowly chilling in my center console, the jams of the 60s and 70s radiating through the atmosphere.

As I tred from the Cascade Library towards the Goodwill off of 28th street, my heart-shaped sunglasses bridging the space between my eyes, these vibey tunes fill the air with blissful serenity. These are the jams that used to diffuse from the interior of my mother’s car into the great outdoors outside my window, my tiny legs dangling from my car seat. Cass Elliot sang from behind a broken speaker, soon followed by America and The Monkees.

Now, the nostalgia carries me like a dream—an empty, cloudy canvas open to whatever paint I may bring along with me.

Sunday nights, the traffic lights blurring into muddled dreamscapes on the pavement.

I was within the top 0.5% of Hozier’s listeners in 2021, a fact that I find ways to subtly brag about each time his name floats about in conversation. There were days when I could not sleep without putting on some of his music—moments when the world was a forest, a melody flitting between trees, as quiet as a whisper.

Now, in the dead of winter, I find myself queuing up his discography any time I am racing to beat my legally-mandated curfew of 10 p.m. On roads where traffic lights turn from green to saffron to vermillion, the lights of my day blur together into something foreign, yet familiar. Something rational. Something within my grasp.

Akin to the soothing luminosity of the stars, Hozier is always there, waiting for darkness to fully demonstrate his reminiscence. He is the epitome of what music means—a voice in the shadows, ready to brush them away.