The lyrics that write my life

Ellie McDowell

More stories from Ellie McDowell

It takes a village
April 19, 2023

Alex Smith

One of the smaller moments that make my life what it is. One of the smaller moments that becomes encapsulated by the lyrics of these songs.

The beauty of lyrics is the emotion that is conveyed through a few words strung together. I listen to so many different genres of music I can’t even begin to explain my taste. From Broadway soundtracks to country music, I listen to a little of it all. 

I began to wonder, what is my life’s soundtrack like? If I listen to a little of it all, what would that playlist sound like? 

Proud – Riley Biederer

This song is one I found recently. 

“I think there’s pieces of heaven in blue eyes / I’m scared I’m not far enough at 25 / I don’t believe in a lot but I feel like I believe in enough.” 

Proud is about the little things in life that maybe we’re not so proud of. Things like over-analyzing and trying to make our baggage a little less heavy. 

“I’ve been a kid who couldn’t wait to get older.” 

Growing up was always waiting for the next big milestone: high school, driving, turning 18. I was always focused on the things coming, and never on what I was doing in the moment. I missed so many little things, like coloring at the kitchen table or running around until the streetlights came on. As I grow up and life becomes so full of responsibilities, I miss those little things, and I wish I had appreciated them when I had them. 

“I’ve made a lot of good family out of friends.”

I have a habit of pushing people away and leaving myself with the smallest group of friends I possibly can. That’s not a great thing to do, but it means that my friends and I are as close as family. Over the years I’ve made and lost a lot of friends, but the ones I love the most are there for me no matter what.

“I’ve been in love and then I lost it / had the ball but then I dropped it. / My faults and my fears can get loud.”

I love hard. I use the phrase “I love you” often, and sometimes a little irresponsibly. I throw that phrase around like a football. To me, love is one of the most beautiful things. I am a hopeless romantic and, as I’ve written before, I love love. The problem is that when I fall in love it encapsulates me—it takes over every part of me—and sometimes I lose focus on myself. I drop the ball on my own life, and suddenly the people around me have to pick up my pieces. To those who have been there to do that every time, and have helped me learn to love myself just as much, thank you and I love you.

Sometimes the little voice in my head starts screaming at me. I know that sounds like some sort of mental issue I should really get worked out, but I have come to realize it’s just my insecurities deciding they want to take control. Every little thing I am afraid of suddenly appears at the forefront of everything else, and the pieces of myself I despise become all I can see.

“[When I look in the mirror I’m proud] / of the lessons that I’ve learned even if they had to hurt / of the people who I have to hold me up when life gets hard to live / and all the ones I miss.”

Over the years I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown in ways I never thought I could. Since I walked into FHC as a little 14-year-old girl I have grown into quite the young woman—at least according to my parents. I’ve learned a lot about friendships, myself, and life as a whole. I’ve made and lost so many friends, and the relationships I have kept are one of the most important things in the world to me. 

“When I look in the mirror I’m proud. / Don’t always know who I am right now / but I know that she makes me proud.”

I am so incredibly proud of the girl I have become, and the girl I am growing up to be. I have grown so much, and even though I don’t know who I am yet, I’m proud of myself in this current moment.

Confrontations – alex

“I built a whole man I didn’t understand / and people called him me.”

Confrontations is about the double life a lot of people live. 

One side is the person you are in front of other people. The goal is to be happy, but not too happy or they’ll worry. Be excited, but not too excited. Don’t cry because they’ll ask questions. Act like everything is fine, and it will be.

The other side is the person you are behind locked doors. That’s where you cry and let out your emotions. You punch your pillow. You can scream and cry and do whatever you need to, as long as you’re back to that other half of yourself by the time you unlock that door.

“And now my life is a series of confrontations / between my traits and the ones I was faking / on my search for who I was meant to be.”

I usually put up a front to do what I have to to make it through my day. At the beginning of the semester, people started seeing through that front, and I’ve been working on breaking it down. I don’t yet have the confidence to cry in front of just anyone, but I’m learning that it’s okay to cry sometimes. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to feel things because everyone does.

For a long time, I became a person I knew I wasn’t, and that person collided with my actual personality. For most of high school, I was this quiet girl who didn’t talk much. She lacked confidence and the ability to make friends. Then, outside of school, I was this bubbly, talkative person who no one really recognized. I’ve started to let that side of me become the person I really am. I’ve started to stop putting up a facade, and let people get to know the real me; the me I want to be.

Call Your Sister – Taylor Edwards

In 118 days I graduate from high school.

“Kind of broke my heart moving out of state, / Kind of made me scared I would be replaced / but I didn’t know how much I would hate being far away.”

My current plan is to move to Pennsylvania for college. I’m not sure which school yet, but in a few months I will be over 500 miles away, and I will have left my little sisters behind in Michigan. I’m scared. I’m so, so scared of moving away because I’m scared that my sisters will find someone else to replace me. 

“Growing up gets old / So I hope you always know / You can call your sister when it feels like no one understands.”

Meggie, you’re quite the character. I say that in the nicest and most loving way I possibly can. You are special. You are unique. You are unapologetically yourself. I love you.

I’m only a call away, kid.

“I’ll laugh when you laugh, cry when you cry, / drive eight hours through the night. / If you ever need her or just miss her/you can call your sister.”

Addie, you are perfect just the way you are. Sometimes life gets tough. You are a lot like me, so I can speak from experience that it’s not always going to be easy. Don’t ever forget who you are. I love you.

I’m only a call away.

“Yeah, I hate to watch you growing up in pictures. / You can call your sister when it feels like no one understands.”

I can’t wait for the pictures I will get to see on social media. I can’t wait for the pictures my family will send me. I hate that that is how I will watch my sisters finish high school. I hate that this is how I’ll watch both of them get their driver’s licenses. All I can do is hope that they always remember that I’m only a call away.

Don’t Forget to Remember me – Carrie Underwood

“18 years have come and gone, / for mama they flew by / but for me they drug on and on.”

The last 12 years of school have felt so long. My parents keep telling me how fast it’s all gone, but for at least three years I have felt like life couldn’t have gone any slower. Even then, I was shocked to be reminded that I graduate in four months. 

“Mama kept on talking, putting off goodbye. / Then she took my hand and said / ‘Baby don’t forget / before you hit the highway, you better stop for gas. / There’s a 50 in the ashtray in case you run short on cash. / Here’s a map and here’s a Bible, if you ever lose your way. / Just one more thing before you leave, / don’t forget to remember me.”

I can already tell how the goodbye is going to go. My whole family will cry. My mom will remind me of the most random things, and she will pretend this isn’t one of the hardest things she’s ever done. 

I’ve told her a million times I’m not going to call her every day. I said it’s because I want to learn how to live by myself. In reality, I can’t because it will make me want to go home. It’s not because I don’t want to remember my life here. Not because I want to forget about the last 17 years and my friends and family. It’s because if I hear my parents’ voices every single day I won’t be able to stay wherever I end up. I will want too badly to come home.

“And just like every Sunday, I called mama up last night, / and even when it’s not, I tell her everything’s alright.”

Momma, I promise I’ll call at least once a week. I promise I’ll tell you everything is okay even when I’m homesick and I want to leave. I know you won’t believe me, but I will pretend you aren’t worrying about me anyway.

“Hey mama don’t forget to tell my baby sister I’ll see her in the fall. / And tell Me-maw that I miss her, yeah I should give her a call. / And make sure you tell daddy, that I’m still his little girl. ”

Dad, even when I’m hours away I’m still your little girl. We’re still always quarreling, and I’m still not skipping my birthdays because that is still not how it works. 

“Yeah, I still feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, but don’t forget to remember me.”

Even when it’s hard—even when it’s scary—I know I’m supposed to do this. I know I can.

If You Love Her – Forest Blakk

I really can’t describe how much I love love, so I will continue to say it over and over again. I love love.

“Take it, / if she gives you her heart don’t you break it. / Let your arms be a place she feels safe in. / She’s the best thing that you’ll ever have.”

This song makes my hopeless romanticism thrive. I love the idea and the act of being in love. I love the idea of a home being a person instead of a place. A person who makes you feel safe just by giving you a hug. A person who you can be yourself with. A person who understands not only their own worth but your worth too. 

I love love.

“She loves pop songs and dancing / and bad trash tv.”

Something that comes with loving me is my phenomenal taste in music. My top artist for the past two years has been Taylor Swift. I love old Taylor, and new Taylor is growing on me too.

“She’ll love you if you love her on days when it feels like the whole world might cave in. / Stand side by side and you’ll make it. / She’s the best thing that you’ll ever have. / She’ll love you if you love her like that.”

Seventeen – Alessia Cara

I was always a dreamer, but now my time for acting is here and I don’t know what to do.

I had my 17th birthday about three months ago. Most years when people ask me if I feel any older I say no, but this year I couldn’t decide. I can’t get over the fact that I am almost an adult.

“So hear me scream. / I was too young to understand what it means. / I couldn’t wait to be seventeen. / I thought he lied when he said take my time to dream. / Now I wish I could freeze the time at 17.”

I wrote earlier about how I took life for granted when I was younger. Let me give you a slightly better picture. I miss snowball fights that ended in real fights because someone got hit with a chunk of ice. I miss riding bikes down to the community garden. I miss long walks to the ice cream store. I miss being able to run free for hours on end without a care in the world.

I was always a dreamer, but now my time for acting is here and I don’t know what to do.

“My mother said don’t forget where you come from, where you been, / always keep your closest friends they can’t slip away. / They keep you grounded. / And yeah I guess that sounded nice when I was ten. / Oh but never were there truer words. / In all my days I’ve ever heard, / and when she told me little girl / the answer is love.”

I have let so many people I cared about slip out of my grasp. I have pushed people away and done things that caused them to leave. I have had my heart broken more than once by people who said they would always be there. But still, I live by my ability to love. I live by the idea that love is so incredibly beautiful and even more important. The answer is always love.

“I been goin on, I been growin up. / I’m a know it all, I don’t know enough. / See I was racing and waiting for the day that I would be old enough. / Guess I’ll be patient and pace myself gotta prepare for when goings rough.”

Time is going by so quickly, and I feel like I’m falling behind. I think I know everything, but every time something happens I feel lost. I was always hoping to be older, but now that adulthood is less than a year away, I wish I had taken a little longer to be a kid. I wish I had reveled in the time I had before.

Beautiful Crazy – Luke Combs

“She’s unpredictable, unforgettable.”

I like to think I’m fairly unpredictable, but most people tell me that’s not true. I let my emotions control me most of the time, but I have very similar reactions to pretty much everything. I do, however, believe I leave an impact on the people around me. I believe that I am unforgettable, not because of anything crazy, but because my goal is to leave a good impact on everyone I meet.

“Beautiful, crazy, she can’t help but amaze me. / The way that she dances, ain’t afraid to take chances, / and wears her heart on her sleeve. / Yeah, she’s crazy, but her crazy is beautiful to me.”

My friends tell me I’m crazy. I don’t dance, and new things scare the crap out of me. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and maybe that’s why it’s been in pieces. Maybe that’s why my friends have to help me put it back together. 

My “crazy”, I think, is not the insane kind of crazy. My dancing and taking chances aren’t in a literal sense. My “crazy” and risks are the way I put my emotions on a google doc, and then post them for the world to see. The way I put everything into my columns and then publicize them. 

New Friends – Jordana Bryant

Now the focus switches to friendships I’ve had and lost. There aren’t many, because I tend to put up a lot of walls that take a while to get through, but there are a few.

“I get it, / We’re 17 and it’s a Saturday night. / And I get it / I can’t compete with the party or the lights.”

My introverted personality was hard for my extroverted friends. I’m sure it still is, for those of them that are extroverts. Hanging out and playing Mario Kart—just me and you—sounds like the perfect Saturday night. I didn’t want to go party. I didn’t want to hang out with a whole bunch of people. I couldn’t compete.

“Guess right now I’m missing real bad when Saturdays were us. / That used to be enough.”

I’ve found myself missing the people I’ve lost a lot lately. I’ve found that growing up without them has been getting harder and harder. I’ve found that nothing is going the way I planned because I lost the people I planned it with. It’s a lot harder to fulfill the plans by myself.

“I get it, friends forever doesn’t always mean for life.”

I loved you, but maybe “forever” just wasn’t meant to be.

Castle on the Hill – Ed Sheeran

“I was younger then. / Take me back to when / I found my heart and broke it here, / made friends and lost them through the years.”

For 17 years, I have grown up and learned about myself here in Grand Rapids. The start of my 18th year will be in a new place all by myself. Hopefully, my family will be there with me, but after that, I do 18 by myself.

Maybe I’ll never have another birthday in Michigan. Maybe I will find a forever home in Pennsylvania and I will spend every birthday there for the rest of my life. Or maybe I will find my forever home somewhere else and I will have some birthdays in Pennsylvania and the rest there. 

But Grand Rapids will forever be “home”. And already, “I can’t wait to go home.”

Soldiers – Rachel Platten

We all have hundreds of little battles. 

“At the end of the road, we’re all soldiers on our own, / tryna find our way back home. / And at the end of the day, nothing matters anyway. / Just the love that we have made.”

These battles seem impossible sometimes, but with the friends and family we have around us we can do hard things. I can do hard things.

“After all, came the sun, / and now our hearts will beat as one. / We made it through, then came the sun.”

Sometimes everything feels really, really hard. Sometimes I have really bad days. Every time someone makes me smile. The dark is punctuated by the sun every time. My bad days may end in darkness, but by the time I wake up in the morning, I will have found the sun again.

“We’ll carry on, it’s how we’re raised. / We might fall, but we won’t break.”

When I was little my mom always used to tell me that. “Ellie, you can do hard things.” I was raised to get back up when I fall down. Get back up and clean yourself off, but you can do hard things. Just because I fell doesn’t mean I broke. 

You can’t break me.

the author – Luz

“I’m afraid that all my unprecedented thoughts won’t lead anywhere.”

I overthink literally everything. If someone says “ok” instead of spelling it out I overthink. If someone uses abbreviations and they don’t normally, I overthink. If someone texts me and uses a certain emoji my immediate thought is that they are angry. I know these thoughts are unrealistic, but they continue to plague me anyway.

“I don’t wanna stay here / I wanna be in your arms by the sea / studying your freckles curiously / focused on your eyes so delicately.”

I am a person who notices the little details. I am a person who loves to spend quality time with the people I love. I am a person who just wants to be together. 

“I just wanna stay outside til 6 am / even though I hated it then.”

I just want to be. . .

“Are you afraid of living life in bold?”

Honestly, I am.