At the age of fourteen, I entered a relationship that I would spend fourteen more years in. This past spring, it revealed itself to be more harm than good.
That being said, I never understood the concept of breakup music. The closest I ever came to using music to cope with a loss is listening to sad records way too late into the night to mourn lost friendships with people I still deeply cared for but whose ties I had severed for one reason or another. When the breakup finally did hit this year, that needed to change. I needed to find music that would give me a perspective of my own.
However, something I quickly realized was that music isn’t universal – what resonates with one person at a life-pivoting movement may mean absolutely nothing to someone else. But before that realization, I asked around for recommendations from people I knew who had been through relationships just as treacherous as the one I just exited, thinking that what worked for them would work for me too.
The first person I asked was my childhood best friend. I knew two things for sure before our talk: they had been through a lot of heartbreak and they were going to give me a lot of electronic stuff. I was right on both! What they offered me was a five-song playlist with a Word document attached. In the document, they recounted perspectives and aspects of growth that I hadn’t realized they had been through. They listed ways that these songs painted pictures of windows of their life as if they had written them. By the end of their document, I was moved to tears; they had thanked me along with other loved ones who had helped them through it all.
However, I realized that to me, their playlist sounded like a big party. While I understood the sentiment of the words themselves, I couldn’t quite heal to this type of beat.
My second ask was the girl I had just moved in with. Living with her has been an incredible experience. She’s so excited about art (mostly film) but in a close second place is an excitement for music. She always has something on that I don’t know and has had so much life experience that I knew I could trust her to give me some insight.
I was so right. She sent me two playlists and several albums alongside recounts of stories from her life. Where she was when she used this song or record to mend a broken heart, what exactly went on in the relationship in question; so many stories of missed love, terrible exes, and records passed down from parents.
But the thing that showed up most of all? Where she lived – how she can still taste the air of the streets she traveled when she lived through it.
This was a much different experience than what we’d had showing each other music so far. Usually, we’d tell each other a little personal anecdote, some history on the artist, maybe both – this was deeper than that. I tried to make a nineteen-song playlist of songs name-dropped in her stories to see if I could feel it too, and while I understood it, I of course couldn’t be where she was back then.
Also, it was sort of hard for me to latch onto some of the bedroom pop and most of the hair metal she suggested. That genre is kind of not what I enjoy.
Little did I know I had actually already found my personal choice. One night before moving out here, I jumped onto Discord. My future roommate and I were showing each other music and my choice was Breakup Season by Future Teens. Seems kind of obvious now, but the stories their co-lead vocalists told of lost love really hit home for me. That, and sad yet upbeat indie rock with way too much of what’s in the narrator’s head as lyrics always struck more of a chord with me. Especially when it’s New England grown.
Like, yeah, that’s just it! My whole life I’ve been terrified to be alone. It’s easy in retrospect to see how I could stay with someone for half my life that was actively hurting me. They slowly manipulated my mind into believing if it wasn’t them, it’d be nobody.
When I listen to this record now, I get transported right back home. I can see the dimly lit twilight sky on a depression walk in my neighborhood. I can feel myself bouncing in my car with frustration at the heavy traffic of I-95 while Amy Hoffman literally sings about crying in a traffic jam. It also really helps that Future Teens was fairly local to where I hit up most of my live music.
Right now, life has really looked up from my messy breakup back home. I have a new home, a new life, and a regular routine. I started dating the girl that was once three thousand miles away, and now we get to be co-muses – just like we always had been but in a different and much more interactive way.
Sure, some days the past still haunts me, and sometimes the trauma really hits hard and I lock up in my own insecurities, but now I have a moment in time that a favorite record can transport me back to. A moment sitting at my desk at the apartment we once shared and having a realization that made me feel like the future is bright. That belongs to me and only me. Everyone else I’ve shown that record to doesn’t have that. Maybe it doesn’t click with them at all either. That doesn’t matter though. What matters is that it’s mine and I can use it in whatever way I need, just as everyone else use can theirs.