One of the questions I like to ask people is -
If you had to pick three songs to be on the soundtrack of your life, what would they be?
There are no rules – no guidelines. You can pick the songs based on their lyrics, you can pick your songs based on the actual significance in your life, you can pick your songs because that’s how you wish your life went. No rules. Three songs. What would you choose?
And I ask this question knowing that it’s a difficult question – knowing that there are people like me who love music so much they will chafe at the thought of having to narrow this massive list of songs that have moved your or meant something or defined moments – and narrow it down to three somehow.
Many people refuse to – won’t do it. And I can’t blame them, because… it’s hard.
And if you’re like me, and you are drawn to songs because of their lyrics – choosing your songs can also be quite revealing, and some people (like me) don’t like that. Bah.
I’ve never actually answered my own question. The first two songs are easy to choose but it’s that third one that about kills me. I have runners up for my runners up. But, I think… I think I’ve got it. For now. You never know – ask me again in a month and it could be totally different.
1. Sara Smile – Hall & Oates
My mom heard this a few weeks before I was born – and suddenly the other name contenders were out the window. (Can you imagine me as a Katie or a Sydney? Nope. I can’t either.) When I was younger, I hated this song tremendously. I hated that I was named after a song at all. But, you know what? It grew on me. This song was a part of me before I took my first breath, and so as far as inclusion on a soundtrack goes, it’s a pretty literal choice. Hey, a girl can be literal sometimes.
It was my love-hate relationship with this song that kept me from naming either of my children after a song, though two name possibilities for Pumpkin were indeed songs. Alexa was her name for quite awhile before eventually not seeming right and going out the window – “The Downeaster Alexa” by Billy Joel wasn’t the inspiration of the name, just a coincidence. Anna was another possibility, indeed coming directly from “Anna Begins” by Counting Crows. The song itself is not exactly something you want someone singing to your kid, I’m guessing – my interpretation has always been that it’s this fling of a relationship that feels all big and amazing in the beginning but it is just that, a fling and not really…love. (But that’s not why the name got vetoed.) Despite the flingy-ness of the song, I guess I’ve always loved the lyrics to Anna Begins – and have always thought, even if it wasn’t really something bigger, I loved the way he described the feelings.
But, no go.
Kid’s not named after a song.
She’ll find other reasons for hating her name later in life, I’m sure.
2. Rainbow Connection – Originally by Kermit the Frog
I’m using the Mraz version though, because while Kermit is definitely the authentic song for my soundtrack, I felt a little acoustic-y. My dad is a musician – he plays pianos and when I was a kid he worked nights a lot. He often played in bars and restaurants and at parties and so even when my brother and I would go to his house on weekends, he was often gone at night and we’d be with a baby sitter. This is the song he would play for me though – or at least, the song he said he’d played for me. He’d call home on a break and we’d talk to him and I’d ask, “Did you play my song for me?” and he’d say that he had. This was always the song I meant.
It’s the kind of song that when I hear it, I remember what was good about my childhood. I hear it and I feel loved. I hear it and I’m sitting in a house in Berkeley on the phone with my dad, happy that he’d thought of me while at work.
And now that I’m older? I just love the lyrics too. It just seems hopeful.
3. “Unfold” Marie Digby
I actually hope to not always be able to relate to this song but I find it’s been in my head a lot. I don’t know how I stumbled over this song, but I find its lyrics come back to me over and over – I don’t want to go on living being so afraid of showing someone else my imperfections… -
Vulnerability and weakness – mine, not anyone else’s – has not traditionally been something I like, in fact I really REALLY hate it. I hate that side of me that hurts or needs or wants. I have a tendency to put on a happy face when things are rough – because I’d rather not appear weak, and I don’t want to show that side of myself.
It’s not perfect.
Nor is it healthy or even… “right”.
So when I ordered a bracelet from my friend Lisa this summer, struggled for awhile to decide what to put on it. Choosing a word, y’all. It’s hard. And ultimately this song’s lyrics came into my head again.
The song is squooshy, mushy and odds are you haven’t heard it before. But these days, there are times when I’m really feeling it, trying to not showcase my vulnerabilities and instead letting people think that I’m tough or that I have it all under control.
We’re all works in progress, I guess.
I look forward to the day this song can be bumped from the soundtrack and maybe replaced with something else. Someday “Three Little Birds” will earn back its rightful spot on my soundtrack, I just know it.
What three songs would be on YOUR life’s soundtrack?