Happy first day of the cmd+vent calendar 2018!
Kicking off the first say is my pal Ruchi. We first met each other five years ago when we were both jobless and in the midst of One Direction fever. She flew to Los Angeles from Philadelphia for the end of their Take Me Home tour. We met outside Staples center for the first of four nights of concerts, and hung out with each other the entire weekend in her Airbnb in Los Feliz. Long after the 1D fever has broken, I've watched Ruchi make her way through many seasons–most notably taking the chance to move to The Big Apple, swallowing it whole, moving back to Philly, all the while bossing up with some exciting job titles to lead future leaders.
She’s one of the very few people I know who lives truly in the moment. Ruchi’s traveled all over the globe for concert experiences you’d dream of attending. Her energy and enthusiasm is infectious, and since meeting her, it’s definitely influenced me to take more time to have fun in this short time we have in this life.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of balancing daily life and travel, Ruchi is a creature of comfort. I’m sure many of us can relate to wanting some anchors to keep us upright from time to time.
For day one of the calendar, Ruchi takes us through her top picks off her favorite album release of 2018.
I’m the type of person who listens to songs over and over again. Headphones in, mind whirring, the songs become balms, background noise, lyrics that stitch themselves onto my tongue and provide me a language for the words cooled deep inside me unsaid. I find songs and I latch onto them for entire weeks, entire seasons. They don’t have to be new songs - sometimes they are heavy with nostalgia, uncovered by some random search on Spotify, sometimes they are overplayed on the radio or related to me by a recommendation on Twitter, years old. Sometimes, they’re the whole album from one artist, a voracious consuming of an entire catalogue.
In 2018, Vance Joy had a permanent rotation on my iTunes this year. Something about his music compels me to wear out each song, to plunge into the guitar and ukulele, the wavery vocals, the simple clean truth of his lyrics. In this letter, I’d like to share the four songs that I played the most this year off his album Nation of Two - one song for each season. I hope you have a chance to listen to them, and to enjoy the charming, at times almost anthemic nature of his music. For me, they provided a soundtrack to pivotal moments and feelings over the year, and might, hopefully, give you insight - a little window even - into four snapshots of my life. Thank you for reading!
I. lay it on me
winter comes in cold, slushy and blustery, with a massive snowstorm and dark grey clouds above a new york city skyline that’s slowly become home. despite the way the sun is a weak, watery yellow and the howling wind makes my skin feel raw, i am tentatively hopeful. there is something to be said about being alive to greet another year, and i’m starting a new job, trying to find my footing in a world that’s been a little shaky of late. winter sounds like hope in the dark - like a lighthouse is on the shore, far away and distanced by choppy waters, but there. so even though it’s hard and scary, i wake up early every thursday morning and take a commuter train into the old, familiar-but-now-foreign city streets of philadelphia, and i close my eyes, thumbing well-worn pathways on my phone touchscreen, hitting play again and again on a song that searches deep inside me, burrows deep, swims in my veins and reminds me i’m not alone though it’s been bewildering and lonely, reaching for something just out of range, fighting for a life that feels right and choices that feel true. i’m not even sure i’m making progress but the wild leap of faith doesn’t sink stones in my belly anymore. instead, winter convinces me to try, to breathe in the sharp air and listen to the words blaring through my earphone, imploring me to unburden myself, to lay it all out in the line, to believe in others and the future. and if i don’t trust myself - well, for now, at least i trust this song.
II. we’re going home
spring brings with it a slow, sobering descent into reality. i’ve been commuting for three months and now it’s time to bite the bullet and pack up a truck and go back to philadelphia. the personal upheaval that chased me out of brotherly love into a big apple is not gone, but tempered by time, and the long train journeys have sapped energy out of me in a way that means something has to change. i can return now to the place where i met my best friends, where i lost my virginity and people i deeply loved, where the best year and worst year of my life happened in rapid succession. i can return now to streets that haunt me like winding ghost roads, to buildings that hold memories the way photo albums do, in dusty tones of sepia if you just open the door. but returning to all that means leaving somewhere that fills me with an indescribable longing - a sense of unfulfilled but burgeoning potential, of being alone but not lonely, of being thwarted but tenacious, of being the center of the world and smug about it but also not giving a damn about anyone else’s opinion. it means leaving new york city just as i started reconciling with - no, reveling in - all of its contradictions. so as the u-haul drives down the highway, with brooklyn in the rear view and new jersey ahead, we turn up the radio and sing out a song that feels honest in its bitter and it’s sweet. it’s not goodbye so much as a bridge between my past and my future - that liminal space where possibility shone, and might, universe willing, shine again.
III. one of these days
summer means 31. it means crossing a milestone into what has always felt like a purgatory of adulthood, where i ought to have things figured out but circumstances mean i’m just as messed up - maybe even more than - i was in my early twenties. in fact, i’m listening to love songs even more now, turning back time to when i was a teenager, when i immersed myself in the narratives onstage, full of wild-eyed fantasies of romance and adventure later in life. but unlike when i was younger, the songs only serve to remind me of the distance between dreams and damning reality, the person i was and the person i am, the slow path i am traveling to figure out who i am going to be. i feel dissatisfied, this itch under my skin, a white-knuckled fight to punch through the walls i constructed for myself, the borders i am too scared to cross and the mistakes i am too ashamed to examine in great detail. i don’t like that i have aged but not grown, not by the metrics i would set for myself, i feel like i am stranded on the side of the road, staring unseeing into an uncertain horizon. but when i listen to joy’s voice, i am moved by the lyric wherever you’re going you’ll be in the right place. there’s catharsis in the song, so much so that listening feels like a confessional, and for crucial moments in time, i let myself accept that maybe no one has it all figured out, that there is grace in the journey more than even victory in the destination - that maybe, just maybe, the next year of my life can be more about lessons than looking back.
IV. alone with me
autumn is warm in a way that seeps through my bones, makes it feel like i am coming alive slowly, waking up from a sleepy, year-long nap. i tilt my face to the sky and feel a buzz in my veins, the fizzy restless nameless excitement that comes with unseasonably hot weather, sweat dampening my hairline and backs of my knees, the smell of sunshine making the air expand inside my lungs, my chest wide with it. i’m happy. it’s been so long since i’ve been just that- happy. and the music i listen to is similarly happy, sweet and catchy, the kind of songs i listen to with the window open and the breeze carding its fingers through my hair. picturing myself on the coastline, driving to meet a beautiful girl, holding hands by the beach, lost in the dizziness of first love. for once, the fantasy doesn’t burn just because it isn’t true. instead, it feels like a prediction - like singing out loud to a future that can and might happen. or a benediction, like the night sky twinkling with a million stars, like a soft touch and a kind voice. it’s brass and banjo, and it makes me sink into the sound. makes me sink into myself. that’s the power of the right chorus, sailing high above the melody - it can lodge itself in your soul, bring you into your body.
crash you fully into your own life, just waiting to be lived.
Follow Ruchi’s adventures around the world on Twitter: @_ismybones
The 2nd day of cmd+vent is tomorrow!