Music has an amazing ability to activate memories. A certain song might remind you of where you were at a certain moment in life. It might remind you of sights, sounds, and smells you experienced. It might bring to mind fond recollections of departed loved ones. It can make you recall happy times, angry times, sad times. The limit of what music can transport from the past to the present is boundless.

And sometimes I really, really hate that.

I have a tendency to form strong attachments between songs and what they mean to me. In particular, songs will often remind me of interactions I’ve had with certain people. If it was an unfavorable interaction, I might feel anger rising up in me as I listen. If it was a pleasant encounter, I might notice myself feeling happier as I sing along. If I miss the person I am recalling, I might feel the urge to shoot them an email or give them a call.

When the song reminds me of sadness, though, I notice a totally different strength at work. I start feeling depressed. It doesn’t even have to be a depressing song. Even a happy song can carry negative memories with it. I can almost feel my face furrowing into a frown as I listen. In those moments, I would give anything to go back and change whatever made the song seem sad to me in the first place. I wouldn’t let that one person go. I would stand up for what I believe in. I would be honest. The line of regrets can go on and on, just like the song will live on forever as well.

In the same vein, just about anything in life has the ability to transport us back to scenarios and situations we would just as soon forget. Wouldn’t it be nice if an activity or a person or a place or even a piece of furniture didn’t have to carry some kind of memory with it? I think so. The older I get, though, I notice nothing is devoid of memories, and the sad memories seem to grow more sorrowful every year.

This is classic overthinking on my part. I mean, I should be able to simply enjoy a song just for the sake of enjoying it, without it reminding of conversations I may have had five, ten, or fifteen years ago. The truth is, though, I can’t. It’s a blessing and a curse. For every moment of elation music provides me, it also has the potential to bring me crashing back to earth with a single phrase. There are times when I long for that meaning a song can provide, and there are other times when I wish the lyrics being sung didn’t mean a thing to me.

Do I really wish nothing had any meaning? No, not really. Life would be a dull and colorless journey without memories and meaning. Every now and then, though, I’d like to listen to a song and not feel that rush of emotions. I’d like to just like the song, you know? Maybe one day I can achieve that. In the meantime, music will continue to pull me here and there, and I will simultaneously enjoy and loathe the ride.

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