Alternative Journaling Idea: Music of Your Moment

I recently rediscovered my Spotify account from middle school and early high school and saw playlists called “Fall 2015” and “Winter 2015.” When I clicked on them, I was flooded with memories. There were songs I had listened to just the day before along with songs I hadn’t thought of in four years, but seeing them in juxtaposition to one another helped me connect the fabric of my memories of events, emotions, and interests I had in that time. I was so touched by this self-curated blast from the past that I decided to start making these playlists again as a sort of journaling project.

If anyone is curious, (because I know I would be) here is a sampling from “Fall 2015:”

I have enjoyed traditional journaling at times, but I find it a bit stressful to try to maintain and sometimes I feel like I don’t convey my feelings accurately. Simply adding a song you like to a playlist every once in a while is easy and low-pressure, but results in a similar sense of nostalgia that reading a journal entry does. If you’re someone who listens to music often, you know that certain songs often trigger memories. However, it may be hard to remember what songs or artists or albums you were listening to during a certain point in your life without some kind of record of it. I think that listening to a playlist like this can be great because it triggers nostalgia, but also because it can remind you of unrelated. It can even lead to new connections with songs you loved previously that you didn’t have back when you first discovered them. For example, when I was listening to “Tom’s Diner” on my Fall 2015 playlist, I recognized the title differently because I now go to school down the street from Tom’s Restaurant, a diner at 112th Street and Broadway. When I looked it up to figure out if there was a connection, I found out that the song was indeed about Tom’s Restaurant and that the singer, Suzanne Vega, is an alum of my college. This discovery felt like a special little coincidence that I may not have noticed if I hadn’t kept a record of my favorite songs from four years ago.

So, taking a page out of my 15-year-old self’s book, I suggest a form of journaling that might be more natural to some than recounting each day’s events in a notebook. I would suggest making a playlist in whatever music service you use, labeling it with whatever time period you want (i.e. Fall 2019, Sophomore Fall, 2019, November 2019) and then progressively adding music to it as you notice songs that you have on repeat or that connect to a specific relevant memory. Additionally, if you do this on a platform like Spotify that make it easy to share music with others, you could even choose to do a collaborative playlist with friends or family members. 

If you are looking to get into journaling because you want to document your memories, I think this practice is a good choice on its own or in addition to keeping a written diary. I’m grateful for my 15-year-old self for reminding me about some great music and also some great (and some not-so-great) memories. If you’re thinking about it, I’d encourage anyone to try creating an aural time machine. You won’t regret it!