Listening to November

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The cursor blinks at me from the search bar of Spotify. Unsure of what I’m searching for, I browse through the “Mood” sections of the pre-made playlists, but playlists like “Good Vibes” or “Autumn Acoustics” don’t seem to express the feeling I have. As November began to show its tendons, I began to feel a wave of nostalgia. But it’s not the kind of nostalgia for freshman fall, or for the last months of high school, or even for awkward memories of eighth grade. It's a nostalgia for being so young that I was just starting to become a person. I wish I could type in the search bar: "falling asleep to passing streetlights in the backseat at night," or "dinners with the whole family and the smell of sweet potatoes."

Instead, I recall the collection that my dad used to stuff into our CD sleeve when we would go on car rides. He never changed them: Neil Young’s Greatest Hits (2004), Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run (1975), The Beatles’ 1 (2000), and Dixie Chicks’ Home (2002). On those car rides up the Palisades Parkway, the harmonica twinging through speakers and Springsteen’s raspy voice telling us that the promised land had no meaning beyond that moment. Now, I understand the meanings of the lyrics. I know that Neil Young’s croon of “Helpless” is about looking back on a time and a memory he can’t return to. I understand that John Lennon’s upbeat cry for “help!” is possibly more heartbreakingly honest than the fast guitar riffs make it seem. Listening in my cold dorm room, I can relate to his yearning for a simpler time— one “when I was younger so much younger than today.” I remember listening to my mom’s melodic voice singing along with Young –“in my mind, I still need a place to go”– by the yellow-tinted lake where we spent our summers. I think maybe she was longing to go back to the Northern Ontario town of her childhood. Maybe she was feeling a little helpless, and maybe I am too.

In my earphones, Springsteen croons “glory days, well, they’ll pass you by.” When I used to hear these lyrics, those days felt so far in my future that I didn’t even think about them. Now the lyrics scare me because I wonder if these my glory days, the ones I will look back on longingly "When I'm Sixty-Four?" As my dad approaches that age, nodding his head along to McCartney, I wonder if he’s thinking about a time before he could comprehend being that old?

I still don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me feel this sort of longing. Maybe it’s because the cold makes me want to seek out warmth again, and I look for it in the deepest places of my CD collections. Maybe it’s because these songs have a way of reflecting exactly the type of nostalgia I’m feeling. Or maybe I’m searching for that time before I felt like everything had to mean something, a time when I could just slump in the back of a car and let the music lull me to sleep. – Katie McClimon

Katie McClimon '20 is an English major at Wesleyan University. She grew up in New York City and loves creative writing, photography, and chocolate.