I’ve been driving a car again since being home for the holidays. My car, The Iron Lady, has a USB port, so I can plug my phone into the car and play music. Technology isn’t always my forte, so I don’t have iTunes on my phone, and I refuse to pay for Spotify premium, which means I hear a lot of commercials. I also rarely have time to make Spotify playlists, so I’ve been digging into my old playlists during my car rides.

What surprises me is how much my playlists remind me of specific times in my life. I made each of the playlists for big moments. I used to be a Pandora listener, but when I studied abroad in Germany, I had to switch to Spotify. My first playlist was made there, and to be honest, it may be the most painful to hear. Studying abroad is amazing, but it’s also really hard. The first half of my year was especially difficult, and I made a playlist for those six months. I would listen to that playlist every day on the bus to and from school. That means I listened to the same thirty songs every day for six months. That’s the same thirty songs for just over 180 days. While there are a couple of happy, classic songs that make me smile no matter what, there are a lot of horribly depressing songs that take me back to three years ago in an instant.

It’s funny how a few chords and some lyrics can take me from my warm, comfy car to a bumpy bus ride on a cloudy, winter day. I can remember exactly what I was wearing, with whom I was talking, and what we talked about. It sounds crazy to be able to recall specific details from three years ago, but when my brain hears those songs, the flashbacks start. It isn’t just this playlist, though. I have playlists for the start of my senior year in high school, the beginning of college, and just for spending time outside. Each song is connected to memories, both happy and painful.

Sometimes I enjoy sitting and sinking into one of my flashbacks. Maybe I’m listening to Johnny Cash sing “Get Rhythm” and I remember bathing my horses on a warm summer afternoon. Sometimes I’m listening to Etta James sing “A Sunday Kind Of Love,” and all I can think about is singing in the kitchen while making pancakes. Those are my favorite flashbacks, and I typically choose those playlists above the others. It amazes me how much I connect my experiences to music. Every big event has a song, and every song eventually has a memory. So, this week I made a playlist called “Driving.” It has all the good songs, so that when I’m driving, regardless of the weather outside or the mood I might be in, I can imagine running on the beach, playing with my dogs, swinging on a swing set, or making breakfast. I guess playlists represent my emotions at a given time, and emotions are deeply involved in memories, so the connection between playlists and memories is undeniably there and deeply appreciated.