Thoughts on Love is a Mixtape

I’ve taken a break from reading young adult literature and taken to novels by Rob Sheffield, writer for Rolling Stones magazine, and MY GOD where has his writing been all my life?

In his book Love is a Mixtape, he writes about his first marriage– how he meets his wife, and how songs that they listen to shape their life together, and how it suddenly ends one day when she has a pulmonary embolism and dies. Then he has to learn how to listen to music differently, and how when he hears a song that’s made post-her-death, he thinks of whether or not she’ll like it, but he can’t share it with her. And that is just so tragically heart-breaking to me: the desire to share something you love with someone who no longer exists.

So he tries to continue living his life as he mourns and attempts to recover from his loss, and one day he realizes that he has to leave where they lived together in Virginia in order to move on with his life:

“I loved it here, but there were serious changes I needed to make, and this was not the place to make them. It was too hard to keep living surrounded by so much of the past. I needed to go” (203).

And that struck a chord with me (hah, pun intended) because I FELT LIKE THAT FOR SO LONG in my past life. It’s what is now a past life, but my life in San Francisco just kept NOT getting better, and I’m sure I could have changed the circumstances for myself, but I was constantly surrounded by remnants of my poor decisions and people who didn’t see the best of me because I hadn’t shown them, and therefore, there were just a few people far between who had the guts to tell me, “HEY! CRYSTAL! You’re capable of better. Stop dicking around and do something else with your time.”


I’ll reach six months in Austin in a week and then I’m halfway to residency. I’m still building a life here, but we never really STOP building our lives. It’s when we get comfortable that we have to worry. It’s strange– I miss certain people– my girlfriends mostly when I think of that life, and all the advice I should have listened to. And of course, I miss the children I took care of, and a LOT of the parents I worked with because I just deeply admired their ability to not only build a life but take care of another person’s, and create really awesome little people at that. There was a lot of time wasted on wanting love from people who weren’t capable of it, and I think that’s something that I sadly let define me– time spent desiring people who couldn’t return the desire. So I ran from them.

I’ve told this story many times, and it’s finally starting to get old, so it will be something I stop telling when I’m first getting to know people, but that doesn’t make it any less a part of my life. These things happened– the people and the experiences and they’re not things I want to forget because they shaped me, and I think that’s important. I’m missing the kids less, and that makes me sad because they showered me with so much love and affection at a time when I was so devoid of it from people I wanted it from. However, I know that they’re okay because they have such kick-ass parents. I miss them, and part of why I left is because I wanted to be able to provide more for them than just childcare.

I didn’t just move to make MORE stupid decisions, though I have made a few, but hey, that’s being human for ya (or just being twenty-five). A lot of people warned me that “who you are follows you.” And I knew that. I know that. I just didn’t want everyone else who knew that crappy version of myself to follow me. I didn’t want to be constantly reminded. I spent the entirety of 2013 just wanting to do better and to be better than what I was.

Sheffield also says this best: “Even though I’ve changed in so many ways– I’m a different person with a different life– the past is still with me every minute” (213). And he’s right. I can’t change the circumstances of my past. I chose them, and then things happened, and I dealt with them how most early twenty-somethings deal with things: by getting drunk and repeating my mistakes.

But now I’m not taking care of children. I am without minions, but I’m doing pretty well for myself I think. Again, I’m poor, but I’m getting used to it. And my fellow coworkers make it a good time, so I’ve got a pretty good thing going. There was this period of time when I first moved here and didn’t know anyone, and I just felt all the expectations and needs vanish because there was no one here I wanted that from. And I was okay. And I realized this about myself: how I’ll be okay and then something will shift with someone, and then my desires change. Again, this is being human from ya: we don’t know what we want until we know that it exists.

Anyway, I’m trying to figure out what to do with these feelings– this sudden need for togetherness and the wanting to belong to someone. These are not feelings that I’m fond of, but they’re the feelings I have and I get to own. That’s something that’s mine that no one can take away. That and my desire to sing about it.

Which brings me to my last point because I have been expressing an intense itch for karaoke recently, and that is partly due to Sheffield’s other book Turn Around Bright Eyes, and hot damn I love how he describes it:

“It’s a universally supportive environment– nobody goes to scoff or judge. It’s not like a pool hall or bowling alley where the regulars glare at you for taking up valuable space. It’s a temporary but intense bond between strangers, a shipboard romance, a republic we create where we gladly consent to treat the other people around us like rock stars. How does music bring all this out of us?” (67)

“nothing expresses joy like singing together” (69)

“‘kara’ in the word ‘karaoke’ is the same as the one in ‘karate,’ which means ’empty hand.’ They’re both ’empty’ arts because you have no weapons and no musical instruments to hide behind– only your courage, your heart, and your will to inflict pain” (70).

And THAT, my friends, is a desire that I will never, ever lose.

Exhibit A:


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