If you’ve checked out any of my social media sites, you’ve probably seen the phrase “Constant Wearer of Headphones” somewhere in my bio. To satisfy the curiosity, no, I am not always wearing headphones. They’re too big to fall asleep wearing, and earbuds are used sporadically due to the weird fit and pain that sometimes stems from wearing them for too long. But if I’m out walking, or sitting at my desk at work, or even curled up reading in a coffeeshop — you can bet I’ll probably have my giant headphones on protecting me from the rest of the world.
Why do I do this? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but here are the basics:
- My headphones are freaking adorable, okay? My husband got them for me for Christmas a few years ago, and before that I had a pair of Skullcandy headphones that I purchased my first week of college. At this point they’re basically an accessory to every day’s outfit, honestly.
- I come from a super small town and moving to the city has been kind of a challenge for my anxiety; there’s always something going on around me and sometimes I need a barrier between the outside world and myself. My headphones protect me from the women talking smack at work, or the constant barrage of traffic and police sirens. When my husband and I lived downtown we had loud neighbors, sirens constantly blaring up and down the highways just outside our windows, and the drunk and disorderly assholes who scream at nothing in the middle of the night.
- Music is a form of nutrition. No, really: eat your fruit and veggies while jamming out. It’ll heal you right up.
If you’ve been to my Mixtapes Homepage, you’ll know that music is a huge aspect of my life. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember, and I’m sure the two biggest influences on my music obsession come from my mom, who used to sing at all of the local fairs, and her brother, Randy, who left us all of his records when he passed away. My mom’s music taste is a lot like mine in that she seems to love a little bit of everything, but she has a handful of people she will obsessively love, usually in the realm of Pop music. Her favorite song to sing, which is engraved on my bones, is “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles. One of my favorite memories of my childhood is blasting Celine Dion’s “Falling Into You” album with her in the living room and just singing our hearts out. Uncle Randy, however, legitimately taught me how to “love music.” He was half-rocker, half-hippie, and his music preferences represented that. When I’d stay with him as a little kid, he would play Supertramp records or Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I’d just watch him listening to this music and it helped me understand him better; he’d close his eyes, bounce his head, and air guitar certain sections, showing me how to live through the music.
My mom and uncle weren’t the only people who impacted my life with music: the greatest friendships of my life began through a joint love of specific bands and genres. My idol and friend, April, who I was always intimidated by, proved to me that the social intimidation I experienced wasn’t an accurate depiction of the people around me, and that loving the music you love doesn’t make you a freak or different. These are essences of who you are, at your core, and they’re not things to be ashamed of. My husband, Sean, literally got the green light by admitting that he once made a music video to a rarely spoken of Jimmy Eat World song. He also challenges me to break out of my comfort zone, to experiment with new sounds. My closest friends all have “a song” — something that reminds me inexplicably of them, our friendship, memories we’ve made and memories will continue to create. There’s very little in my life that I struggle to connect to music in some way or another
Three of my favorite novels are, at their heart, love letters to music. It’s because of this, I think, that my own writing focuses so strongly on music. In White Houses, music is what saves each character and connects them all to one another. Afterall, it gets its title and main story idea from the song of the same name by Vanessa Carlton. A project I’ve been working on since I was 19, called Static, stemmed from the song “Private Radio” by Vanessa Carlton (what can I say? She understands me, man.) and its entire plot revolves around the idea of “what happened if music was taken away from you? What if listening to music, which is meant to be therapeutic, turns you into a monster?” My trilogy, The Morgan Mythos, has a writing playlist that contains over 100 songs, ranging from character anthems to creepy instrumentals that put me in the depths of the dark ocean with my nightmares. The first book I ever attempted to write, Dreamscape, was mostly inspired by an array of dreamt up music video scenes that I began to piece together. I’ve been reading Stephen King’s On Writing and he talks about how his first foray into writing involved him copying the short stories and comics he was obsessed with until he began to find his own stories in them; a lot of my passion for writing comes from doodling song lyrics in my notebooks growing up and seeing associations between them that planted the seeds of stories I couldn’t stop thinking about.
This is also why I’m a big fan of creating mixtapes. When I have an idea or a theme to follow, it’s almost second nature for me to look for music that correlates to that thought. Then more songs come to me, bringing characters and settings to my new world, until we’ve worked together — the music and I — to fully create an original universe to explore. Sometimes I’ll be reading a book and think, “wow, this would pair really well with this” and before I know it, I have a new project to work on. Making a mixtape is not much different from writing a book, afterall. You have to set up your beginning, your ending, place a climax in there somewhere, and voila! You have a story to follow. Stories are meant to spark emotion within us, as is music. When I write, I’m going in with the hope that I’m creating something that will make someone feel something; when I create a mixtape, I go in with the same goal.
So why am I constantly wearing headphones? Because I would not be myself without them. They’re a part of my soul, a piece of armor I wear to keep me strong, safe, and connected.