By Rhea Kapur (VI) & Monica Chan (VI) We’ve reached that dreaded first semester of senior year. While our lives seem to be drowning in the realization that we have no idea who we are (but are expected to tell colleges exactly who we are), it is difficult yet even more necessary to find solace in daily comforts. The one constant comfort, besides the shared empathy of our fellow 21’ers and teachers, is music. We bring you a joint music column to share our college application playlists.
When looking to get inspired to write my college essays, I like listening to songs with heavy background instrumentals and introspective lyrics. My first song is “When You Come Home” by Rich Brian. This song is written from a parent’s perspective, “So one day, if you find your way, I’ll be waiting for you . . . I got all these questions to ask but I’ll save them for when you come home.” My parents have always been the most present people in my life, and so writing college applications is surreal not only for the reason that I am embarking on the next chapter of my life, but also the realization that my parents will have to watch me from afar.
My next song choice is “Streetcar” by Daniel Caesar. This song was originally written by Kanye West, but I prefer the slower and more melodic version by Caesar. One of the most difficult parts of the application season for me is grappling with a sense of finality. We’ve prepared our entire high school lives for this time, “Let me know, do I still got time to grow? Things ain’t always set in stone, that be known let me know . . . see I know my destination, but I’m just not there.” At this in-between teenager and adult age, we’re beginning to forge our own futures while trying to understand who we are; these events happening simultaneously make it all the more difficult.
“Nights” by Frank Ocean is a slight wildcard. The first time I heard this song I was sitting in the backseat of my friend’s car on the way to someone’s house and we were on Route 287 when someone said, “Wait for that beat drop . . .” There was something magical about it being nighttime and zooming down at (legal) highway speeds surrounded by the laughter and company of my friends that I find relatively comforting reflecting on now. Maybe it’s because we can’t hang out with the same liberty we used to have, and those memories are all the more precious.
When I write, I focus on flow. I study how each sentence glides into the next, I listen to the melody two words sing when side by side, and I observe how each thought fits with every other to form a whole, defined piece. I like to think that how I approach the art of writing – my style – tells just as much of a story as the words do themselves. For me, when it comes to college essays, that’s generally “in media res” storytelling to start, then half stream-of-consciousness reflection, half punchy declaratives. Recently, I’ve designated Spotify’s “Nightstorms” playlist as the soundtrack to my late-night writing sessions. It features recordings of every type of rainstorm imaginable, and in nearly every possible setting; there’s “Thunderstorm in the Cabin,” “Monsoon Storm,” “Lightning Strikes at the Farm,” and even “Oregon Rain.” The storms lift me out of the scramble that is everyday life, offering an escape from the minutia and creating the perfect, focused environment for essay writing. I’m fascinated by how different they sound across the world; Indonesian rainstorms are thundering, intense, incessant downpour, while Swedish ones gently patter along, each large droplet claiming its own, distinctive splash. Every storm tells its own story. And they remind me, too, to write my own stories – to lift my admissions reader into a faraway land where the lighting strikes and little details I craft make all the difference.
Monica mentioned introspection, and I agree; it’s an essential part of the essay writing process. I turn to Lana Del Rey for inspiration in this regard. As an artist, she is intimately comfortable with herself, with natural, human uncertainty. In “Born to Die,” she sings: “Sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough – I don’t know why.” In “Freak,” it’s “Looking back, my past, it all seems stranger than a stranger.” Seniors, who can’t relate to that one!? Del Rey’s voice brims with feeling; listen to how she sings “Ground control to Major Tom, can you hear me all night long?” in “Terrence Loves You.” Her songs build slowly to a close, a finish that is not always final. I see them as the embodiment of a dream – an imperfect, messy, wonderful subconscious world. It’s exactly where I find myself when brainstorming. At times, I’m in the lows, forehead against the cool countertop, reminding myself that, like Del Rey, it is okay – good, even – not to know, not to be okay. At others, my fingers fly across the keys to keep up with my thoughts, chasing the high of the dream and the height of introspection. Lana Del Ray is every end of the spectrum; seniors, it’s okay for us to be, too.