I miss mixed tapes.
That's what I thought to myself as I walked out to my car (with no tape deck) on the first day of work in quite a while for me.
I miss the days of tapes that had been made by people who knew me well. (I also had a long pause as I stood at my door, missing the tapes, while I pondered the fact that I was now old enough to find myself wallowing in nostalgia at 7:00 AM on an idle Tuesday morning).
This is what I miss:
-The songs all had some kind of thread connecting them, but it was an organic one, not the kind found through logarithms and computerized gadgets, and part of the fun was figuring out the tie that bound the songs together.
-They were always made with love. The maker undoubtedly--no, inevitably, given the nature of tapes--spent hours making the tape, not to mention the time spent deliberating about what to include. The space was finite, precious. The maker had to maximize it with the perfect harmonious mix.
-Those tapes unlocked doors to new and amazing musical experiences. Some of the mixed tapes I received in my adolescence quite literally changed my life. The music was a link to a past, a present, a future. It was a link to a community.
-Road trips without mixed tapes will never be the same. We can have all of the podcasts that we want--all of the digital connections possible--and still, it will not be like the days of mixed tapes, driving down the road rewinding it to exactly the right spot so that you can hear that perfect song just one more time.
Even after all this time, I find that music saves me over and over again. It has always been songs that have brought me through darkness and difficulty, songs that have given me the strength to carry on when the task seemed impossible. Even now, when I'm outdated and far too clueless to know so many of the artists out there, when I no longer have space in my brain for band names and song titles, much less specific lyrics, I find myself clinging to the songs I know and love to give me comfort and guidance when faced with obstacles.
As one of their first Creative Writing assignments for the students this year, they are writing personal essays about their beliefs inspired by the series found on NPR, "This I Believe," and run by a nonprofit of the same name. If you'd like to submit an essay, here are the guidelines and submissions are taken on the site as well.
Since I believe in modeling for my students what I expect from them, I have written my own essay:
I believe in superheroes. Perhaps I should qualify that statement: I do not believe that they wear capes or masks or that they fly or save the world from apocalyptic scenarios (well, the last one could be debatable, depending upon what one defines as “apocalyptic”). However, I do believe that they walk among us, largely undetected, and that they know just what to do at just the right time.
I have come to believe in them through personal experience. In order to prove my point, I’m going to let you in on a secret. You see, my dad is, in fact, a superhero. While it has taken me a long time to discover this truth, I have no doubt that he has been one his whole life. I guess some people are just born that way.
When I was little, my dad could perform magic tricks. No, I don’t mean the kind where he pulled a quarter out from behind my ear or something (unimpressive) like that. He could take a mimosa flower bud and turn it into a Hawaiian dancer with a hula skirt. He could take my broken toys (which I always believed in using, not just admiring, even when they were fragile) and transform them from a million pieces into a complete, seamless whole. He could produce spare parts out of thin air and use them to save my favorite toys.
But his superhero qualities began long before I came into the picture. As a non-traditional student who eventually became a high school dropout, my dad beat extraordinary odds by finding a way through the army and into college. He and my uncle became the first people in their family to earn college degrees. While I could not even find a percentage for the number of people who drop out of high school and then get college diplomas, I did find all kinds of staggering statistics on the problems that befall high school dropouts. (For more information about high school dropouts and the phenomenally difficult pathway they face, an important topic for a later blog post, see this NY Times article, this PBS Frontline article, or these statistics.) My dad, the superhero, beat those extraordinary odds and went on to find success in college and in his career.
Nor did my father’s superhero qualities end when I grew up and moved out on my own. When my mom became sick and ultimately lost her fight with cancer, my father’s superhero strength and bravery stretched far enough to cover my whole family. And then he used his superhero adaptation ability to become both my mom and my dad. While he certainly did not replace my mother, he found a way to play both roles for me. His superhero adaptation transported him from his home in Georgia to visit my husband and me in far off places like Costa Rica and Japan. No task has ever been too difficult, no journey too far, no disappointment to great to stop my superhero dad.
I believe in superheroes, and I could not be luckier or prouder to have a dad that is one.
As he celebrates his 70th birthday, his powers continue to grow. Happy birthday, Dad!
"that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have..."
© K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All thoughts and ideas are the author's and do not represent any employer.