6 Emotionally Stages Of Listening To iTunes On Shuffle (Because Nostalgia, Heartache, And Embarrassment Do, Indeed, Have A Soundtrack)

If you feel like vividly reliving the past, just turn on the shuffle option when you’re listening to your iTunes collection. I mean, this really only works if you’re like me and haven’t cleaned or edited your iTunes collection since you were a wee high schooler, but who really has? No one except maybe someone who was trying to work out some emotional stress by cleansing their music collection. I feel like most of us are total music hoarders; We keep old albums and stray songs around just because we can, or maybe because we can't let go. Or possibly because it's the 21st century and albums require no physical space anymore so why the hell wouldn't we hang onto all the music our mighty little devices can hold?

My digital music assemblage, much like yours I'm guessing, is layer after layer of various stages in life. Each album I bought or downloaded or burned is indicative of what I was doing and what I was feeling at any given moment. And since music, like perfume or photographs, is such a major memory trigger, it helps translate all sorts of forgotten human experiences. Like the first time the person we love ripped our heart out and curb-stomped it, or that excited feeling that can only be expressed in squeals when you finally make a real friend in college.

iTunes has the capacity to make you feel like you're sixteen-and-a-half all over again, and that's weird and amazing. It's kind of fitting since iTunes was arguably the first "app" many of us used on a regular basis, and it still stands firm as the one we turn to for a record of who we were then, and who we've become since. So, the next time you put iTunes on shuffle, be aware of the time machine effect it has on you.

Irrepressible, happy nostalgia

The first song on iTunes shuffle will inevitably be something that makes you beam with the bright and shiny feels. Memories of buying your first CD ever from Warehouse Music with the $18 you saved for an entire month, are instantly conjured and awaken a part of you that you haven’t felt in forever. You suddenly remember flipping through Britney Spears’ Oops!...I Did it Again CD pamphlet with all the lyrics and weird glamour shots, listening to P!nk’s tortured pop songs and feeling badass and prematurely sexy. You dance in place to Mirah’s “Oh! September” and it makes you think of driving your mom’s car for the very first time around the school parking lot. You yearn to be a kid again because those memories are so sweet and so comforting.

Inevitable sadness

But then, ugh. Songs that remind you of your first college boyfriend surface like diseased seaweed and you’re too overcome with paralysis to change them. Dumb Blink 182 songs that were put on some cheesy mix, a Target commercial song that made you think about that time you went on a date at Target to get that popcorn-flavored injected popcorn. A happier song you downloaded last week starts playing, and you slowly recuperate, but then BAM – Le Tigre starts electro-shrieking and that just makes you think about the epic best friend fight you had in 10th grade, and how you thought you would never be whole again because friends are the worst and the best and then the worst again.

Anger, because now all of this beauty is ruined

You really liked The Shins at some point in your life, but now all you can think about is the way you sobbed for three weeks straight and only ate Breyer’s rocky road ice cream after some dude never texted you back. Or how your ex-roommate HAD to go and introduce you to Kate Nash and now you just associate Kate Nash with that horrible, lying bitch. Why did all these terrible people have to happen to these amazing songs? It's not fair. Can your brain just be reset already like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but with music only? Did I just come up with a movie plot?

Embarrassment

Forget boyfriends, remember that time you and your friends bought $80 tickets to go see Panic! at the Disco, and everyone wore black and red striped knee socks from Hot Topic and hot pink bows in their hair? That was mortifying. Who were you even? Thank god you’re not that person anymore. Or that person who listened to Katy Perry’s CD on repeat while she got ready to go to her first ~college party ever~ in the dorms, drinking blue-raspberry vodka and Sprite. Other WTFs: Rammstein, Avril Lavigne, Eminem, that one instrumental band that sounded like little, chirpy birds playing piano you only listened to because the guy in your bio class liked them and you wanted his hot, pretentious, waif-y body. Criiinge.

Rediscovery

At this point, you’re just about to give up on this iTunes shuffle business and just go ahead and listen to Hozier on Spotify, because it turns out your music collection is more of a graveyard than you thought, UNTIL something delightful and surprising comes on. That one rare Animal Collective remix you found on a music blog; a Russian pop song your sister-in-law e-mailed you; Jesus and Mary goddamn Chain. Your heart fills with happiness again and you decide you need to refuel your Interpol and Radiohead obsession, stat.

Deciding not to feel regret, because regret is for suckers

So what if you listened to Eminem, or Avril, or any of those really truly tragic ‘00s “alt rock” bands like Nickelback? (Well, okay, we should ALL feel embarassed we listened to Nickelback — apologize to your ears immediately, if you haven't already.) So what if you allowed yourself to associate really good folk music with some asshole? Or if you totally went to an underground Peaches concert in a tutu? The heart wanted what it wanted, and that was love and a soundtrack to go with it. Go on with your Bon Iver-induced tears. Embrace your Ja Rule mall attitude and your Hold Steady romanticism. Honey, this music made you who you are and it's okay to always hold on to that.

Image: Gina Vaynshteyn; Giphy(6)