My Life as a Playlist

How often do you hear a song on the radio and you are immediately taken back to some place 5, 10 or even 40 years ago?

I remember feeling extra nostalgic a year or so ago – thinking and thinking about middle school and high school constantly and couldn’t figure out why. Was my life coming to an end? Was I depressed? I was worried I was dwelling so much on the past and then I realized that I had been exclusively listening to the 70’s and 80s channel on my satellite radio. Each song immediately took me back to some time, some memory.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back to those days but the memories seem so vivid, which often leaves me in a reflective state of mind.

Music is powerful. It has the ability to embed itself in our brain and connect us to many of our life events and experiences. We could all create our own playlists of songs that bring us back to our first love, our first of many things or just places we have been. Music can help us relax and encourages creativity. It can boost our mood. Walking and listening to music is very therapeutic for me. It also helps me focus and gather my thoughts. I generate ideas and much of my writing benefits from listening to certain tunes.


Music speaks to us in many ways. My playlist has always been diverse. You will find almost every genre of music in my library. If I put my phone on shuffle you will hear everything from 70’s rock, disco, Broadway, alternative, jazz, classical, country to today’s top 40.  What do your playlists look like?

My own exception to using music to calm my anxiety and gather my thoughts was back when I was 25 and diagnosed with cancer. I never listened to music. Never. Years later I thought back wondering why. Maybe I was subconsciously worried it tapped in to my feelings and I was scared. Maybe I was protecting myself from associating my illness and memories with certain songs. Maybe nothing could cheer me up, I just don’t know. I find the power that music holds fascinating.

You know that exercise called Word Association? Try Music Association. Play a song and what do you associate it with?

I could do this with thousands of songs but here are just a few. (DISCLAIMER. This in not representative of music I regularly listen to but these are samples of songs immediately bring me back to a certain time.)

Don’t Fear The Reaper Blue Oyster Cult (my first 45 record. I am lying on the floor in my bedroom and am in 6th grade.)


Dust in the Wind- Kansas (I am in 8th grade and the song is on when I hear a girl I go to school with is killed in a car accident. I haven’t listened to the song since.)

Reunited- Peaches and Herb (I am in high school and there is a teen disco we all go to on Saturday nights. I am hoping someone will ask me to dance this slow dance)


 I Have Dreamed- The King and I- (I am a sophomore in high school and am in the chorus of the school musical. I had a crush on the guy singing this song and even though have seen other productions throughout my life the song always brings me back to sitting in the auditorium during rehearsals and hearing him sing.)



Bye Bye Love- The Cars  (I am driving around town after I got my license. This song also brings me back to all those high school parties )


Thriller- Michael Jackson (Hanging out in “Who’s On First” bar in Boston)

Turn it On Again-Genesis (I am at Cornell walking to class and thinking about life, school)



It’s A Wonderful World -Louis Armstrong (I am dancing to our song at our wedding)



My Heart Will Go On- Celine Dion (I am sitting in the movie theater with my physical therapist after my breast cancer surgery. There is a lot of emotion as I ponder my future and what has just happened to me)

I Gotta Feeling- The Black Eyed Peas (I am at my sons’ Bar Mitzvahs and dancing up a storm)

He Lives in You- The Lion King (I am sitting in my car listening to this song over and over again the day before my mother passes away. I use this song for inspiration to write her eulogy.)

Fun- Pitbull/Chris Brown (I hear this song and it just reminds me of my son because it seems like a song he would like. He loves to DJ when we are in the car. It boosts my mood)

We all have our songs. Maybe even dogs listen. When I used to watch my neighbor’s dog I would always think she forgot to turn off the radio.  “The music soothes Zeke while we are away,” my neighbor told me.


We all have our playlists. Some are more diverse than others and they reflect our personalities in so many ways. Music touches us. Music moves us. Music inspires us. Everyone loves music. Music reminds of us of where we have been and is part of our life as we move forward.


What is your life playlist?

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About Shari

I am a two-time cancer survivor and patient advocate. Diagnosed as a young adult, at age 25 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I had to quickly face the reality of life’s curveballs. My treatment offered a potential cure while at the same time, underestimated the long term side effects including a secondary cancer (breast cancer) nine years later. Shortly after my breast cancer treatment ended, my youthful, seemingly healthy mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and passed a year later. I have lived the cancer experience as a patient and a family member/ caregiver and understand both sides. Life after treatment is often challenging emotionally and physically and there is a gap in providing needed support. I don’t consider cancer a gift as it is not something I would ever want to give to someone. Rather, I view cancer as an opportunity; one I received at an early point in my life to live intentionally, understanding how things can change at any moment. I live without regrets, fully understanding the gift and fragility of life.
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2 Responses to My Life as a Playlist

  1. Ginny says:

    We spent MANY nights at Who’s on First! And I always associate the soundtrack Footloose with you!


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