Welcome to the final Ask Ayla of this school year (I’ll be back). I wanted to offer some final reflections, but I realized this year was too strange and magical to sum up in a column of ramblings, so I took a different approach. The way I’ve thought of this year at Yale was through music, and so I’ve compiled here a playlist from each month and the things I hope I — and, in some ways, we — learned.
August: “Green Light” by Lorde
Electric and pulsing, just like those first days back at Yale. It’s the green light of the school year; when we come back in those waning days of summer, we hit the accelerator. Things were beginning and ending all at once, a rush of energy and excitement. You’re waiting for the moment when Yale feels real — when you can let go of summer’s promises — and you dance in the warm August nights until it does.
What I learned: Lorde says that this song is about waiting for permission — “that green light” — to get over something, to move on. This August, I learned that you can’t wait for someone else to give you the go sign. It’s all up to you.
September: “May We All” by Florida Georgia Line
It was still sunny and summertime, and my favorite afternoons were those spent in a drunk-on-life state, falling in love with people and classes and new activities and a new year. It felt exactly like a country song, light and wholesome and a little like home.
What I learned: A little something from the best and worst times, as the song says.
October: “Kai’s Song” by the Overcoats
“How did I lose myself in everyone around me / But oh god, I have never felt alive like this.”
October felt much like the beginning of fall, everything changing but in strange and beautiful ways. Sometimes, October felt like a fiction, and other times, it felt like life was on fast forward.
What I learned: Pace yourself. There’s such a thing as feeling too alive. My October heart was beating fast all the time, and some days, I just needed to breathe.
November: “Delicate” by Taylor Swift
“Reputation” came out this fall, and Taylor Swift crooned her way through the desires and disasters of her mid-20s, presenting the most flawed and relatable image of young love she’s created so far.
“Is it cool that I said all that?” she asks. “Is it chill that you’re in my head?”
What I learned: As delicate as things can be, sometimes college turns you into a bull in a china shop. But, sometimes, it also turns you into an invisible Taylor a la “Delicate” music video, dancing spontaneously through life’s melodramas in a blue dress. Be this Taylor as often as you can.
December: “River Road” by Mangas Colorado
Sometimes, being far away from home is what connects you to it the most. This was surely the case this December, when I heard this song from my home state and all I could think about was going home. “Nothing true will last longer than your heart can hold it” seemed like a nice sentiment as I kissed the New Haven winter — and the promises, or broken ones, of a fall semester — goodbye.
What I learned: Finding yourself looks a lot like going home or, even, just reflecting on home.
January: “Emmylou” by First Aid Kit
“Stockholm’s cold, but I’ve been told / I was born to endure this kind of weather,” sings this Swedish duo. It was this lyric in particular that made “Emmylou” my January song, a sweet ballad about simple desires and braving the winter.
What I learned: Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to survive the storm, snow or otherwise — a friend, a belief in oneself.
February: “Human Beings” by The Wind and the Wave
For a song whose chorus croons, “Human beings let you down,” it’s surprisingly upbeat. I can’t do its intimately sad yet hopeful message justice here, but do yourself a favor and listen to it. This song feels lonely and lost in its lyrics, but it never succumbs to the darkness at its edges.
What I learned: Maybe some human beings let you down, but others don’t. My friends are the best part of me, and though the relationships I’ve focused on in this column are romantic and sexual, the relationships with friends are undeniably the more important.
March: “Ride” by Lana del Ray
Lovely Lana del Ray formed my March soundtrack, especially her open-highway ballad about setting out. My friend and I road tripped across the country this month, stopping in tiny towns on lonely backroads, watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon and making friends underneath stars clearer than they ever are out East.
What I learned: There’s a whole big and beautiful world beyond Yale, something that’s always worth remembering.
April: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John (sung by Queens of the Stone Age)
Released this month, the album “Revamp” reimagines our favorite Elton John songs with the voices of modern artists, and this Queens of the Stone Age version of my favorite song has been on blast in my apartment ever since. This month was feeling a little shaken by the everyday melodramas of Yale and also making the decision to go home for the summer.
“It’ll take you a couple of vodka and tonics to set you on your feet again,” the song goes.
What I learned: It’ll take a couple of [gin] and tonics, the promise of mountains, family and best friends to set me on my feet.
May: “This House is a Hotel” by The Wind and the Wave.
It’s not May yet, but this song is perfect for the end of school.
“It’s not at all good, but it ain’t that bad,” the chorus goes. There isn’t a single lyric anywhere else on this list that sums up the experience of college so perfectly. It’s wonderful and awful, and this home we made on campus sometimes feels like a hotel in its fleetingness.
What I learned: This year felt like every lyric in the song. I’m filled up to the brim with all the feelings this Yale world evokes but won’t be back for a little while.
Happy summer, friends. Fall in love, be kind, have an adventure, listen to music, keep talking. See you in the fall.
Ayla Besemer | firstname.lastname@example.org