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Music is powerful. It is the language of the soul, a collection of stories — stories of love, joy, heartbreak, failure, success — that anyone can tap into and relate to. Sometimes, if we let it, music has the greater ability of allowing us to feel things we never imagined, to feel emotions beyond our own scope of understanding. Through music we are able to time travel and transcend the borders of reality.
In big things and small. In our day-to-day routines and more special moments. In old memories and new experiences. In songs and books. In the things we do for ourselves, the things we do for others and the things others do for us. These are just a few of the ways in which we can find joy in our lives.
I’m going to be honest, when I heard the fall magazine was going to center on the theme of joy, I didn’t think I’d have an article to write. Being a Hopkins student is stressful enough at the best of times, let alone during the chaos that has been 2020. I’ve been all kinds of overwhelmed, and I’m not alone; according to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago, American happiness is the lowest it has been in 50 years.
I’ve always loved nonsense. Nonsense words. Nonsense phrases and rhymes. Nonsensical conversations. So fittingly, my favorite poem as a child was Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. I always loved how the words meant nothing but I still knew what they were saying. In Jabberwocky, sound plays the starring role. We can’t imagine the “slithy toves” without it. I’ve always pictured the setting as a slimy, murky bog with a monster hidden in the mist, waiting to pounce on a passing traveler.
My instinctual idea of joy mimics the physicality of the word itself: a short burst, a dynamic syllable emerging from the mundane sentence around it, full of energy and brief color like a small dancer lifting her head and jumping in the air for pure love of movement. It’s akin to ecstasy, to giddy happiness. I find this version of joy in moments that overtake me, when it feels like everything is falling into place, like I’ve finally found my nook in the tableau of my life.
“We decorated our Club Penguin house for Halloween. Y’all should see it.”
I took a class this semester on Emily Dickinson for a very simple reason: I, like many people my age, was really into John Green in high school. Green, who is really into Dickinson, introduced me to what has been my favorite poem since 2014 — “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.” And since that was my favorite poem, I thought a class entirely about Dickinson might be kind of neat. So here I am.
Science and love are thought of as two concepts that exist virtually separate from one another. While science uses facts and data to conduct experiments for the purpose of explaining the paradigms of the world, love is a feeling that is unpredictable and unique to each person experiencing it. Never mind the scientists who try to attribute love solely to a series of biochemical reactions in our brains — we know that that isn’t all there is to love. The 36 questions, however, are an idea that brings both science and love together.
In my freshman year at Hopkins, I did my first service project through Baltimore First. Every other week I would visit Carmine Gardens, tend to the crops and maintain the landscape for sustainable growth. I befriended Hopkins alumni who taught me about the value of civic engagement and working with the community. I also learned how to use gardening tools to shape the land and how to design a sustainable and affordable community garden.
It’s impossible to nail down the exact percentage of memories I have that are explicitly tied to music. In fact, it might be necessary to add a qualifier in order to get closer to a more concrete answer. If I adjust the question to ask, “What percentage of my happy memories are tied to music?”, it becomes easier to figure out a precise number. That number exists in the 90 to 95% range. In the bustling interchange of memory encoding and storage, many of the positive memories I have are attached to some sound or song.
The edges don’t move ‘cause the edges don’t move. The edges never really gave a damn about you. The ocean and the sand, the beach and the land — If you ain’t ever been then you’ll never understand. When Will Wagner, my bandmate, the pink to my yellow, sent me this hook some six months ago and I listened to it thousands of miles across the country, I knew that it would flourish into something robust and beautiful.
2020 has been a year of social distancing and mask wearing, of avoiding the common elevator in my apartment and keeping six feet away from passersby in public. While I was stuck in America, not only was I constantly stressed about the ever increasing COVID-19 cases here, but I also found myself in emotional solitude as the people I love resided 12 hours away.
“On their own” (April 2018)
Make sure you choose something that drives you from within, and you will find your place here at Hopkins.
I feel like we missed out on so many “lasts,” and I worry that once the pandemic is over, everyone (including myself) will just move on and no longer feel the need to celebrate graduation. I really look forward to the day I can reunite with my Hopkins family for one last celebration.
I wish there wasn’t a culture of complaining at Hopkins. I certainly understand why it’s the case; we’re all a bunch of overachievers, and complaining is a way to validate the work that we do in a way that doesn’t seem braggy.
College has been such an eye-opening experience in terms of my identity. It has made me think critically about who I am, what my values are and what is important to me in life.