There is a pair of black sunglasses with gold accents, a coral pink polaroid camera, and three polaroid pictures on top of a grey and white striped towel. One of the polaroids shows the landscape of the San Marcos River, and the other two pictures show smiling girls wearing swimsuits.

Not All Is Lost: An Ode to my Freshman Year

By Zoe Elter
Music Journalist

Given the condition of the world right now, being negative seems as easy as breathing. And I suppose that it is acceptable. It’s hard to ignore the climbing numbers, and there seems to be tragedy in every news post, Instagram story, and Twitter feed. I can definitely see how all of this makes smiling a bit difficult.

However—and it might just be my inner optimist begging to come out—I really don’t see the point. Sure, we can get angry. There is definitely a lot to be angry about, but our tendency to focus on the negative is blinding us.

Our lives might be different, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t live them to the fullest.

One thing that has really bothered me since we were told to pack up our dorm rooms and transfer to online classes is that—no matter who I talk to—I can’t talk to anyone without being asked how I feel about COVID-19 “ruining” my freshman year.

It’s this mindset that makes enduring these hard times more difficult. Was my freshman year cut short because of a global pandemic? Yes, it was. Was it ruined? I don’t think so.

For the longest time I was so focused on the fact that my freshman year was over that I didn’t appreciate all of the amazing things that happened during that time. I met so many unique people, learned so many new things, and I got an amazing job too.

We seem to have forgotten these things over the past couple of months. So in honor of my amazing—and shortened—freshman year, I decided to create a playlist.

At first glance this playlist might seem like a mess. It’s hefty and filled with a few strange choices. However, I promise there is a method to my madness. To make it easier for me to narrow down my choices and make sure the playlist didn’t have excess fillers, I made up five categories that I had to choose from. 

Thrifted Tunes

This category is home to music that was most likely made before my time. These songs might be gently used, but they are loved all the same. Much like some of my favorite Goodwill– as my brother likes to call them– dad shirts, these songs were with me before I started my college journey and have followed me through my life. They were a comfort to me when school got to my head. They remind me of my happy place: listening to music in the backseat of my dad’s car.

Two of my favorites from this category are “You’re the Only One” by Dolly Parton and “This Girl’s in Love With You” by Aretha Franklin. I like these to call these ladies my musical surrogate mothers because their songs are what really made me love music.

I-35 Vibes

During the entirety of my freshman year, my car wasn’t readily accessible. And for someone like me, it was tough. My favorite feeling in the world is driving on the highway with my music turned as loud as it can go. 

The only time I really got the chance to drive it was when I had to go home to San Antonio. So that is what this section is dedicated to. This category covers various spectrums across the alternative rock genre. This is where you’ll find some of my favorite songs I found while listening to KTSW, like “As I’m Fading Into You” by Blevins. Here you’ll also find some songs, like “Pictures of Dogs” by sleep well. that seem to sound even better when the windows are down.

K-Indie Picks

The most notable thing that I did my freshman year was getting a job at KTSW. Out of all the articles I wrote during my second semester, the most notable one was “The Ultimate K-Indie Introductory Playlist.” So in homage to that playlist I included some of my favorite K-Indie picks and some new releases. My favorite pick from this category is DPR Lives’ “Neon,” which is from his album that he released in March of 2020.

Friendly Melodies

This next category is a collaborative selection of songs. It is dedicated to all the amazing people that I met during my freshman year, and most of the songs were selected by my friends Eli and Rach. Our collective music taste has a wide range. From indie rock to songs that we listen to just because they made us laugh, this category is where you’ll find some stranger picks, like “DRUGS” by Lil Aaron. 

Current Cuts

The final category in this playlist is dedicated to all of my favorite new releases of my freshman year. From smaller bands like Hardcastle to indie household names like Bright Eyes, there are so many albums and singles that made my freshman year a little more enjoyable. And of course I had to close off the playlist with “I Know The End” from my favorite release of all time: Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers.

Although I am sharing this playlist with you, I created it for me. There are songs and memories in this playlist that should never be forgotten: A musical scrapbook, if you will. And I encourage you to create one of your own.

If you’re feeling bummed about not getting to walk the stage, go look back at pictures or videos from that last four years and remember all the great times you had in spite of that. If you missed your senior prom, get dressed up and listen to some of your favorite songs on a zoom call with your favorite people. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself smile.

Not all is lost, and the only way for us to keep moving forward is to remember that and appreciate what we have.

Featured image by Zoe Elter.

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