Mix Tapes, Memories, and Making It Happen

Last week I was conducting one of my periodic cleaning and purging sessions. That’s where I go through all of my stuff, and get rid of things that have just been laying around a for a while. During this archeological expedition, I found one of my old mix tapes. Yes an actual cassette.

I have held on to some things for sentimental reasons over the years, but this cassette wasn’t one of them. It’s not the oldest mix tape in my life or anything. It just happened to be in with a box of other electronic stuff that I have had with me through the years. I probably dumped it in there during a move or something, and never took it out.

This tape is from around the time of my first summer job. Right after I graduated from high school. Because the car I drove didn’t play CDs, I had recorded songs from several of my CDs onto the cassette, so I could listen to my own music as I drove to work. (Or other places of the era.)

I popped the cassette into my current player in my bedroom and listened to it for a while. Like I said, I own ALL of the same songs on CD. But there was something about listening to the slightly scratchy cassette recordings, with all of their audio idiosyncrasies. It just…sounds different.

But this isn’t a post about sound quality in different media. The only pertinent information here is that although I was listening to the same songs I can listen to on CD, there is enough of a difference on the cassette recordings that it awakened certain types of memories that just listening to the song on the CD or on the radio don’t awaken as much. In this case, the atmosphere around going to my first summer job, since that is when I would most often pop in this mix tape.

Frankly, I hated that job. Hot, dirty work. Terrible, inept co-workers. You’ve been there, I’m certain. Yet having that job did give me a certain feeling of freedom. I was to start college soon, and several different aspects of my life were opening up for the first time. And the job at least took place in a beautiful wooded area. There were moments when I had that job that I felt like I was really on my way to somewhere. (Usually on the drives to and from, but occasionally while I was actually on the job.)

It’s that feeling of potential, of slight adventure, of a different kind of freedom and of the safe unknown that listening to that cassette brought to the surface again the other night in a way that the CDs themselves probably could not.

The reason, in my opinion, that this happened, is not the nature of the music, or even the nature of the cassette itself. But I listened to that particular tape so often during a time in my life when I opened myself up to that sense of promise and excitement that my subconscious associated that feeling with listening to that tape. So when, all these years later I popped it in again, it was like some of that feeling was brought to the surface.

I have enjoyed wonder and excitement since that first job. Maybe not as much as some, but it has happened. But the point is, don’t reserve those feelings for the milestone times in your life.(Starting college. Starting a new job. The first days of a new romance.) Make sure you open yourself up to such feelings of potential all the time, and remain in awe of everything, where ever you find yourself. A very tall order, I readily admit. But if you can do it, you will always be able to look to that spirit of adventure within you when you need a push or a pick me up. You won’t need a mix tape, or a movie, or a perfume to remind you of  “what I was like back then. I was so young and stupid.

You may have been young, but you weren’t stupid if your biggest crime was thinking anything was possible. That life lie ahead of you. It still does. It takes a hell of a lot of work, and maybe you didn’t realize that in the past. But you do now. So go; roll up your sleeves and get ready to sweat, get in your car, blast your old mix tape, and take off down the road of your life.

Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is.” —Albert Einstein


  1. Sure like to know what some of those tunes were!

  2. Becky B

    I agree, I also want to know what those tunes were!

    You make an excellent, excellent point: Why can't we bring back the same sense of newness and wonder that we used to have as easily as we invoke it when playing an old memory?

    We might have to think about it a little harder and make more of an effort at first, but we need to keep that spirit alive. Recognize the silver linings, the potential, the FUN of it all. Otherwise, what's the point?

  3. Becky- Your question hits the issues face on. “Why can't we bring back the same sense of newness and wonder we used to have as easily as we invoke it when playing an old memory?”

    I am still not sure why, but I really think it is a social expectation. I have written on that aspect of all of this before. This belief that passed a certain age, or once a certain milestone is reached, we are not supposed to get giddy. Or excited, or hop up and down. Or listen to a mix tape with the window down. Whatever it is, there seems to be a strong tendency for the group-think to frown upon such expressions.

    I do agree that it may take more work to scratch that surface later in life, BUT I also think that once done, if we are willing, it can lead to wonderful things that others would have us believe are not possible, say, after college, or after our first great job.

    As for what was n the tape…There was some REO Speedwagon. Some Fleetwood Mac. I think some Cheap Trick was on there somewhere.

  4. Anonymous

    Mar-Lu Ridge?

  5. Yes, one of the jobs was Mar-Lu-Ridge. I imagine you know me.

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