by Rumbidzai Mudzongo
Whenever I think of summer, I think of the heat and the endlessly long sunny days and the freedom to travel and explore new places and things, to hang out with friends who have been hunkered down the whole year with school and work. However, summer is also the end of the academic year, the end of another stressful but exciting chapter in my life that up until that point, I didn't think would come. It is the endless possibilities of what lies ahead of me both in my personal life and in my school life. It may sound dramatic and maybe even a bit pessimistic, but summer is when I get to reflect. The time to feel the full range of emotions that I didn't have much time to feel when I was stressing about exams, my extracurriculars, what the next step of my academic journey would be like, my family and friends, and everything else in between.
Although I have been a writer for the last 3 years, expressing my emotions is still something I struggle with. The easiest way for me to articulate my feelings and thoughts is music, something I’m sure many people can relate to. Music is as much a part of my daily routine as sleeping or breathing -the former of which I rarely get enough of, but that’s a story for another time. Over the summer there have been a few songs I've had on repeat. These songs not only helped me reflect on my feelings and thoughts, but they are also just excellent songs to listen to! Each song holds a special place in my heart for a different reason. While I can't put every thought or emotion I get when I listen to these songs on paper, I hope maybe they'll help you and, if not, maybe they’ll feature in your summer playlist.
“I promise I'm not ghosting you
There's just a couple of things I'm going through, 'ing through
And I don't wanna be a Debbie Downer on your life
So I'll wait 'til I'm alright before I call you, call you”
If you were to ask any of my friends, they’d probably (hopefully) tell you that I would move a mountain for them. Still, they don’t expect me to respond to their messages in a timely manner at times. One of the things I’ve always struggled with when it comes to my mental health is reaching out to others for help. As much as I love being there for my family and friends when they need me, I don’t always make it easy for them to do the same for me. I think something that many people can relate to is not wanting to be a burden on other people, so we deal with our issues on our own to prove that we are OK and can handle them. As someone who is very introverted and prefers to recharge by myself, it can often seem like I’m ghosting my friends and family when I’m actually just taking some time to deal with my emotions. This song perfectly encapsulates this sentiment. It feels like the words leapt out of my mind and into the melody!
"Music is as much a part of my daily routine as sleeping or breathing, the former of which I rarely get enough of but that’s a story for another time.”
“It's funny when I think a guy likes me
And it's funny when I'm the one who says, "Let's go to eat"
It's funny when I'm asked to go out on Halloween
Dresses and thigh highs, while I hide my body”
Two years ago I wrote an article about body positivity and that was largely inspired by my issues with my body image. It was one of the first articles that I wrote that was a little more personal and definitely left me feeling vulnerable as to how other people would receive it. The feelings and thoughts I had back then are largely still the same now. I think (or at least hope) that everyone’s relationship with their body fluctuates depending on lots of things. I can certainly attest to that. When I first heard this song, I have to admit I cried a little. Although I don’t relate to every aspect of it, it's still one of the few songs to which I have memorised the lyrics and which I hold very close to my heart. One of the things I am always very passionate about and try to advocate for in whatever space I am in is the representation of all types of people and bodies. Growing up and never seeing yourself reflected in the singers and actors you look up to can have a profound effect on a person. So having a song articulate some of the things I have sometimes felt was really cathartic.
“I also look at my piercings, my many multi-coloured bandannas, the different colours I choose for my braids, and my cosy sweaters and cardigans, they are what make up the tapestry of who I am.”
When I think of all the things that make up who I am, I look at my tattoos. They don’t have a very deep meaning or some subliminal message behind them. They aren’t particularly interesting either. They’re just a way for me to take control of the image I have of my body. I also look at my piercings, my many multi-coloured bandannas, the different colours I choose for my braids and my cosy sweaters and cardigans. They are what make up the tapestry of who I am. This song spoke to some of the anxieties I have around summer: the idea of having a summer body and dressing up in cute flowery dresses and just how more prominent our bodies become during these three to four months of the year. This song, whilst not always on repeat, definitely features a lot of what I think of body positivity.
“Cause the sun's engaged to the sky
And my best friend's found a new guy
I'm only getting older
I've never had a shoulder to cry on
Someone to call mine
Everybody's falling in love and I'm falling behind”
Now that I am in my last year of university, the question of ‘what’s next?’ has started coming up more frequently. A year or two ago, that question would have stressed me a bit, but eventually fallen to the back of my mind. However, now it is the question I've started asking myself. When I look at my life and how far I've come from the anxious-but-excited first-year student I was in 2020 to the still-anxious-and-slightly-less-excited fourth-year student I am now, I can't help but wonder if there’s more I could be or should have done. Everyone tells me to take my time, and that the right things will happen at the right time, but what if they don’t? What if I am falling behind and will never reach the finish line? A finish line which I’m not entirely sure I know what it looks like. This is perhaps too pessimistic an outlook on life, but I think it is fitting to the contrast between the lyrics and how upbeat -and even romantic- this song is. When I first heard it, I immediately thought of the song that plays in every rom-com set with Europe in summer as its backdrop. It took me to the scene when the main character finally realises they’ve met the love of their life. However, the lyrics promptly brought me out of that image. I think many students can relate to the feeling of falling behind no matter in which stage of their university experience they are at.
“When I look at my life and how far I've come from the anxious but excited first-year student I was in 2020 to the still anxious and slightly less excited fourth-year student I am now in 2023”
When I look at other people my age drinking Aperol Spritz in front of the Trevi Fountain, swimming in the clear waters of Mykonos and eating macarons in front of the Eiffel Tower, I know that everyone has their own stories. We all have our memories of lives lived, of experiences had, of places visited, of things done, of people loved. It makes me wonder what memories and experiences I’ll look back on whether or not I managed to make the most of my time here and the opportunities I had.
As I wrap up this reflection on my summer and the songs that have entwined themselves into my journey (and Spotify Wrapped), I can't help but feel a sense of gratitude for the journey I've travelled so far. As I face the uncertainties of the future ahead, I am reminded that just like these songs on repeat, life has its rhythms and beats, highs and lows. While I may question if I'm falling behind, I also recognize that every note, every pause, contributes to the unique composition that is life. As I look ahead, I do so with the hope of new memories, experiences, and perhaps even a few more songs to add to my playlist. So, cheers to summer's reflections and the sweet harmonies that guide us through the seasons of our lives!