Music is one of the strongest influences in my life – I turn to it to make sense of almost every emotion and experience. I concluded 2016 with 5 questions I learned to ask myself, so it only seemed right to recap 2017 with 7 songs that shaped my year (in no particular order).

Let’s get into it:

1. 1-800-273-8255 by Logic (ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid).

This was a breakthrough year for mental health – we started to break the stigma about addressing what was once the elephant in the room. We finally got beyond:

How are you?

Good, you?

We made it to: “How are you?”

Honestly? Today was one of the worst days I’ve had in a long time. And I’ve had a lot of the those days lately.

Instead of shying away from those authentic responses, I’ve seen people respond with, “Yeah dude, let’s go to that coffee shop with those bomb bagels and talk about it. I’m here for you.” Now THAT is a step in the right direction.

2. New by Daya

This year was a lot of new for me – new city, new state, new job – it was a transition I had been preparing for for over a year, and it still crept up on me. As I transitioned into a new way of life, I found myself missing what was familiar. I dove into a new relationship and quickly realized I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t over the person I had left behind, and I was moving faster than I was prepared for. I spent a lot of my summer being mad at myself for not being over the person I left in Seattle. I’ve never been treated so poorly and been so disrespected, and yet here I was wanting him over the sweet soul in front of me. At the end of the day, it was a matter of wanting what I knew, rather than wanting to try something new. It’s been a long process in letting that feeling go, letting him go, and letting myself do better. But I’m on my way. To new.

3. Crowded Places – Banks

This was my 9th most played song on Spotify in 2017, and it got me through some hard times. From the melody to the chorus, I would put this song on loop, go for a long drive, and clear my head. “Cause I’ve been scared of crowded places, come with me, I’ll take you home.” 2017 helped me find a home in myself rather than in places.

4. We Could be Free – Vic Mensa

To say 2017 was hyper-political is an understatement. I often find myself at a loss for words, so when I heard this song, I felt connected and heard. Vic Mensa is one of my favorite rappers of all-time – this song solidified my respect and admiration for him not just as an artist, but as an activist.

5. Everything – Muna

My #1 most played song on Spotify this year – no surprise there. The repeat one feature on Spotify really came in handy with this song. This year was shaped by loss and love. I lost one of my very dearest friends from Chapman, one who came into my life at a low point. He stood by me through thick and thin, even when I moved home. He was an integral part of my Chapman experience and became a pillar of hope and strength in my life. He treated me so well and showed me what pure love could look when nothing is expected in return. My heart is still healing from his loss, but his imprint on my life will last a lifetime. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, and he puts a smile on my face when I think back to our Del Taco dates and late night beach walks. “Cause the world could be burning, and all I’d be thinking, is how are you doing, baby?” I’ve written about him in previous posts, and I was lucky that he always knew how much I adored him. I’ll miss and love you forever, Eric. Thanks for watching over us all as we carry on.

6. The Brightside – Lil Peep

I am sad to say I did not discover Lil Peep until after he died, because many of my students were big fans of his. After hearing about him so often, I decided to research his music and story – I became instantly fascinated with his music and life. He was paving the way for a new style of hip hop, and was open about his struggles with drugs and depression. All of his music is very honest about his experiences, and somewhat dark. This song in particular stands out – from the music video depicting life on tour to “But it’s fine, I’ll be fine” the lyrics and aesthetic convey the light and the dark present in everyday life. I learned a lot about him from his last formal interview, which you can check out here.

7. Praying – Kesha

This was my 7th most played song on Spotify in 2017, and I think it captures the #MeToo movement. It allowed me to make sense of an experience from high school that I had shut out for many years. It became an anthem of sorts that empowered me to accept the past and move forward, without blaming myself or feeling lost.

I have a draft of my top albums from 2017, but this felt more personal, cathartic, and healing to share. Thank you for taking the time to read this. May your 2018 be filled with music that sets your soul on fire.