Big Scary Life Changes: the Official Soundtrack

Last night, I found myself having a beer with a buddy and brooding over our mutual current state of Big Scary Life Changes. Having just moved away from Greece and sort of readjusted to being back in Montana, I’m now having to quickly transition to summer prep work for grad school, apartment-hunting in Boise, and in just four short weeks, actually moving down there and starting a whole new chapter of my life. Caught between three places, I can barely keep up with myself, and it’s only vigilant resolution to live in the present that keeps me from going off my rocker (if I ever had a rocker in the first place?). And I’m certainly not the only one. It seems like everyone I know–whether they’re in their twenties, like me, or not–is going through some sort of Big Scary Life Change, be it a new job, health issues, relationship woes or, however big or small, the dreaded identity crisis.

As well it should be! Though big, and scary, Big Scary Life Changes are the stuff of life. They keep our days interesting, help us shape the lifestyle we want to create, and force us to really figure out what we want. After all, it’s when we’re comfortable that we make the least progress as whole human beings. We seem to crave stability, but maybe that’s not really what we need. What can we learn from stagnation? Fight the current! Break away! Put your clothes on backwards!

Phew. Sorry. That fist pump got me a little hyped up. What I mean to say is, essentially, that change is good. Though it’s terrifying at first, good things await you at the bottom of a Big Scary Life Change. It just takes courage to get there.

So, as a fellow dog-paddler in the stormy ocean of Big Scary Life Changes, I offer the following tunes to help you navigate the waves.

“The Cave,” Mumford & Sons

This track is a veritable anthem for the Big Scary Life Changer. With great lines about knowing who you are, staying hopeful and creating good change out of what may seem hard or hurtful at first, this one is meant to be blasted after a BSLC freak-out.

“Angry Anymore,” Ani Difranco

I don’t know what the images are in this video (girl playing soccer on button?), but it was the best I could find. Anyway, this is one of my all-time favorites, forever and ever, amen. Ani’s lyrics are always jam-packed with wisdom and passion, but this track’s message is a universal and perpetually important reminder. Big Scary Life Changes bring knowledge and wisdom. We can all only hope that we, too, will have this kind of attitude when the storm has passed.

“Pursuit of Happiness,” cover by Lissie

(Note: strong language!) Somehow, when sung with that much more soul than the original by Kid Cudi, this song becomes about so much more. Watching this relatively random blonde girl throw her heart, soul and awesome pipes into belting it out always makes me want to toss it all to the wind and just enjoy the ride–and sometimes, that’s exactly what we need when a Big Scary Life Change is rocking our world.

“Lessons Learned,” Matt and Kim

Apparently, the official music video is “inappropriate,” so we have to settle for this version with the lyrics but–to my extreme disappointment–without the bouncing red ball! What is the point of having the lyrics but no fun bouncing red ball?! Anyway, I love this song. For me, the message is along the lines of the track above, but with the added bonuses of the great reminder to live in the present in the chorus and the awesome “tell me about your song” line. As a side note, this band’s unique, dynamic stuff is my favorite new running music!

“Helplessness Blues,” Fleet Foxes

The beginning of this track is an anthem for the best possible kind of chaos. Since I moved to Greece, chaos became a friend of mine, and–though I still color-code my readings for school, because that’s just fun–I’ve learned to love spontaneity, disorder, and uncertainty. I usually love the Fleet Foxes’ pattern of switching it up halfway through a song, bust sadly, the second half of this track is much less successful for me. But the first makes it worth it!

“Come on Up to the House,” Tom Waits

Ohhh, Mr. Waits. I’m a huge fan, and this might be my favorite track of his. I turn to this song when I’m feeling impossibly world-weary. There’s something about his soulful, bizarre vocals that both complements and contrasts the lyrics. Whatever you deem to be “the house” (I tend to think of it as simply “home”), this song is an immense comfort for anyone facing a Big Scary Life Change.

“Landed,” Ben Folds

I had the chance to see Ben Folds live last year, and he was just fabulous; in fact, he was making-up-a-birthday-song-for-an-audience-member, conducting-the-entire-audience-in-impromptu-three-part-harmony fabulous. Now, after listening to this song over and over in times of trouble, even the opening piano line helps ground me again. Thanks, Ben.

“Keep Breathing,” Ingrid Michaelson

This track is the very best in humbling reminders that you are a human being–nothing more, nothing less. Though we may crowd our brains with expectations, assumptions, continual analysis of perceived wins and losses, and to-do lists, all we really need do at any given moment is exist. If you can let go of everything else, just for a moment, that thought can be more comforting than anything in the world.

“Calendar Girl,” Stars

When I do yoga to music, this is my go-to savasana song. And for Big Scary Life Changes, “Calendar Girl” has it all–big-picture perspective, calming lyrics and style, wisdom, and inspiration. For me, the repetition of “I’m alive” really helps me simplify and restore my gratitude, no matter what BSLC I’m facing.

As a kid at the theatre camp I taught at for years once said, “Sometimes, you just have to jump in without your floaties on.” Here’s to the jump. May it be a swan dive!




About wrap me in phyllo dough

travel addict. greece-obsessed. grad student. bottomless pit.
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5 Responses to Big Scary Life Changes: the Official Soundtrack

  1. Very cool picks. My wife loves Anne and we both love M&Sons. Good luck with the next move.

  2. kmacfarline says:

    Kate, I’ve been following your blog since earlier this year (I’ve wanted to live in Europe since I was 9 even though I’ve never been there, and my husband is studying classical Greek history), and although I haven’t commented before, I just want to say a big thank you for this post!!! I’m actually at a residency starting my master’s program, and although I didn’t just traverse the world, I feel like I’m almost in the same place as you. You are a superbly expressive and humorous writer, and I can’t wait to read about where life leads you. Best of luck in starting your degree!

    • Kati,
      How lovely! You just made my day (which is pretty impressive, since today included a great yoga class AND some rockin’ Thai curry!). Thanks for your lovely words. Starting something new is a scary thing, huh? Good thing we have such awesome music to keep us going. I am wishing you the best of luckiest luck ever in your master’s program! Stay in touch (especially when you finally get to Europe!!) and thanks again for your lovely comment.

  3. Pingback: Bears and Bears and Bears, Oh My | wrap me in phyllo dough

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