american music

On Pride and High School Mix Tapes

“School’s Out for Summer” – Alice Cooper
“American Music” – Violent Femmes
“Goodbye Stranger” – Super Tramp
“Omaha” – Counting Crows
“Beautiful Girl – Pete Droge & The Sinners
“When I Come Around” – Green Day
“Radio, Radio” – Elvis Costello
“At My Most Beautiful” – REM
“Walk Away” – Ben Harper
“I’ll Miss You” – Ween
“Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond
“Another Brick in the Wall” – Pink Floyd
“Underground” – Ben Folds Five

I recently found the high school graduation mix I made in 2001 (track list above), and 13 years later, it holds up. “American Music” for instance: still a great song. I did so much math homework listening to that song, and hearing it again, I felt a twinge of that sadness from “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”: where did my love for that song go?

It was nice to listen to something I made, or curated, a Bar Mitzvah boy ago, and still enjoy it. At the time, I was very self-conscious when I handed the mix out through the halls of my high school. I didn’t feel proud of it, or like I had done something cool. I felt like I was trying to do something cool, and in the trying, I had some shame.

In general, it’s hard for me to feel completely proud of things. There’s always a caveat, a clause I add to put things in perspective and diminish whatever I’ve done. But recently, things have been going well. Specifically, I adopted a dog and Making the Mountain, the artist night I put together, is heading in a good direction. Catching up with a friend, I said about Making the Mountain, though I could have been talking about the dog, “I’m trying to just be proud of this. It’s something I wanted and I’ve made it happen.”

She reminded me that I had said something similar after running my first marathon, which I completed a few minutes faster than my goal. I had forgotten that I had said that. Even the sentiment felt distant, like a memory based on a photograph. Which is too bad, because I have a great memory for not feeling proud. I could chart the days I’ve felt embarrassed or silly, many of which were in high school.

I’m not one to advocate the ego, but it seems unproductive to be able to hold onto disappointment so tightly and not be able to remember pride.