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A Story in Song

Music, like life itself, is unpredictable

By Morgan Rhianna BlandPublished 11 months ago 10 min read
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A Story in Song
Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash

Life is unpredictable sometimes. It can be messy. It can be chaotic, and it doesn’t always fit into a neat little box. Like life itself, my taste in music is all over the map. Everything from tc theme songs to alternative rock, pop to Broadway will make an appearance on this list.

Part of Your World (from The Little Mermaid)

Ever since I can remember, this has been my favorite Disney song and Ariel one of my favorite princesses. If you’d asked me why when I was three, I probably would’ve said it’s because she has red hair, because she lives in the sea, or because she gets to marry Prince Eric. Now my reasoning is much different. It’s because I relate to her.

LIke myself, Ariel doesn’t fit in with the rest of her family and wants to belong to a world she wasn’t born into (the human world in her case, the nondisabled world in mine). Also like me, she has a physical limitation (her mermaid tail) that hinders her from doing that. As a kid with a disability - and even sometimes to this day - I was often told that my dreams were unachievable because of the way I am, so seeing Ariel’s determination to find a way around her physical limitations to pursue her dreams was inspiring.

The Flintstones theme

Growing up in a low income family, I had to do without a lot of the fun things my friends had. For the first five years of my life, cable tv was one of them. I was so excited when my parents finally got cable. My favorite show to watch was The Flintstones. That show used to come on at 4 PM, and I’d always drop whatever I was doing to watch. My mom always said that The Flintstones once saved my life.

My first day of kindergarten, I came home with a raging headache. My mom put me to bed, and I asked her to wake me at 4:00 for The Flintstones. When she came to wake me up, I’d had a life-threatening seizure and had to go to the hospital for several days. I was eventually diagnosed with an inoperable brain AVM. My mom said that if I didn’t want to watch The Flintstones, she would’ve let me sleep, and if she let me sleep, I would’ve been dead by the time she checked on me.

That'll Be the Day - Buddy Holly

My dad grew up in the 50s, and he passed some of his taste in music on to me. He usually listened to the local oldies station in the car, and he taught me everything he knew about the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. The car radio became a game to us. Every song that came on, my dad would quiz me, “Who’s this?” I was supposed to identify the song and the artist, and I got quite good at it, sometimes even correctly identifying songs that had my dad stumped.

I chose this song to represent the genre as a whole because I have two vivid memories associated with it. The first is hearing it in the car and my dad telling me all about Buddy Holly and the Day the Music Died. The second is my dad giving me a portable cd player. He said I could pick out a cd to go with it, and I chose a Buddy Holly cd that had this song.

Hedwig’s Theme (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

This song represents - you guessed it - my love of the Harry Potter series. Between my disability and my parents’ unconventional beliefs, I had a fairly isolated upbringing, so I found the companionship I lacked in books. Harry Potter was no different. I discovered the series in fifth grade when the teacher read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone aloud. I didn’t think I’d like the book because it was so different from what I usually read, but I was so wrong! To my surprise, I saw myself in many of the characters.

At the time, only three Harry Potter books were released, and the movies were still two years away. Some of my fondest memories are of Harry Potter: attending the book and movie releases, hunting down the merchandise with my dad, and working as a moderator for a Harry Potter website. While my opinions of some characters and the author herself have changed dramatically in over twenty years, the life lessons and comfort I found through the Harry Potter series remain.

Nobody’s Fool - Avril Lavigne

Full disclosure: I originally had a different Avril Lavigne song on this playlist, but I decided this one made more sense. Let Go was one of the first modern (for that time) cds I bought, and of the songs on that album, this is the best fit for my life at that stage. I even had a friend tell me at the time that this song reminded her of me! When I started high school, I was the polar opposite of a normal teenage girl. I wasn’t the thin, bubbly, preppy girl-next-door type. I was a plus-sized, disabled, introverted bookworm with a gothic streak. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was also aromantic-asexual. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t be normal, and this was about the time I stopped trying, I decided I didn’t want to be normal. Being normal meant being like my bullies, and I wanted nothing to do with that!

All I Ask of You (from The Phantom of the Opera)

This was the first song I heard from The Phantom of the Opera. That was at a middle school choir concert, but I didn’t properly discover the musical until the movie was released a few years later. I immediately identified with the Phantom’s character. Like him, I was shunned and bullied all my life for differences which I couldn’t change. For many years, Phantom was my favorite musical, only overtaken in 2020 when I discovered the final song on this list. It ignited my love of musical theater and inspired me to learn how do do doll customizations, a hobby in which I developed a talent and later a following.

What a Shame - Shinedown

This song reminds me of an old friend (we’ll call him Josh). Josh was always different. He was troubled. He made some bad choices, but he was a good person. He was murdered about a month before I graduated high school (and not long before this song was released), and because he was different, nobody cared. His killer got off with a slap on the wrist, and some people even applauded the killer for “taking out the trash”.

Seeing those reactions both infuriated and scared me. I remember thinking, what happens if somebody (heaven forbid!) kills me too? Will everybody think they were taking out the trash because I’m too different? Those thoughts inspired me to switch career paths. For a time, I thought I was going to be an actress, but I decided that fighting injustice was more important to me than entertaining people. So that year, I enrolled in college as a legal studies major in hopes of becoming an attorney.

It’s My Life - Bon Jovi

I’m putting this song here on the list because I discovered it in early adulthood, but it could really apply to any stage of my life. I relate to the theme of breaking rules and defying expectations because that’s what I’ve done all my life, for better or worse. People expected that I wouldn’t survive to adulthood, but I did. People expected that I’d become a criminal, but I didn’t. On the flip side, people also expected me to have a driver’s license, college degree, 9 to 5 job, and significant other. None of those things wound up happening, the former three due to my disability and the latter due to my sexual orientation.

I also relate to the song’s messages of never being satisfied with mediocrity and wanting to live life on one’s own terms. There’s a very real possibility that I could die young, either from another seizure or an AVM bleed/rupture, so my goal is to find a way to leave my mark on the world before that happens.

Back to December - Taylor Swift

Although this song is about a failed romantic relationship, I think of something else when I hear it. I think of failing a family member. My dad passed away from lung cancer in December 2010, not long after this song was released. I knew his death was coming for a while. I also knew that when it happened, he wouldn’t want me to be the stereotypical version of a grieving daughter: weepy and helpless. I tried to show him that I could be strong by emotionally detaching from him while he was still alive, and that was wrong. He probably died thinking I didn’t care about him, and to this day, I go back to December, turn around and change my own mind.

Constant Angel - Ramin Karimloo

There are several reasons I included this song. One is the artist. I discovered Ramin Karimloo through a Phantom of the Opera website I once frequented, and I enjoyed his voice and his music. About a year after I discovered Ramin, he did a US tour. The closest stop was two states away from me, and nobody was willing to make the trip with me. I didn’t let that stop me though! When I couldn’t find a buddy, I decided to go by myself. That was my first solo trip, and despite many setbacks along the way, it was amazing! I got to meet Ramin after the show, and he was so kind. That trip ignited a love of traveling, and I’ve made many more solo trips since.

I could’ve chosen any Ramin Karimloo song to represent the artist and the trip, but I chose this one because it reminds me of my mother, who lost her will to live when she lost her husband. This song represents everything I wish I could’ve said to her, to inspire her to move forward and not give up, and this was one of the songs played at her funeral.

Burn (from Hamilton)

I was a few years late jumping onto the Hamilton bandwagon, discovering the soundtrack in 2018. While “Burn” is not my favorite song from that musical (I still like it; I just prefer others), it’s the one that best fits my life at that time. From Fall 2018 to Spring 2020, I lost my cat of seventeen years, a job I loved, my family’s belief in me, and very nearly my grandma. Then when the pandemic hit, I lost all social interaction with my loved ones too. That’s a lot of loss in about a year and a half. There were a lot of bridges burned, and I found myself relating to Eliza’s feelings of betrayal and isolation expressed in this song.

If Dreams Came True (from A Tale of Two Cities)

There are many more songs I could’ve included, but this seems a fitting place to end. This song is the most recent discovery, and of all the songs on the list, this one had the most dramatic positive effect on me. I found this song by a completely random chance in 2020. At the time, I had no money, no job, no car, no support system, and no hope of acquiring any of those things. That was the closest I ever came to following my mother’s lead in giving up on life, and I honestly believe I would’ve eventually taken my own life if I hadn’t found this song when I did.

Like Sydney Carton, the character who sings this song, I fell far short of the benchmarks of a normal adult life, and I actually cried the first time I heard this song because I saw so much of myself in him: cynicism, self-loathing, wasted potential, and a penchant for drinking. Hearing this song and knowing what Sydney went on to do at the end of the story gave me the first hope I’d had in a long time that I wasn’t too far gone to improve. It inspired me to make one last-ditch effort to turn my life around, and because of that, I’ve gone on to lose weight and gain a new career goal. Most importantly, I gained a mentor because of this song and with him, the acceptance I thought I’d lost forever when I lost my parents.

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About the Creator

Morgan Rhianna Bland

I'm an aroace brain AVM survivor from Tennessee. My illness left me unable to live a normal life with a normal job, so I write stories to earn money.

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