This Is Us

I Am So Out of Tune

A complicated love letter to music

Heidi S.
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readMar 1, 2021

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Black and white side rear photo of a person’s face wearing earphones, hand moving towards ear.
Photo: Jordan Cameron/Flickr

This is a love letter. It’s also a story about depression and autism and music, but it’s still a love letter. Remember that as you are reading this. And if you know me or care about me a little, please know that I’m okay.

I am.

I’m not great, but I’m okay.

I’m never going to be great, and that’s also okay.

I don’t like binaries, but I’m guessing either you know what I mean when I say that music has saved my life, or you don’t. Not everyone has this kind of relationship to music. I guess other forms of art and media could substitute. A couple of TV shows have kept me alive. And the Food Network, probably.

I’ve written about this before on my blog. How music can make me feel less alone. How sometimes I feel like I’m actually a human being when song lyrics resonate with me. How I have Wilco lyrics tattooed on my body because those words once stopped me from jumping in front of a train.

But sometimes I can’t listen to music at all. Actually, most of the time, I can’t stand to listen to music. If you ever recommend music to me, it might be literal years before I ever listen to it. I’m sorry. I don’t know why this is. We could sit here and speculate about my autism, sensory processing issues, fear of the unfamiliar, and need for very specific ambient noises (the source of which I can identify), but we’ll get to my brain later.

Other times, I will listen to one song over and over on repeat. It’s often “Sunken Treasure” by Wilco (where the title of this letter is from) or “Time Will Tell” by Gregory Alan Isakov, which both make sense, but last week it was “Baby Don’t Stop” by NCT (well, Taeyong and Ten), which doesn’t make sense, but I’ve stopped trying to understand how this works.

I have to be honest. Things are usually pretty bad in my head when I listen to one song on repeat for days on end. My guess for what’s happening is that I’m clinging to something familiar that will drown out the bad thoughts, which are also, unfortunately, very familiar. It’s like fighting fire with fire. And a catchy bass line. And the sweet, beautiful nonsense of Taeyong’s English rap lyrics.

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Heidi S.
Human Parts

PhD in philosophy | Feminist | Anarchist | Pop culture junkie | Kpop listener | Actually Autistic