Oberlin Blogs

My December in Four Songs

December 26, 2023

Julia Xu '27

At the beginning of the year, my friend Zach said he wanted to expand his music taste, which is why he decided to make monthly playlists to keep record of what he was enjoying at the time. I would love to try it out for myself come 2024, but the problem is that I make a minimum of 2-3 playlists every month anyway. (For example, I made a rock-heavy playlist specifically for walking to and from my 7PM Government and Politics of Africa class after daylight savings started and I needed an extra push that I wasn’t getting from my general walking to-and-from class playlist.)

I figure keeping a digital record on my blog is a good compromise, and a win-win-win, since not only am I giving my poor Spotify a break, but I also get to note the significance of each song and what I’m up to for future me to reflect on, and I get to share my thoughts with you! (I just thought of a fourth win: now you can appreciate my very tasteful and sophisticated music taste!)

Without further ado, here’s what I’ve been listening to in December, 2023.

1. Cult of Personality by Living Colour

Zach (my monthly playlist friend, if you forgot) had been making his way through Ms. Lauryn Hill’s discography when I recommended he listen to Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest (also great music to walk to). He ended up interrupting his Ms. Lauryn Hill journey and listened to my album recommendation in one night! In return, he recommended Vivid by Living Colour.

Between you and me, I only got through the first song… "Cult of Personality."

I’m taking a break from my current Tchaikovsky marathon to finish the rest of the album as I’m writing this. These sorts of exchanges are so special to me and experiences I’ve only had at Oberlin. Music is an inseparable part of me, so the significance of Zach, a classical oboist, taking the time to find a rock album he thought I’d like is not lost on me. On the other hand, I make an effort to attend every concert my Conservatory friends perform in, even if I have no idea what’s going on. (I always head to the water fountain during intermission because those performances are jaw-dropping.)

The effort that Oberlin students put into supporting others—even people they don’t know or things they’ve never heard of before—is one of my favorite things about my community. While college students are busy by nature, I’m always impressed by the turnout at even the “smallest” of events or the ability of students to turn the smallest of things into something eventful. (My favorite example has got to be the time I taught my friends to make dumplings and ended up cooking for four hours, feeding a floor and a half.)

2. Now That We Don’t Talk (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault) by Taylor Swift

This song is 2:26 minutes long, which makes it the perfect tooth-brushing song. You get 26 seconds to squeeze out your toothpaste, run your brush bristles under the water, pull your hair back (if applicable), and then the dentist-approved duration of 2 minutes to brush away.

Before I left for Ohio this summer, I went to the dentist and found out I had three new cavities. Apparently, they’re not joking around about the whole flossing thing. So before I started college, I set a goal to start flossing regularly (and using mouthwash if I’m feeling extra). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made that promise to my dentist (and not kept it, as my three cavities imply). This time around, though, it’s been going well. The major difference is that I’ve been inspired to do it for myself (I hate getting cavities filled). It also doesn’t hurt that starting college gives you a clean slate.

There’s something special about freshman years that I always try to savor—whether it’s middle school, high school, or undergrad. It's an opportunity to reinvent yourself or strengthen what you already know about yourself by putting it to the test in an unfamiliar environment. I had a pretty good idea of who I was and what I wanted going into the school year, but I’ve also embraced taking on and discovering new identities. For example, I have come to terms with the fact that I am indeed an introvert, but also a person who flosses!

3. La Ciruela by Nico Play

Another friend of mine, Matteo, is going to be spending his winter term in Guadalajara, Mexico, as part of a Study Abroad program offered by Oberlin. I’m totally not incredibly jealous.

He plans to take Spanish through all four years of college with the goal of eventual fluency. Though I took Spanish language classes in middle and high school, his dedication to the language and willingness to throw himself into learning always impresses me.

Together, we translated the song La Ciruela. I didn’t think I could do it, but Matteo didn’t hesitate to search up the lyrics and try—and together we were able to translate it, pretty accurately too! I can be apprehensive when it comes to learning, especially formal academics. I’m the kind of person whose room is full of materials from ten different (and retired) short-term hobbies. While I maintain that freshman year is the best time to experiment, I have admittedly played it safe when choosing courses in high school and college.

Next term, however, I registered for a 300 level Feminist Theory class which I am so excited for. It will undoubtedly be challenging, and it’s possible that I’ll be the only first-year, but La Ciruela is a reminder not to underestimate myself. After all, it’s recommended that you have a prior Politics or Africana Studies credit, and I have both. 

(If worst comes to worst, I can use the add-drop period to check out all the classes I wasn’t able to fit in my schedule!)

4. The Nutcracker, Divertissement. Tea, Chinese Dance by Tchaikovsky

Near the end of the term, I was so consumed by finals and overdue work (oops), the idea of holidays completely slipped my mind. The first time I thought of Christmas (my favorite holiday) all December was when my friend Jarrod, a classical flutist, started humming the first few notes to “Tea, Chinese Dance” and I did the “Oh! Oh!” face of recognition with the nonsensical finger pointing. (The second time I thought of Christmas was three days ago.)

Today, I made my way through the entire soundtrack, and the whole time I was doing that weird smile-frown that comes with bittersweet memories. I always get teary at “Final Waltz and Apotheosis,” which reminds me of my early elementary school ballet years when I’d dance The Nutcracker every winter.

“Final Waltz” is the ending to something magical, but it’s also the velvet curtains closing and thunderous applause. What’s the point in mourning the final chapter when you know it will be followed by the apotheosis? 

I hate goodbyes, so instead I’ll send you off with some happy holiday wishes. See you next year!

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