It seems like a century ago that I said goodbye to my family and settled into my freshman dorm room, bracing myself for the next four years at Georgetown. Before heading home, my parents left me with a book they had put together called The Lessons I Learned From My Parents’ Music, the pages filled with the song lyrics they hoped would guide me through college. Ever the Modern Family fan, my dad pulled the idea from Phil Dunphy’s Phil’s-osophy, a book full of life lessons that Phil gave to his daughter, Haley, when she left for college. While Phil Dunphy’s book features timeless advice like “If you get pulled over for speeding, tell the policeman your spouse has diarrhea,” my parents’ book is a sentimental mix of classic rock hits and other iconic tracks like Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” For my last ever weekly list, I’ve written about my top ten songs from The Lessons I Learned From My Parents’ Music, ending my time at Georgetown right back where I started.
1. “No Surrender” by Bruce Springsteen
My parents’ playlist kicks off with some words of wisdom from one of my dad’s favorite artists. “We busted out of class / Had to get away from those fools / We learned more from a three-minute record, baby / Than we ever learned in school.” It says a lot that they started with a song about skipping class and hanging out with friends instead. I have definitely put that lesson into practice more than once.
2. “I Lived” by OneRepublic
This song is the biggest break from this classic rock heavy playlist, and I know my mom picked it. She might love Led Zeppelin, but she has always said that this is the song she wants playing at her funeral. “I did it all / I owned every second / That this world could give.” It might be cliché, but it’s about taking a jump and not being afraid of hitting the ground. And even though I hit the ground plenty at Georgetown, I learned just as much from the bad experiences as I did from the good.
3. “With a Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles
Their book features one full page of Beatles lyrics, but I chose this song because it’s one that will always remind me of college. “Oh I get by with a little help from my friends / Mm I get high with a little help from my friends.” I’m not sure how literally my parents wanted me to take these lyrics, but I can say that my Georgetown friends are the best I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
4. “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan
My parents didn’t even bother trying to choose the best lyrics from this song. They just wrote all of them. “Forever Young” sounds like every happy moment I’ve had in the last four years. “May your heart always be joyful / And may your song always be sung / May you stay forever young.” Oh, Bob, I am trying.
5. “On the Turning Away” by Pink Floyd
This song screams Jesuit university. It marks where my parents’ playlist starts to get more reflective and wistful. It’s about how we have to acknowledge the suffering that’s occurring in the world rather than looking the other way. “No more turning away / From the weak and the weary / No more turning away / From the coldness inside.” It’s basically “Men and Women for Others” with a soul-melting guitar solo tacked onto it.
6. “Vienna” by Billy Joel
At a competitive school where everyone is constantly doing the absolute most, students are always hitting their breaking points. When I need a reminder to relax out of that culture, I think of this song. Every lyric feels like it was written about Georgetown students. “Slow down, you crazy child / And take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while / It’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two.” It’s about taking our time and not burning out too young.
7. “Time” by Pink Floyd
“Time” is one of my favorite songs ever written, and it is just the right mix of emo and energizing. Back in freshman year, I always loved the line “You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.” Now, I get a pang at the more existential lines like “And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again / The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older.” It’s a hard song to listen to as we get closer to Zoom graduation, but it’s totally worth it for David Gilmour’s earth-shattering guitar solo.
8. “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills & Nash bring about a nice tonal shift as “Wooden Ships” is much lighter than “Time.” The relaxed folksy melody lulls me into a “soft smile” kind of mellow state. My parents included the opening three lines: “If you smile at me I will understand / ‘Cause that is something / Everybody everywhere does in the same language.”
9. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones
When my parents chose to put this on the second to last page of their book, I wonder if they had any idea that this would be one of the last and most important lessons I really learned at Georgetown. They only included the chorus “You can’t always get what you want / But if you try sometimes you just might find / You get what you need.” I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends or have a normal senior spring or even a graduation. But I’m safe and healthy during a health crisis. I have what I need even if I couldn’t have everything I wanted for myself at the end of my Georgetown career.
10. “The Georgetown Fight Song”
Of course, this is the last song my parents chose. I can’t say I ever learned it or that I went to as many basketball games as I thought I would when I was a freshman. But I will hold on to the lyrics, “It’s been so long since last we met / Lie down forever, lie down” until we recover from this pandemic, and I get to say my real goodbyes. My heart goes out to the dear old Blue and Gray. And now it’s my time to lie down and sign off for good. Hoya Saxa forever.
Image Credits: Jacob Bilich