Letters

The Year of Patience

Dear Friends,

Back in 2014, I started making themed playlists. That was a big year for me because it was when I started playing derby and started being casually out as queer in my local community. I tried to make a single playlist for the year, and to be honest, it wasn’t that great. I tried to cover too much ground and wasn’t taking in enough diversity of sources to make a well rounded playlist.

In 2015, I made one for the year and one for my derby team that I really loved. In 2016 and 2017, I made a different playlist every month. That was a time of so much happening that the playlists really served as an audio journal for everything I was experiencing. From month to month, the songs reflected my mood, my ambitions, and in some cases, energies and intentions I wasn’t fully aware of yet. There were songs about love, passion, fear, challenge, competition, and rage as well as ones about the strangeness of life. Many resonated with my own growing feelings of alienation from the world around me as it seemed to be falling apart. As far as audible cohesion, I think August 2016 was my best playlist with the unifying theme of outsiders, witches, and aliens. That was a hard time, but hard times are often the most fruitful opportunities for learning.

In 2017, the playlists began to reflect my depression, which probably reached its worst depth that May when I determined that I needed to step away from roller derby. I struggled to finish the December 2017 playlist, and afterward, I could not bring myself to start one for January 2018. I didn’t even want to listen to music. I needed a lot of silence.

For some time, people had been telling me I needed to learn patience. Specifically in relation to derby it was said quite a bit. I needed to be patient as a jammer because I had a tendency to get frustrated if I didn’t get out of the pack quickly and I would feel like the jam was lost and blame myself for it. I needed to be patient as a blocker because I tended to leap across the track to cover the outside line out of a lack of trust that my teammates would be there, and as a result, I’d leave the inside unguarded and lose the jammer. I spent a lot of time back then blaming myself for stuff and then attempting to correct it by making the same mistakes faster and with more force. It’s not hard to see why a person loses hope that way. Of course, I couldn’t articulate all this at the time. I just knew that I was frustrated, tired, disappointed and hurting, and it wasn’t just about derby. I was feeling stuck in every area of life, so it was in January 2018 that The Year of Patience dawned.

I thought The Year of Patience would be a great title for a playlist about just such a year. I hoped to find songs about self-reflection, growth, and empowerment. I assumed it would take me a full year to make it, but I had no idea it would take a solid year and a half. Although, with a  name like that, I should have known.

An audio journal can accomplish many things or none. It speaks to my insecurities, which I’ve grown somehow secure with. It embraces weirdness, awkwardness, the things I was trained to feel ashamed of, an emotional habit that no longer serves me. It articulates my fears about living in a police state that hates women, queers, immigrants, and people of color. And sometimes it starts to find a groove, a drive, a powerful impulse that drives it forward. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to these songs and taken comfort in their reassurances, the confidence of these voices, the warmth of their sound, the humanness. Some days it was the sunny sound of an acoustic guitar backed by brass that helped me feel like life was worth living. If that sounds dramatic, well, I’m not sorry enough to change it. What this music provided for me over the past year and a half was companionship, inspiration, affirmation, and even guidance. Some time, I will try to tell you what I learned during this year of patience, but unsurprisingly, that too, requires patience. I’m busy living the lessons and not ready to pass them along.

Luckily the Year of Patience wasn’t all deep emotional work. No one can do that full time, not even a somber bitch like me. Some of it was light, fun, and just plain beautiful. I hope you find that in these songs as well.

This playlist is long. Nearly 100 songs totaling over five hours of play. I realize most people will not listen to this playlist with nearly the level of attention that I’m giving to creating and writing about it. That’s ok. I think a good playlist can create a strong soundtrack for a great life. And all I really want is for myself and every last one of you to have a great life. One worth remembering.

Here’s to living a memorable story,

Mary

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