Yesterday, I was thinking a lot about reclaiming music and memories. I was driving to Galway with a 7-day trial of Spotify premium, my bluetooth speaker and 200km to find musical accompaniment for.

I was listening to songs and albums that I hadn’t played in a long long time – mind you, as I’ve said before, I hadn’t been listening to much of anything in the last few years, so that could probably apply to anything I played.

In the months before I left Japan, I started playing music that had been special to me back in college, bands that weren’t all that appreciated by Mr.X, and so – without thinking  all that much about it – I’d left them drift into an unplayed catalogue. At the time, I used to allow Skype to display whatever songs I was playing at the time, so even if he wasn’t in my company, he could see what I was playing. And he noticed, alright.

In retrospect, it was another of those subtly controlling things that he did. I can’t remember the exact comments that were made, but they were designed to register disapproval in a kind of passive-aggressive way where I knew for sure that what I was doing was no longer walking the approved line, but couldn’t argue with it, because: it wasn’t directly stated, I’m reading too much into things, He never said that, I’m of course allowed to have my own tastes (but why would I want to?).

A previous version of me would have stepped pretty rapidly into line. But by now I was so over him, and the shit that I didn’t even have a word for, but was now starting to feel like sandpaper against my soul.

It took years of distance, growth and reading to be able to put a name to the behaviours I experienced over the 5+ years of that relationship. It was a kind of death by a thousand cuts to my true self. By the end, I think I existed in a near-constant state of double-think, facilitated by an unhealthy lacquer of liquor.

So then music that I listened to in those years in exile have acquired a sort of a taint to them, where I feel all squirmy and sometimes panicky and not wanting to re-visit the person that I was back then. There was “unsanctioned” music that I loved, but didn’t discuss my listening of with Mr.X – in order to avoid the scorn to be piled on it, and hence implicitly on my taste in liking it. Unlike at the end of things, I just didn’t broadcast those bands at the time, just held onto them like my own precious secrets. But even those songs are coated in the same veneer of shame and sadness as the music I came to love through Mr.X.

But – and now I approach the point – I’ve decided that he doesn’t get to keep those from me any longer. In fact, no one in my past gets to own my past. Just me. I can recognise actions from others as being unpleasant. I can recognise that the “me” who existed at different points was lost, or sad, or someone doing things I wouldn’t choose to do now – I can recognise all of that and still hold all the precious components of myself close to my heart. Those memories are still mine, they make up a beautiful and complex structure that has built up a person that I’m starting to come to like and even be a little bit proud of.

I can even cherish the pain and sadness in my past, without glorifying it and wallowing in it.

It seems to me that I’m pretty lucky to have noticed that music can be a conduit, an access tunnel for me to explore and redress things in my past, and allow me to revisit feelings with (I hope) more adult eyes.

Because I’m not just getting drawn into old emotions and memories when I’m listening, but it’s like I’m hearing stuff new as well and getting to kind of knit together past and present me.

So, right now I’m bouncing around like a kid in a sweet shop, opening up lots of old doors, wounds too sometimes, but mostly a whole lot of healing. I am looking forward to building up a repository of new music at some point too, but right now, there’s some foundational work to be done.

I feel like I’m reclaiming myself. I feel like I’m getting okay with with who I was, and I can’t overstate how huge that is for me.