Bangers and Bops: Brandi Carlile and my small-town roots

Everyone wants to change the world. Scroll through a thousand startup mission statements, and this is the one thing that remains constant. Whether it be a company dedicated to reinventing the way in which we toss a salad or a non-profit giving away polo shirts to underprivileged children, it seems there is no aspect of our Earth that people have not set out to alter. 

I have often thought about my place in this constant journey that I, as a young person and college student, must undertake to change the world. But I am severely under-read. I don’t know how to code. I’m an asthmatic without a driver’s license and too many split ends. And although black turtlenecks are the epitome of Northeast Chic, I have no desire to be the next Steve Jobs or Elizabeth Holmes. So, I’ve decided to embrace mediocrity. I don’t care if I die without a building named after me. I don’t care about being named as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30. I couldn’t care less about having an HBO documentary on my life. At this point in Scorpio season, I have realized that I just want to get my degree, get a job that comes with healthcare and live my days out peacefully unknown to everyone except my loved ones.

In all fairness, these sweeping dramatic declarations come after the worst midterm of my entire 19 years of living, so they should be taken with a chunk of salt. But the amount of time in the past two weeks that I’ve fully wept in public listening to Brandi Carlile‘s “Fulton County Jane Doe (2018) points me in the direction that I’m right. The song’s sadness does not stem from the idea that this Jane Doe, found in 1988, died unknown to the masses, but the fact that she died unclaimed. When Carlile sings that this Jane Doe is “more than Fulton County,” it crystallizes the tragic circumstances that allow for this woman to be known by her death and remain unknown in life.

As much as it pains me to check my privilege, I have to admit that I have been unfairly advantaged in the sense that I have a freakishly large support network. I come from a family of five and grew up seeing my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins for every birthday, holiday or just because. And despite the 3,000 miles that separate me from my hometown, I constantly reflect on my experience growing up in a small Los Angeles suburb. I know all of my neighbors by name and they know me. I got to call my friends’ parents by their first names, and our weekly farmers market is basically the only situation where PTA mothers and bassists from indie rock bands can peacefully coexist. Even the kids from high school whom I’ve sometimes called “randos” are almost obscenely caring in a way that makes me believe that I grew up in a utopia. 

So, when I have my bi-monthly emotional meltdown where I’m convinced I am literally dying, the thing that lifts my spirits is this idea that even though they may not be physically with me, I have the love and support of all of my ride-or-dies.


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