In this series, we’re asking you to tell your life story through eight songs. Starting with your earliest memories, guest columnists will name their defining songs along with a couple of sentences explaining their meaning.
Today’s DJ: Laura Douglass
“Everybody Said (But Nobody Did)” – Acapella
A capella music, particularly by the group Acapella, was a staple in the Douglass household. This song, despite its ridiculously goofy music video, represents one of our family values. The chorus states, “Everybody said that anybody could do the important things somebody should do; Everybody knows that anybody could do all the good things that nobody did.” My family pledged to put in the work that others don’t want to do, and to be people who serve others and do the right thing… even when there’s no glory or glamour to be had. We are people of faith who give cheerfully and serve joyfully. That has stuck with me throughout my life, and translates into my motivations behind pursuing a career in public service.
“Ride Wit Me” – Nelly
I have a deep and abiding love of all things Nelly. The streetwise St. Louis rapper spoke volumes to my suburban-California middle school self. I (thankfully) could not relate to his lyrics about selling ‘caine or smoking a(n) L in the back of a Mercedes Benz, but he had all the expression, soul, and swag of someone who was infinitely cooler than me – and I was hooked. Nelly and I had one thing in common: we could rock a band-aid like nobody’s business. As an accident-prone child who grew to be a clumsy adult, it was common for me to have a band-aid over my eyebrow, or under my chin. Nelly’s ridiculous cheek bandages made my battle scars cool, if only for a pop culture minute.
So, if all Nelly songs are equally representative of my youth while being completely disconnected from it, why did I choose this particular tune? 1) There’s a delightful commentary from Forbes on this song regarding its treatment of money. 2) You already know I love my music a capella, so it should come as no surprise that I greatly enjoy the classical music/hip-hop mashup by Gentleman’s Rule. Enjoy at your leisure.
“Constitution Preamble” – Schoolhouse Rock
In 5th grade, I played the lead in a “Schoolhouse Rock” musical in which I sang this song with great gusto. Reviews were not great, and there’s a reason I’m an analyst and not a musician. However, I’ve never forgotten the words, and as I grew older, few documents became as near and dear to me as the U.S. Constitution.
In my AP Government class my senior year of high school, Mrs. Painter gave each student a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution. At the time, I had a nasty case of senioritis and I deserved (and received) the worst grade of my entire academic career in her class. Somehow, I still scored well on the AP exam, and for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to discard my pocket Constitution.
Later, I discovered my passion for public administration, and I went on pursue my degrees and my career in a subject I once disregarded. More than 10 years later, I still carry my pocket Constitution in my wallet and never leave home without it. In fact, in the job I started one week ago, I finished my orientation by standing and reciting an oath to defend it. It is an honor and privilege to do so.
“257 Weeks” – Nine Days
Nine Days is most famous for writing “This is the story of a girl who cried a river and drowned the whole world” in their 2000 song “Absolutely.” That song was the reason I purchased their album “The Madding Crowd,” making it the first album I ever purchased for myself. Album reviews were underwhelming, with people like Sputnik Music calling it “completely unmemorable and woefully generic”. To me, it was tremendously special. I loved every song, placing “The Madding Crowd” high on my list of favorite albums, not far from Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet.”
“257 Weeks” is not their best song, but it represents my life back in 2006. The song is about finding your way and moving forward. I was not a fan of high school. I had a good group of friends, but I felt the whole exercise was a waste of time, and a holding cell until I could go to college (Yes, I know – I was a bit of a punk). Around that time, I rediscovered this album and this song, with lyrics that sing, “You could be waiting for a day that won’t come… You could be so much more than you’ve become.” Those words stung! I was sitting there, waiting for my life to begin instead of embracing it and enjoying it as it happened. I graduated, and after flying halfway across the country to start at a university in Arkansas, I threw myself headfirst into making it the best experience of my life. I broke out of my shell as a shy kid and became the girl who went out of her way to welcome everybody. I stopped waiting, and started living.
“California” – Joni Mitchell
In case you were thinking that my musical taste is completely garbage, I offer up a little nugget of genius in Joni Mitchell. In college, I had an opportunity to study abroad in Greece for a semester, with two weeks spent in Egypt and two weeks in Israel. At the end, a friend and I backpacked across Italy, France, and the U.K. My poor Texan roommate had to endure me playing this song on repeat for much of the semester. It was my first time traveling out of the country and it opened my eyes to how other people live. I had no concept of how young the United States was until I walked through the ruins and buildings in other countries that predated anything I had ever seen. In “California,” Joni sings, “Oh, it gets so lonely when you’re walking and the streets are full of strangers” and she was right – I missed my home, my family, and my state. Despite the bouts of homesickness, I had a lifetime of experiences in a few short months, and it changed me forever.
“This Is Why We Fight” – The Decemberists
In my “Best Ever” intro a few weeks back I talked about my life with lupus, and how it led me to take a medical withdrawal from law school and start my life over. Ultimately, it led to something wonderful, and I’m thankful for what I’ve been through. At the time, I didn’t have the perspective to appreciate it. The year of my diagnosis was the worst one of my life – full of physical and emotional pain, a broken heart, a body that betrayed me, isolation, and aimlessness. This song resonated with me, and represented my longing to be rescued and comforted. Every day, I got up and faced my own personal hell, and fought to face it again the next day. If all good things come to an end, then surely, all bad things do as well. I am so thankful to the family, friends, and physicians who helped me realize that I didn’t have to face the fight alone. With a little help, life got better – and I did, too.
“She Blinded Me With Science” – Thomas Dolby
In 7th grade, I was literally, albeit temporarily, blinded by science during a biology class pepper dissection gone awry. That foolish moment aside, I have always loved science. Though my interest in it has typically been more “political science” than “physical science,” I spent a short season of my life embracing the silliest side of science. After taking my medical withdrawal from law school and spending time recovering, I was lost. My identity had always been “Miss Laura, future Lawyer” and now I was just… me. I didn’t know who that was or where I would find my joy. I took up a part-time job as an afterschool science instructor for Mad Science. For a few hours a week, I wasn’t “Lost Laura” – I was “Dr. Blossom, who thinks science is awesome, and has a (fictional) opossum.” It wasn’t a permanent gig, but it was fun. I taught kids how to be excited about discovering the world around them, and that encouraged me to rediscover what I wanted and who I wanted to be. After a few short months, some wonderful people at the County of El Dorado took a chance on me and gave me my first shot at a job in local government. I loved it, and I’ve never looked back!
“Get Back Up Again” – Anna Kendrick
The Trolls movie is adorable, and this encouraging little ditty is no exception. I mentioned earlier that I started a new job last week, and I am SO excited about it. My new job is filled with opportunities to bring about positive change in both workplace culture and the community we serve. It’s full of challenges, too – it’s my first time working as a manager and I’m working for a different area of city government than I’ve done before (Parks and Recreation – all my inner Leslie Knope’s dreams are coming true). As I navigate the unknown, I’m going to bring my shining optimism, knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm in full force. My personal mission/motto is to be a critical thinker without being a critical person, and I get to put it into practice every day. Like Poppy the Troll, I aspire to passionately pursue my goals for myself, my workplace, and my new city, and do so with fearlessness and resiliency.