Editor’s Note: Ryan, our regular Thursday blogger is off today Dear Abby style. Instead, we offer you the first of many posts from our new guest blogger, Stephanie Phillips.
If there is anything that the popularity of Glee and its newer but more matronly sister Smash has taught us, it’s that the world looks better when set to a tracklist. (Also, that character and plot development can be sacrificed on the altar of snappy background music.) So I thought I’d kick off my maiden voyage here at The Wheelhouse Review with an introduction by way of song. The soundtrack of my life, if you will, were my life not already captured onstage by the musical Gypsy. (Burlesque is a bitch, y’all.) Indulgent? Maybe. Informative? Absolutely!
Remember how T.S. Eliot was all, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”? Yeah, well, that’s kind of my wheelhouse. Leaving and coming back. I started out in the South and now I’ve returned there. I spent my youth in Sunday School and after a period of tension, God and I are back on good terms. I formulated a typical life plan complete with husband, kid, suburbs, etc. and now I’m living it, after an extended singleness, identity crisis, and half-decade stopover in New York City. I’ve taken the long, circular way home, you could say. And the ride has been full of stories. So load the deck and press PLAY!
“Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” (Avenue Q)
I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama—a city where the First White House of the Confederacy sits a few blocks from the Civil Rights Memorial. The heart of the Bible Belt, where you can hear “Bless her heart” and “What a slut” come out of the same mouth, seconds apart, regarding the same person. I was…confused, you could say. Without realizing it, I was taught that it’s perfectly legitimate to “act” one way and “be” another…
“Why We Like Spelling” (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee):
…which is why I spent the first couple decades of life “acting” like a good girl while secretly seething inside. I discovered early on that I excelled at answering academic questions correctly (a skill that propelled me to first place in the 1989 Alabama State Spelling Bee, thank you very much, I’ll sign autographs later). I thought that all of life operated the way school did: work hard, win approval. I liked it when things went predictably, and I figured God (my co-pilot) was on board with that because so far, life was going according to my plan.
“Losing My Religion” (R.E.M.)
After college came dental school and the weddings of most of my friends (despite the fact that my academically and, it seems, clairvoyantly, struggling sorority had voted me Most Likely to Get Married First)–including my little sister. I finished my Accomplishment To-Do List and felt empty and alone. And that my co-pilot had broken our unspoken deal: that I was to call all the shots but not to be left unsupervised in the cockpit . I got mad, saw a counselor, collected my thoughts, and decided to stop being polite and start getting real.
“Empire State of Mind” (Jay-Z/Alicia Keys) mash-up with “Blame It” (Jamie Foxx/T-Pain)
New York was life rehab for me. I made peace with my singleness (maybe a little too much peace at times, hence the mash-up; cut to me waking up in my apartment fully clothed with a hell of a hangover—and that’s the best-case scenario). I found a church that preached about heart change instead of behavior modification. I made friends. I found my husband. It kind of rocked.
“Leaving New York” (R.E.M.)
But all good things must come to an end. Armed with my new mindset, fiancé, and no-bullshit New York attitude, I headed to Atlanta to find new good things.
“Rockin’ the Suburbs” (Ben Folds)
Within a year of leaving New York, my husband and I were saying vows, purchasing our first home, and gettin’ preggers. It turns out that if a biological clock ticks in Central Park and no one hears it, it’s still ticking.
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” (Guns N’ Roses)
Five months ago our son was born and our world torn apart—for the first three months at least. Now he’s smiling and we’re recovering. Some days I even get to the gym, usually discovering I’m wearing my nursing bra instead of my sports bra, and we’re all learning to sleep through the night.
So there you have it: my greatest hits so far. While compiling this list, I’ve noticed that I tend to get most things wrong before I get them right (apparently a Southern female trait, according to Josh Lucas in Sweet Home Alabama—an independent documentary on the Heart of Dixie). Also, I’m an emotional slut with strangers. But isn’t that where the best stories emerge—from the mistakes and twists and turns and oversharing? What songs would your soundtrack include, and what story would they tell?