When big things happen, you tend to remember the soundtrack of the time, or at least I do. When I turned eight, I got my first boombox. Thriller had just come out and I choreographed all the girls in my class to "Beat It". When I got my first car, grunge was taking America by storm and I drove all over my small town blaring "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Jeremy" on the CD Discman I had plugged into the tape adapter in my 1989 Chevy Cavalier. Like every girl who remembers her college years as a string of fraternity parties, "C'Mon 'N Ride It (The Train)" will always hold a special place in my Chi Omega heart. But only once has a song or a band been present for two major life events. And that band is Coldplay.
I moved to New York City in 2000. If you either don't remember, or weren't old enough to know the adult contemporary charts, Coldplay was HUGE in 2000. "Yellow" was released in 2000, and later, the full album, Parachutes. Every bar in New York played that album. And I mean... Every. Bar. Sweet and Vicious? Parachutes. Spring Street Lounge? Parachutes. Asylum? Parachutes. That bar in Williamsburg that was just couches? Parachutes. H&M?! Parachutes. Also, I was dating my first Wall Street guy and he was English. Even though he (inevitably?) turned out to be a part-time coke dealer and stole money from me, I had a hard time breaking up with him because he was my own personal Chris Martin. (It's okay, I broke up with him. But I would still sometimes give him $40 when he would show up outside of my office in his pin-striped suit and hold my hand as he walked me to the Citibank ATM.)
Moving to New York was my first great liberation. I had a family I didn't fit into anymore, a boyfriend with suicidal ideations, and a lifelong best friend who was moving to Japan. Nothing at home felt good, so I moved to New York and started over. It's a shame Parachutes is an album full of ballads because I had the time of my life, until I didn't.
I had been in New York ten months when 9/11 happened. I was twenty-five and had no idea how to process what I saw, or how to ask for help, so I did neither. I switched to auto-pilot and pretended I was fine. I did a pretty good job of not feeling anything until August 2002 when Coldplay released A Rush of Blood to the Head. It was a month before the one-year anniversary of 9/11 and the cracks in my armor were starting to show. If Parachutes was the soundtrack to my liberation, A Rush of Blood to the Head was the soundtrack to my undoing.
On September 19, 2002, I, along with my best friend Tim, rode a train to Long Island to see Coldplay in concert at Jones Beach. It was my first time seeing them live and I cried through the whole concert. They played with the Atlantic Ocean roaring behind them and it was more than my fractured heart could handle. I was no longer carefree and riding the subway to unknown parts of Manhattan, or trying to get cute guys to buy me drinks in bars. Instead I was pretending to have fun at parties and waking up in the middle of the night paralyzed because I smelled smoke and was convinced my bedroom was on fire. But every day, I woke up, pretended I was fine, and rode the subway to work with A Rush of Blood to the Head playing in my headphones.
I left New York in December of 2002. Exactly two years after I moved there. Coldplay ushered me in, and Coldplay ushered me out. Today their music is a bittersweet reminder of both my potential and my trauma. It bookmarks this huge, fun thing I did in my twenties - moving to New York City, and the grief that ultimately drove me out.
P.S. More on my 9/11 trauma.
P.P.S. My visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.