Soundtrack of an Eternal Optimist (2017 in Music)

I headed into 2017 expecting a year of growth. A year of progress. A year all about me.

That's what I got.

2017 I was a little selfish. A little narcissistic. A little inward-focused. And that's exactly what I needed.

I came into this year a little frayed around the edges. Holding my heart together with tape and glue and hope. Hurting and lost and directionless and having lost a whole lot of my purpose in life. Just starting to pick up the pieces and figure out who the hell I was again.

Turns out, I really love who I am. I spent so long being someone's girlfriend, someone's "mom", that I forgot who I was independently of that. I was caught up in what had to be done all the time, on making sure everyone else's days ran smoothly, and I stopped seeing the joy in the little things and basically just got from point A to point B. A friend of mine told me recently that she never saw me really smile until this year, and that hit me SO hard. Me, the girl with a sunshine tattoo! The smiley, friendly girl! I wasn't showing joy? I wasn't actually smiling?

Well, that's changed. I have smiled more and harder in the last year than anytime I can remember. I have laughed and spun in circles and cried tears of joy and danced in my car and just felt ALIVE in a way that I can't explain.

I wanted to spend this year working on myself - getting fitter, smarter, working harder...and I have. But not in the ways I expected. I don't go to the gym every day, and I certainly haven't come anywhere close to my goals for getting back in shape....but I can hike 8 miles up and down hills and over rocks and I feel stronger. I haven't found my dream job, but I know more about what I don't want to do, and I think I'm on my way...I didn't push myself as hard as I could have, but I also made myself do things that I would never have tried before. I've had new experiences and made new friends and become better than I was.

I'm happy in a way I haven't been in years. And I'm full of hope and optimism about what's to come.

And I can't ask for more than that.

Here is the music that made this year what it was - I hope you enjoy as much as I have.

Google Music Playlist

YouTube Playlist

Soundtrack of an Eternal Optimist

1: Clean - Taylor Swift

Rain came pouring down when I was drowning
That's when I could finally breathe
And by morning gone was any trace of you,
I think I am finally clean

2017 was the first year I started alone in a really long time. It was a badly needed clean slate, and I remember being so full of hope as the clock turned to midnight. Lord knows things didn’t always go the way I thought I wanted this year, but overall, I wouldn’t change a damn thing.

2: Love is Looking For You - Miranda Lambert

Maybe you're just jaded
from some nobody's unforgotten words.
Maybe you're just faded,
a little gray from every time
that you've been hurt

One of the biggest things I've been working on throughout the healing process was learning how to let myself believe in anything again. I'm an optimist and a romantic, even on my most cynical days. Last year broke that part of me and getting it back was one of the harder things I've done. I lost so much confidence and certainty and hope and of all the things I lost, I think that was the hardest to deal with. The optimism I have back. The confidence? Let's call it a work in progress.

3: I Could Use a Love Song - Maren Morris

A long gone drive
You know the kind where you take a turn and you don’t know why
But it clears your mind, a surefire cure
I need something stronger
That’ll last a little longer

The first time I heard this song it was a sucker punch. I think everyone can relate to the feeling of being jaded and disillusioned about love, and I sure as hell was for a while. The thing I love most about it though – it’s got so much hope in it. I needed that.

4: Miss Me More - Kelsea Ballerini

I forgot I had dreams, I forgot I had wings
Forgot who I was before I ever kissed you
Yeah, I thought I'd miss you
But I miss me more

That feeling you get when after living your life for others for years, you finally start doing things because it's what you want...When you get back to focusing on yourself and remembering who you are...and realizing that you're becoming the best version of yourself now that it's just you….That feeling? Worth every single damn tear I cried.

5: Inside Out - Sara Bareilles

I am small
I feel like no more than nothing at all
But when I lose sight of daylight
And my darkness falls
I'll be strong
And if not now it won't be long
From when I lose sight of daylight
And my hands are weak and my soul is tired
Oh, I'll give my love from the inside out
Take your best shot
Here I stand, heart in hand
And fearless I'm not
But I am what I am

The best part about this year has been falling back in love with myself after months of self-doubt. I’ve still got my issues and my insecurities and the things I’m working on improving, but overall I am more confident and happier than ever. Life’s pretty great, y’all.

6: Brand New Me - Alicia Keys

I don't need your opinion
I'm not waiting for your okay
I'll never be perfect
But at least now I'm brave
Now my heart is open
I can finally breathe
Don't be mad
It's just a brand new kinda free
That ain't bad
I found a brand new kinda me

This year was definitely when I realized that I don't give a damn about what other people think of me. One of my goals for 2017 was to really focus on myself and becoming the woman I want to be.
I'm not 100% there yet, but I think I get closer to it every day. The progress is what's important, as perfection is impossible (and also boring). I lost so much of myself for so long that I really do feel like an entirely different person - braver, smarter, happier.
The reason for the change may have been tough to deal with and get over, but I'll take that any day, to be in the place I am now.

7: Begin Again - Taylor Swift

We tell stories and you don't know why
I'm coming off a little shy
But I do
And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it's strange that you think I'm funny 'cause he never did

I don't get nervous often. But this spring, before my first first date in 5 years, I was a hot mess. I was all butterflies and trying to not do or say anything stupid. But it went well, and I had a nice time, and managed to not spill my margarita all over myself.
The biggest issue I discovered, and it's something I need to work on, is that I became a smaller version of myself, trying to rein in the sides of me that are too emotional or passionate or energetic. I don't know why I do this, but that needs to end. The people who love me love those parts of me - why do I think I can't trust a man to do the same?
So that's one of my goals for next year - to be myself in all things, no matter what. To let the ugly and the 'too much' show, because it's all me and I won't let someone pick and choose the pieces of me to love. Not anymore.

8: Brand New - Ben Rector

I feel like for the first time in a long time I am not afraid
I feel like a kid, never thought it'd feel like this
Like when I close my eyes and don't even care if anyone sees me dancing
Like I can fly, and don't even think of touching the ground

I first fell in love with this song this spring, when the potential for a new relationship was there, and it was exhilarating and terrifying and I felt all twirly and twitterpated and like anything was possible.
Well. Clearly, that did not work out. But I got a couple things from it: The knowledge that despite my joking, I wasn't totally dead and cold inside, and I was open to falling for someone again, and also, the complete freedom of deciding I didn't give a damn what anyone thought of me anymore. This song may be what started my whole #meovereverything mindset the last several months - the thought of not caring who sees me, of feeling like I can fly, of being fearless - It's song about a new relationship, but I turned it into a love song to myself.
And lord knows we all need those once in a while.

9: Don't Waste My Time - Little Big Town

I'm waiting for the kind of love
that is strong enough
to walk through anything,
so don't waste my time.
I only want to play for keeps,
want to fall in deep,
if you don't just say goodbye,
don't waste my time.

I definitely hit the point this year where I was just over it. I don't need any more people in my life who can't decide how they feel about me - so I decided to just stop putting my energy into dating, and focus on myself. It's probably one of the best choices I made this year. Life is too short to waste on mediocrity again.

10: Shake it Out - Florence + The Machine

I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
'Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

I think just about every playlist I’ve made in the last 6 years has had this song on it. It’s definitely been on year end mixes before – and it’s always some different section that sticks out to me.
I had a rough patch towards the end of summer. Part of recovery, right? We all have ups and downs and the point is not to NOT have them, it’s to not let them completely throw you off.
Well. I got thrown off. For a little while. Stopped working like I had been. Stopped trying to make things better, find something else, do something more. Felt a lot less like me for a couple months.
And then one morning I went for a run and stopped to watch the sunrise between the trees and taking 5 minutes to slow down and breathe and look around was all I needed. And while I’m not where I want to be, and I’ve got a lot, in all areas, to keep working on, I have remembered what I need to be happy and I won’t lose it again.

11: Fly - Maddie and Tae

The road's been long and lonely and you feel like giving up
There’s more to this than just the breath you're breathing
So keep on climbing, though the ground might shake
Just keep on reaching though the limb might break
We’ve come this far, don't you be scared now
'Cause you can learn to fly on the way down

I’m just going to let this one go with the immortal words of the great Michael Scott: “Never, ever, ever give up.”

12: Blackbird - The Beatles

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free

This has been one of my favorite songs for years, and this summer, as my 35th birthday present to myself, I got it in ink.
It probably sounds cheesy as hell, but after the hurt and loss and brokenness, the ability to just feel happy and free and light again meant so much to me. This is my reminder to never let myself lose it again.

13: Life Ain't Always Beautiful - Gary Allan

But the struggles make me stronger,
and the changes make me wise,
and happiness has its own way of taking its sweet time.
No, life ain't always beautiful
but I know I'll be fine.
Life ain't always beautiful
but it's a beautiful ride.

Happiness looks a lot different at 35 than I expected it to, even just a couple of years ago. It was a bumpy road getting here, but all the twists and turns have made it that much more amazing. This year reminded me that I can't just expect joy to come to me - I have to choose it, every day.
And I have. I'm not saying I don't have bad days, or that I don't get sad or upset or angry anymore - that is far from the case. I'm an emotional person, I feel everything times a hundred.
I'm just making myself remember the little things daily that make me happy, and so the other stuff doesn't seem so bad.

14: Perfectly Lonely - John Mayer

Nothing to do
Nowhere to be
A simple little kind of free
Nothing to do
No one but me
And that's all I need
I'm perfectly lonely.

That feeling you get when you realize you are happier on your own than you ever were in your relationship - that's a big moment. I came full circle this year in healing, from being nowhere close to ready to start again, to trying it and knowing I was ready for it, to knowing I was ready but just not wanting to bother. That's more or less where I still am - if something comes along, great, but I'm not going to actively pursue anything. (Unless Chris Pratt decides to knock on my door...)
I'm not scared anymore. I just am really loving only being concerned with myself. As one of my oldest friends said, it's been awesome seeing me a little narcissistic the last several months. I gotta say, I've been enjoying it.
But, you know..."And this is not to say, there never comes a day I'll take my chances and start again..."

15: Rainbow - Kesha

I'd forgot how to daydream,
so consumed with the wrong things.
But in the dark, I realized this life is short.
And deep down, I'm still a child
Playful eyes, wide and wild.
I can't lose hope,
what's left of my heart's still made of gold.

This song may be my song of the year. It was all about finding the magic and the light and the joy in things again. As she sings, "maybe I'm still f*cked up, but aren't we all my love?"
I don't need to have it all figured out. I don't need to be perfect. I have scars but they've made me who I am, and I've learned from them all. And now, being able to let go and live and love and dance and sing and smile and be the optimistic girl I was before - it's all I ever needed.

16: Everybody - Ingrid Michaelson

Happy is the heart that still feels pain
Darkness drains and light will come again
Swing open up your chest and let it in
Just let the love, love, love begin

This song is so optimistic and so joyful and so fearless and I love it. Getting myself back to the place of being a positive person took a while. Getting back to a place where I feel like I can trust someone again took longer. But now that I’m back here, I’m ready for it whenever it comes my way.

17: A Place to Land - Little Big Town

I dip my toe in the water,
before I know it I'm in over my head.
I try and warm myself by the fire
but I end up getting burned instead.
I sold my soul for a little bit of heaven,
put my heart in the wrong hands.
I’ve gone places where
I swore I would never go again.
See, I’ve never had any trouble falling,
I’m just trying to find a place to land.

For being the kind of person who makes spreadsheets and lists and looks at all logical angles before making a decision, I really have a huge romantic streak that wants to just let go and jump in head first every time. It’s gotten me in trouble before, and I’m sure it will again, but honestly, I think it’s one of the best sides of me. If I didn’t let myself imagine all the ways things could go right, if I didn’t have big dreams of love and laughter and adventure, would I be the person I am? I don’t think so. So while I definitely did some falling this year, I’d like to do even more in the next. And if all I find is a temporary heaven, a few moments of joy, a fleeting peace….I’m okay with that. Because I’d rather fall and fail than be afraid to jump off the edge.

18: Little Miss - Sugarland

Little miss, brand new start...
Little miss, do your part...
Little miss, big old heart
beats wide open, and
she's ready now for love.

I am pretty sure I keep saying the same thing over and over, but this year definitely was about me falling in love with myself. It's been amazing. I lost so much of who I am and finding all those parts of me and becoming who I want to be again has been beyond rewarding. And I really feel like looking ahead into next year, I'm ready for another adventure - in love, in life...I am openhearted and optimistic and can't wait to see what lies ahead.

19: I've Got Wheels - Miranda Lambert

Sometimes these wings
get a little heavy
and I can’t stay between the lines
but I’m rocking steady.
When I can’t fly, I start to fall
but I’ve got wheels
I’m rolling on.

This was a year of false starts and do-overs. Mistakes were made, things were failed..but the important thing has always been forward motion. And that I believe I've accomplished. I remain, as ever, a work in progress, and that's exactly what I should be. Always improving, always striving to be a little better than I was the day before. And having the knowledge that when one way doesn't work out, another way will present itself as long as I don't give up.

20: Brave - Sara Bareilles

Everybody's been there,
Everybody's been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don't run, just stop holding your tongue.
Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is.

One thing I've tried to be this year is more honest. I tend to hold things back and push things down and put on the smiley face and then things just build and build and build until I have a tiny breakdown because I can't find my favorite pen. And that's not been a great way to be. So I've tried to be more open about how I'm feeling or what I want.
I've not always been that successful. I am really not good about opening up and saying what I need or why I feel the way I do - so that's one of my goals for next year. Speak up, stand up for myself - don't just let myself fade into the background because it's easier. I've found my voice a lot over the last year, now I just need to let myself be louder.

21: Standing Outside the Fire - Garth Brooks*

We call them weak
Who are unable to resist
The slightest chance love might exist
And for that forsake it all
They're so hell-bent on giving, walking a wire
Convinced it's not living if you stand outside the fire

This song has been one of my favorites since one of my oldest and best friends introduced me to it twenty years ago. And I think it's the perfect way to close out this year and start off the new.
I want to be fearless. I want to throw myself wholeheartedly into whatever comes my way. I want to dance within the flames and get burned and have scars and not be too afraid to try again. I want to live and love and embrace the fact that I might get hurt, but still give it 100% anyway.
I've been working on this, and this is my real resolution for next year - to take chances, to not over analyze everything - to go with my gut, and make mistakes, and pick myself back up. To know that to screw up and fail and get hurt and then to still try again is what living is about. Happy New Year, all!

*This isn't on the links as Garth keeps his music on lockdown :-(

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