Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 8, 2016

Confessions of a driver's seat rock star

By Steph Tahtinen

By STEPH TAHTINEN

Mt. Pleasant News

I’ve always been a fan of road trips. Growing up, my extended family lived five to six hours away. I went to college six hours away from home. I currently live six-and-a-half hours away from my parents. Combine visiting family with regular trips to city council and school board meetings, and I’ve spent my share of time driving down the highway, watching the scenery pass me by. As the years have gone by, there are many things I have learned about traveling and road trips. Now that I’m making these road trips solo, one thing in particular stands out in my mind.

My driver’s seat transforms me into a rock star.

I’ve always sung on road trips, but the backseat isn’t as magical as the driver’s seat. When I was young, my parents would be in the front seat listening to the radio, while my sister and I would be in the backseat, each softly singing along with the cassette tapes whirring along in our walkmans. Occasionally we’d have to remind the other not to be so loud.

When you’re in a car by yourself, the rules are entirely different. There’s a certain freedom and lack of inhibition that comes along with it. Cruising along the highway, there’s nobody to judge you if you’re out of tune or if you mess up the words. So I go all out and get into rock star mode, singing and dancing along.

I’m very particular about my road trip music. When I was going on a trip that would consist of about 18 hours on the road, I spent two days compiling the perfect combination of songs to last the entire trip. It was a rigorous testing process, as I blared my playlist that weekend. Any songs I did not know the words to or that I grew tired of after a couple of times hearing it were out. Eventually I came up with a 19-song CD that has been in my car ever since.

I’m not going to tell you what songs are on that CD because, quite frankly, I’m slightly embarrassed by some of the songs I enjoy so much. I think we all have those songs that are secretly our favorites but we would never admit it to anyone. I refer to them as “Incredibly Catchy Guilty Pleasure Songs” — a very long name, I know. I’m trying to come up with something simpler and catchier.

In my experience, these songs are usually ones I start out hating but over time I grow to accept and even love them. Much like there are stages of grief, I believe there are stages of song acceptance. And, like the stages of grief, these stages don’t necessarily happen in the order I have listed. You may go back and forth between a few before finally reaching the acceptance stage. But the process goes vaguely like this:

1. You question what happened to good music.

2. You wonder why the radio has to play it every half hour.

3. You can’t get the song out of your head.

4. You find yourself singing along.

5. You fully embrace the song.

For me, this last stage is usually accompanied by belting out the song and holding a dance party. In private, of course. I don’t belt out in public. Or dance, now that I think about it.

I think that’s why I like road trips so much. The time spent in the vehicle is entirely mine. In a way, I’m shut off from the world and all of its demands. No matter what else I have going on or how many things are on my to-do list, there’s nothing I can do about it while I’m in the car. So I relax. It’s kind of like meditation, but instead of sitting quietly, I’m loudly singing off key. I let go of my worries and enjoy being alive.

And if somebody in a passing vehicle happens to see my performance, I’m not overly concerned. Maybe it will brighten their day.