Measuring My Life in Strokes

Allie Aiello

The Strokes came into my life when I was 13-years-old. I was sitting around in a classroom with one of my friends during an unsupervised study hall, talking about some band I had just discovered through the iTunes free song of the week. My friend said she had a song recommendation for me, and pulled out her iPod. We shared earbuds as she played one of the most popular tracks from Is This It, the 2001 album widely considered to be the best of the Strokes. “Someday,” with its guitar riffs and lead singer Julian Casablancas’ tired and gravelly voice, was unlike anything I had ever heard before. That night, I went home and listened to the entire album, downloading all of the songs from Limewire.

When you’re 13, everything feels like it’s either the beginning or end of the world. Discovering the Strokes was both a beginning and an end, an answer to a question I didn’t even know I was asking. I was a sheltered 13-year-old, so a lot of what they sang about went over my head. Yet I didn’t need to be fully experienced in love or loss to grasp the essence of their albums or the inherent coolness of their music.     

Although I wasn’t listening to the Strokes 24/7, without even trying, they became a soundtrack to my life. Somehow, one of their songs would pop up on shuffle at just the right moment. When I got into a huge fight with my best friend at the age of 14 (a fight indirectly caused by #teenangst), I had “Ize of the World” on repeat. Julian roaring into the microphone, lamenting the cycle of humanity through a lyrical commentary on modern society, opened my eyes to my place in the world and the overall meaninglessness of life without relationships. My friend and I made up soon after.

Life went on. I graduated from high school in 2014, rediscovering the Strokes many times throughout. I even had the opportunity to see them perform live at their second show in three years at Governor’s Ball in New York City when I was 18. Screaming the words alongside tens of thousands of strangers in the extreme heat was simultaneously exhilarating and freeing. It was an experience that I carried to college, an experience that I thought of when I drove up to Colgate for my senior year at the age of 21. “Is This It,” the titular track of the iconic album that captivated me years ago had just started playing on some old Spotify playlist I was listening to. I realized how much my life had transformed in the past eight years – from middle school, to high school and finally to my last chapter of college. The reality of what exactly I was heading back to – not just Colgate, but both a beginning and an end – washed over me, and I felt more connected to my 13-year-old self than I had in a long time. We were both unaware of everything that lay ahead, stumbling through life and waiting for something. 13-year-old me found her something through music. This time, I had the music.

The song ended, and I continued my drive through Chenango Valley’s rolling hills and green fields, speeding toward my destination, the sun glinting off my windshield. This was it.

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