As I thought about what I’d put on my mixed tape, I realized that the songs on my list are attached to phases rather than events. And from there clear as day popped the attitudes and beliefs of each phase, rather than other details, like who, what, where, why.

These songs aren’t necessarily my must-haves should I, say, become stranded on a desert island with my iPod playlists intact. They simply reflect the music I was/am drawn to at the time.

1. The Smiths — There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
2. Replacements — Answering Machine
3. Kate Bush — Hounds of Love

Always dissatisfied with the here and now. Dream and scheme about the future. Too young to be concerned with the past. So serious about everything. Torn between being “good” and being good at rebelling. Hamstrung by shyness. Going where others lead. Mistakes are the end of the world. Drama, drama, drama. Long drawn out sighs. The glass isn’t empty, but I can’t figure out why no one is stepping in to top it up.

4. The Church — Under the Milky Way
5. Pavement — Gold Soundz
6. Yo La Tengo — Tom Courtenay
7. Jane Siberry — Everything Reminds Me Of My Dog

Beginning to realize that I have options, that I don’t have to follow in the footsteps of others, that I have a voice of my own, that that voice won’t be universally accepted but I’m going to let it out anyway. Realizing that I was more bound up in the past than I reckoned; trying to sort that out. Realizing that I’m not as talented as I want to be at certain things, that my success in these areas have limits. Begin grinding my teeth when I sleep. Mistakes are intolerable but somehow that doesn’t stop them from happening! The future is hazy, the glass half full.

8. Idlewild — Love Steals Us From Loneliness
9. Neko Case — Deep Red Bells
10.Weakerthans — Without Mythologies

Stepped into being a leader rather than a follower. Talent Schmalent. Mistakes happen. Found my footing (at least 80% of the time). Embraced being accountable for my own happiness. Learned to laugh at myself (at least 80% of the time). Very self-aware and astute at challenging myself. Questioning the world is just fine, but there’s room for acceptance. Still set the bar high for my goals but deal with the complications that come from being human. Clench rather than grind my teeth in my sleep; bought a gizmo for $15 that helps break this habit. Getting crankier and mor of an agitator as I get older, and I’m kind of enjoying that. Overall, though I’ve become more positive. The glass is three-quarters full.

Melissa, 38, Atlanta