Playlist 21W: By Ourselves / A Letter to my younger self

By Abby Burrows and Elaine Mei

Cover art by Isabel Burke (@theflightlessartist)


“If grief is the price of love, I am unable to pay.” (NYT Modern Love)


When the world ends, who do we turn to?


For many of us, the last 9 months have been the most isolating of our lives. In times of need, all we have is ourselves; all we can hope is that “ourselves” is enough. But we’re both always by ourselves and never really by “our self.” The people we love and the people we will love, though we may not see them or we may have really lost them, will always be there to find solace in when everything goes wrong. And if we’ve learned anything as of late, things can and will go wrong.


Here is a mixtape of songs that transport us to places old and new. Tyler Cole in “The Government Song” validates that expressing anger is its own special form of respiration. Phoebe Bridgers’ “Funeral” recounts our lowest moments when breathing seems like an impossible task. But as Janelle Monae’s “Oh, Maker” reminds us, there are people and things that can make us breathe so easy that we don’t even realize we’re doing it -- we remember that this is how it should be.


Wherever we are, wherever we’ve been in the past 9 months, we hope that through these songs, we can breathe a little easier -- if only for a while. There will be no panacea for the pandemic, no antidote to the apocalypse -- but hopefully these songs get pretty close.


This is how we cope all by ourselves.


And us? We’re going to be just fine.


Playlist