A different perspective
Featuring a guest piece from Danny Hajjar
If you can’t already tell, I’ve been really curious about the conversations and narratives that structure my life. It’s been humbling for me to realize that I am selective with my listening and engagement—that I can thrive on conversations with humans, but that when it comes to conversations with my body, or engaging certain memories, I often dissociate or shut down completely. So I’ve been revisiting some happier memories lately, thinking about how I would talk to myself and maybe even the objects associated with those memories, if I could have a conversation with them today.
Which leads me to this guest post from a person who I am so grateful to have connected with through the internet. Danny Hajjar and I met through Twitter a few years ago because we’re both DJs and music nerds, and have been supporting/uplifting each other’s work ever since. He’s the author of a wonderful newsletter called Sa’alouni El Nas which highlights stories, articles, interviews, and other reads related to topics he cares about (see: Lebanon, stories about Southwest Asia and North Afrika and its diaspora communities, music, arts, culture, etc.)
Write from the perspective of an object that you engage with every day
From the perspective of my iPod in high school
Do you remember when you first saw me at the Apple Store? You saved up all of your money in high school, and eagerly you walked in to choose the all-white edition with the click-wheel – revolutionary for its time. Unboxing, holding me in your hands, readying your music library to transfer all of your songs into this tiny square-shaped box. Little did you know that I would be so much more than a replacement for your CD player, or just another music listening device.
The meticulousness with which you organize your songs in iTunes, the many playlists for the moods and vibes you sought to curate – these became my way of facilitating your escape from reality. Shoving me into your pocket on your way to school every morning, you relied on me to sift through the thousands of songs in my memory and feed your soul in a tailored way. Those mornings that you weren’t feeling it, we often went to you “Be Careful What You Wish For” playlist with dark, melancholy songs that drove your energy further into your heartbreak and anger. When you drove in the summertime with the windows down after you got your license, I made sure that you seamlessly had songs queued up to which you could belt your heart out so that the world boisterously knew your existence. And yes, there was that one playlist that, in your words, “set the mood” but that needed work.
Above all of that, though, was the way you used me to connect with your identity and your roots as a human. Your parents came to the US from Lebanon and never let you forget who you were – and you, in turn, gravitated toward music as that cultural outlet. The sounds of Arab pop, the beautiful voices of the Middle East and North Africa, the “damn that hit me deep” lyrics of their music, all of this felt familiar to your essence.
In a time when the shadow of Sept. 11th still fueled the hatred and demonization of Arabs and the Arabic language, you sought me as an escape valve to your identity, to your family and loved ones who lived a whole world away but still felt so close. Together, we reminded ourselves that this language, these people – our people – have a rich, delicate history that spanned generations and laid the foundation for creative, artistic output that saw the beauty in simplicity. This connection through me provided a way to melodically listen to the Arabic language, through your headphones, without fear of outside ignorance. You relied on me to remind you of your roots, of your family in Lebanon, of your communities in the US with whom you shared fears, hopes, joys, and so many other feelings.
To others, I may just be a way to store their music libraries and to access their songs. But for you, I was a way to musically facilitate the connection to your own identity and to instill pride in the roots and language of your people, all with the click of a button.