I gasped for air, opening my parched mouth to let the sweet water touch my lips. With my earbuds in and the morning breeze cooling me on my run, I started humming “Technicolour Beat”, letting the sound fill the nothingness. I’m on the UIUC campus, away from the comfort of my home life, but with my music, I face the unfamiliarity of being alone. Oh Wonder’s perfect harmonies and soft vocals remind me of my daily trek to work, strolls on the main quad, and solitude. I absorb the atmosphere, the emptiness, and the serenity of the silence. I cherish the few moments I have alone with my thoughts, and while I’m running, nothing can break me out of my reverie. With my feet pounding, the beat of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” begins. I picture my cross country team and our summer training right before the school year, laughing through the sweaty discomfort of our runs. I’m reminded of our long practices, team dinners, and workouts that bonded us as a brotherhood. It was tough work, but we always found a way to get it done. Most people don’t see running the way we do, and “Lose Yourself” always makes me want to step out on the course again with my team.As Eminem fades to silence, the soft guitar strumming from “The Cave” by Mumford and Sons begins. Unlike other songs, this one creates episodes that haven’t happened, and takes me to unique, almost alien places. Maybe this is the cosmos’s way of displaying my future, but for now I take it as a fantasy. “The Cave” makes me imagine boundless mountains with snow-tipped peaks consuming the sky. When the final chorus comes on, I am enchanted by my imagination, seeing myself scaling to the top of these zeniths, chest pounding throughout. Maybe this abstract expedition will never come true, but I am comforted by my genuine desire for the unknown. With sweat streaming down my face, I wipe my brow, look up, and smile. When I put my earbuds in, I find myself lost in the minutia of my environment. With music flowing through my ears, I hear the mysterious language of the Earth, in water, or coming through the trees, and emanating through the moss. When a song finally wanes to silence, I am snapped back into reality, catharsis is brief, but for that moment, I’m tranquil. My simple explorations are often the most self-revealing. A solo run or a small walk help clear my mind, and during the short minutes of a song, I am captivated by my surroundings. My conscience is eclipsed by emotion, and discovery of what lays around me becomes my new mission. My mind is clear, yet driven by scrutiny of every insect and blade of grass. My heart’s content, yet yearning for more. To me, unexplored areas signify new opportunities. I take it all in, the bright, green leaves, the crisp smell of bark, and the chirps of birdlings.In my time of heightened observation, music acts like a Polaroid camera. It captures what I feel around me, transforming it into an experience so idiosyncratic that it can only be mine. When I’m alone, I can touch upon my experiences, using my music as a projector. These windows are gems, ways to peer into the episodes of my life and see treasured memories. While this episodic perception of the world seems disjointed, to me, music is my glue, melding every epoch together into a cohesive documentary that enthralls me. Reinvigorated by my run, I stop and take a deep breath. My music captures moments of euphoria, sadness, and solace, but today it let me ignore the clamor of my world. For an instant, I forget my worries and bask in the moment, remembering that my music library and I are symbiotic; I feed it songs and it gives me life.