I want to write a love letter to kindness. I want to dip its contours in amber, so I can inspect it and celebrate it – make tangible and visible something that is often so hard to describe. I want to encapsulate all of the ways it has woven itself into my life through my friends and family, strangers in the stacks of libraries and acquittances at 2:16 AM conversations at parties. However, I find myself scrambling for words because today, as on many days, my mind is undeniably loud.
While my weeks are filled with thoughts about what shoes I should wear to match my top and which route I should take to class, it would be dishonest to gloss over the rather consistent drone of an orchestra of negative self-speak looming within. And, although this philharmonic has changed conductors several times over the last six years, one staple anxiety swapped in for another, I have noticed it retains the same tone. It is the sound of a person I know well. It is my voice, filtered to lose any semblance of kindness.
If I were to describe this loudness in any concrete sense I would say it is confining. The words on loop within my head corner me into pockets of isolation, into shadowy feelings that seem to exist without a light source anchoring them in place. When I negative self-speak, the world begins to shrink until it seems that my thoughts are the only things populating it.
In moments or longer periods during which this occurs, reaching out and asking for help to confront and/or soothe this inner discordance is what has saved me time and time again. However, I have often found myself lost with what to do once the dust settles, when the environment around me expands to reveal familiar places more barren than I may have remembered them before. With the help of my headphones, I have learned to build worlds through playlists, erecting spaces furnished with the utilities I believe constitute kindness.
Though I also curate listening experiences for specific people in my life, more often than not, these spaces act as coordinates for reminding myself how to be kind unto the figure in the mirror and those around me. Through songs, I find the words to use to calm myself, the strains of feeling to aim for when looking to affirm others. I guess, behind the armor of poetic writing, what I am trying to say is that I turn to playlist-making to construct hope. These digital love letters are the lighthouses I can rely on to guide the way when the storms of life reduce visibility to only the thoughts in my head.
In making this playlist, I tried to build a listening experience that will hopefully make you feel the love I am sending your way; for, these songs, from Minnie Riperton’s “Seeing You This Way” to “Sanctuary” by Aly & AJ, are variations on the words I gained from those around me – my “mishpokhe” (Yiddish for family). I aim to pay forward their kindness to you, with an extra hug from me attached.
May we commit ourselves on this World Kindness Day to be more kind unto ourselves and others. And may we commit to continue – through song, everyday discussions, and structural work (like that of Born This Way Foundation) – building worlds where the bravery it takes to be yourself is celebrated and cherished.