I fell out of touch with myself in my senior year of high school. I became convinced that my friends didn’t need me nearly as much as I needed them; every time I tried to reach out, I just felt like a bother. I fell asleep when I got home from school most days, which made it hard to sleep at night. That year I spent a lot of Saturdays leaving my bed as little as possible. At least once I joked that my main hobby was “sitting in my room with the lights off and feeling sorry for myself.” On Homecoming weekend, I skipped out on my leadership responsibilities as the president of the creative writing club. The following Monday when people asked me where I was, I lied about working on scholarship service hours. Halfway through the year, I began to eat lunch in the yearbook classroom because the cafeteria made me too anxious. What little energy and focus I did have went into doing the bare minimum of my homework so that nobody would suspect anything was wrong with me; after all, I had to maintain my image as the “smart girl.” At home, I was accused of being lazy, which led to some nasty arguments about my SAT scores and the college application progress. I was depressed, but I didn’t know it.
Every afternoon, I found comfort in playing Copeland’s album “Eat, Sleep, Repeat” on a loop on Grooveshark. Songs like “Where’s My Head” and the title track reassured me that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. “I’m A Sucker for a Kind Word” and “Careful Now” calmed me and kept me company on those days I felt especially lonely. “When You Thought You’d Never Stand Out” gave me flashes of hope that one day I would be out of this rut and be heard, seen, and found. This album was the friend who would sit comfortably in my wordlessness, the one who was with me on those days where I was too spent to speak.
My mom got me the “Eat, Sleep, Repeat” CD that Christmas. Looking through the booklet, a particular line jumped out at me from the acknowledgments: “Extra special thanks to Florida Southern College for the continuous support and for allowing us to use your beautiful facility to write this record.” Back then, FSC was a lower priority on my list of schools to apply to. Almost instantly, I thought, “Copeland wrote this there? I need to look into this place more.”
One application, acceptance letter, and Scholars Weekend visit later, I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. I had found my people in their English department. As I write this, I’m about to start my senior year here alongside the friends I’ve made here, some of whom I’ve known since our first visit to campus. We’ve helped each other grow through book recommendations, new songs, hard decisions, and dozens of dinner conversations where we always lost track of the time.
I never had the chance to see Copeland play live before their breakup, but when they announced their reunion for another album, I was just happy for new music. In the fall semester of my junior year, This Wild Life played a show on campus. During their set they mentioned that they had been here in Lakeland the year before recording their debut album: “With a guy named Aaron Marsh,” their lead singer, Kevin, explained, “He was in a band called Copeland. You all might be too young to know them, but they’re your hometown heroes.” I was the only one to cheer at that, but I didn’t care.
At the post-show meet-and-greet, I told them how excited I was when they mentioned Copeland and what “Eat, Sleep, Repeat” meant to me. That led to them pointing out that Aaron was there, not far from the merch table.
All I could think as I walked in his direction was, “Oh my god this is really happening.” And it really happened: I got to thank someone who had a hand in making the music that changed the course of my story. And I had to keep going in my story so that it could happen.
I tried my best to be content just with getting another album from them. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much that I’d ever see them in concert. But a month after This Wild Life played, I got the chance to see Copeland play their first two shows in four years. I was able to be present in those songs that helped me work through an unrequited high school crush, those songs that held onto me in my lowest moments, and I got to sing them right back alongside others who have their own stories for those songs. I got to do that twice. Those were two of the most surreal, magical nights of my life.
You never know what seemingly small thing, like an album, can completely set the rest of your story into motion. I don’t know where I would be right now if my mom had chosen to buy me a different band’s CD for Christmas, but I’m grateful to be where I am. You never know what improbable, wonderful things may happen to you along the way. But you can only find out if you keep going.