Do you ever listen to something, or watch something, or taste something, and remember the very first time that you experienced it? For some reason all the emotions I felt at that moment just come rushing back to me. For some reason I start thinking about how happy I was at that moment, and I worry I’ll never feel that way again.

I went through this Jeremy Zucker phase in grad school a few years ago. I was going through a lot, so his sad but thoughtful songs really hit me hard. I would put on his songs “Upside Down” and “thinking 2 much” as I drove 20 minutes to work in the dark winter mornings, wondering why on earth I was torturing myself in various ways with school and people and life — all decisions I chose, so I couldn’t be mad at anyone, just slightly disappointed in myself. It reminds me of how difficult it was, but that I made it out alive. His music makes me sad when I’m happy, and happy when I’m sad.

The first time I watched Modern Family was the summer after freshman year of college. I had this site I streamed the show off of, so I watched the whole thing from start to finish. At least, I watched what was out back in 2014. I was sleeping in my sister’s room for that summer, and she had her walls painted a pretty blue, with good lighting. So when the sun streamed through the window, and the breeze blew in, and I could hear my mom tinkering about in the garden…and the theme song played, I was happy. My family has always been small, and I want nothing more than a big family like they have on the show. I wish people who complained about family reunions (even in a half-joking manner) understood that.

The first time I watched The Office, I had refused to do so for a few years, so as not to be “one of those people”. It was fall, my senior year of college, and I remember that I ordered Chinese food and watched the first few episodes in my dingy little apartment. Then I got hooked. I loved all the small details and I learned about the potential toxicity of the Jim-Pam relationship, and then I felt like part of the family. Every time I watch the show now, I think of Pittsburgh. Fitting, as it takes place across the state, and really all of PA is quite similar, but it takes me back to those crisp, clear fall days.

There’s a song called “High You Are” by Whatsonot. It’s one of the few EDM-ish songs (I read up on all the different EDM styles the other day…it explains a lot about why the EDM people played for me was very different from what I chose to listen to) that could be good for a variety of situations…a sunny drive with the windows down, the beach, or pretty much any other occasion that calls for smiling. The first time I heard it was on a long drive somewhere in Utah and I can’t really forget that.

It’s Always Sunny — the theme song and the bell-like soundtrack (if you know, you know!) just reminds me of being silly, goofy, and mischievous. It reminds me of home, of loving but also hating where you’re from, and it reminds me to never lose the humor in life. I first started watching this in college, I binged it for days on end, and it’s one of the ways I connected with my athletes and coaches through the years. It just makes me laugh, and when I find people who can also laugh at it, I know we can laugh together, and that makes me happy.

I remember the first time I experienced a Chicken bake from Costco. My dad would have my sisters & I split them because let’s be real, the amount of sodium is just…not okay. Every time I have one now (and let’s be real, I eat a whole one in a sitting now), I think about how my family generally ate healthy, but we would have these treats from time to time that other people saw as…normal. Like, my parents never bought potato chips (so my addiction now makes a bit of sense) or soda. I remember the smiley face french fries, the ice cream for mango milkshakes in the summer, the random tiramisu or cheesecake that would show up in the freezer. It makes me grateful for health, but also the little things.

My older sister made scrambled eggs for me when I was a kid, and I swear to you, they were the best scrambled eggs ever. I was probably 8, she was maybe 11, I just remember thinking, wow I have one of the best sisters ever! She is now absolutely incredible at cooking (for my standards anyway), and I like to think that it’s all because I encouraged her about her scrambled eggs. My little sister, on the other hand, decided to start making her own recipes for random desserts, and wrote them down in this little recipe book she made, and then we would eat her…interesting desserts. She’s also much better at cooking now. Me? Well…I’ll get there. I just think it’s fun that so much of our family life has revolved around food.

Memories are good, but a little bit startling sometimes. I think it’s good to look back from time to time and remind yourself that in plenty of situations, you’ve found stuff to be happy about. And those types of situations will probably continue to show up.



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Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, PhD student, coffee lover. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.