In 2023, my Spotify Wrapped was right on point and revealed a lot about my year. Let’s dive into some psychoanalysis of my music preferences.
When one door closes, another opens. This is always true. Yet, it’s up to us to decide which doors to walk through. At the beginning of 2023, I set the intention to live simply without fully knowing what this meant. After a difficult year in 2022, I knew change was necessary in 2023. Being the kind of person who enjoys plunging into the unknown, I thought this meant a big change — such as a move to a different state — but sometimes change can be simple. I learned that I can bloom where I am planted and still spark change.
The music I listened to this year pulled on my heartstrings and represents all I moved through. Let’s dive in.
Always by Rüfüs Du Sol
I was pretty much always playing this song and listened to it a total of 47 times, which honestly surprises me because I feel like that’s pretty low. When Rüfüs Du Sol released their album “Surrender” in October 2021, I heard this song, but it didn’t resonate deeply with me. However, the lyrics struck me this year:
The writing’s on the wall
There’s nothing I could change or undo
But I will be there
Beside you when it rains
Beside you when it storms
Keeping you safe
So don’t you ever lose your
Faith, trust that I will stay
I’ll always be there
Faith, know that I have changed
I’m never leaving
It’s time to face the world— Always, Rüfüs Du Sol
To step outside the shade
To be loved
Wherever you are
I’ll find your smile again
It’ll lighten up your days
I’ll never give in
Between 2021 and 2023, I was confronted with a challenging mental health crisis. This birthed out of a physical back injury while at work in September 2021, which led to profound realizations about my work/life balance. The combination of changing my physical activity level to heal my back and work-related stress created a chemical reaction for my mental health.
I slipped into a depressed state for the first time. I had difficulty getting up in the morning, paralyzed by the crushing idea of simply beginning. In order to increase my capacity to heal, I began taking anti-depressant medication in March 2022. The journey to healing physically and mentally was long, but by March 2023, I was able to wean completely off my anti-depressant medication!
During my mental health crisis, I had a lot of support from my family, friends, and partner at the time. As I began healing more completely, the fog was lifting and I was able to see things more clearly. My partner and I were experiencing challenges in connecting. We had many difficult conversations about what we want out of life and how we view compatibility in a romantic partnerships. Having the desire to find a life partner, we decided to go our separate ways because we were not in alignment.
While I wholeheartedly feel we can pour energy and intention into relationships to make it work, my counselor had sound advice to share: Dating is about figuring out how we are ALIKE while marriage is about finding how we are DIFFERENT — and still choosing LOVE.
At the end of my partnership, I still chose love — for myself. While my partner was supportive during the most challenging times, there seemed to be a lack of follow-through. I did not have faith that he would be there for me, always. When my smile was returning, we were somehow stuck in the past.
The song “Always” represents what I want in a romantic partnership and the kind of love I feel we all deserve. There will always be storms we have to walk through. When I am with someone, I want to choose ALL of them. I want to help keep them safe and make them feel loved. When we are in a relationship with others, there is (almost) always a fear of abandonment. Personally, this comes from childhood patterns and having emotionally unstable adults in my life. When I left my relationship in early 2024, a part of me felt abandoned.
I felt like I was not loved fully and completely. This hurt, but it took a while for me to understand this — almost seven months, in fact. When I heard “Always” live at MGM Music Hall in Boston, Rüfüs Du Sol’s lyrics woke me up to the hurt I was feeling. It opened the crack in my heart and allowed light to shine out — revealing the grief and hope that coexist with the ending of a relationship and the opening of the heart to more love.
Every time I listen, I feel the hope of a love that will walk with me through the rain and storms, keeping each other safe, and choosing to stay.
Someone To You by BANNERS
After accepting the grief and ending of a long-term relationship, I wanted to celebrate love! I have always felt love is a part of who we are and all around us. I truly wanted to find my “person” and thought this meant I needed to put in a lot of work. I downloaded and deleted Hinge more times than I would like to try counting. I got messages from people about religion before meeting them in person, was told I look “better in person,” got voice messages about someone’s previous engagement I didn’t ask about, was interrogated on my thoughts about circumcision… oh, and went on a few good dates, too!
Honestly, the world of online dating was exhausting for me. I crave connection — true connection — and struggled with the feigned connectivity a pixelated screen offered. I felt people were rushing to figure out if there were any “red flags” and were often on guard. I met a lot of emotionally unavailable individuals who admitted they were not ready for real connection. As a human with immense depth and empathy, I crave depth in my partnerships as well. I was not just going to settle for anyone to fill a void!
When I heard this song by BANNERS, I just wanted to SCREAM it aloud in the car. I just want to BE SOMEBODY TO SOMEONE. But not just ANYONE — to YOU, whoever YOU are.
And if the sun starts setting, the sky goes cold— Someone to You, BANNERS
Then if the clouds get heavy and start to fall
I really need somebody to call my own
I wanna be somebody to someone
Someone to you
I went on a few great dates and met wonderful people, but was also intermittently very discouraged and disappointed by others. After one final rendezvous with a man I met online, I decided to quit online dating altogether in November 2023. Honestly, it has done wonders for my capacity for connection and community. Now, I focus on fostering friendship and meaningful relationships in person, rather than scrolling through a screen and reading someone’s profile that says their greatest strength is “having a phat ass” (no joke, sorry). I will be somebody to someone one day, I know it!
And yes, I 100% scream these words in the car while banging my steering wheel. It truly is an ANTHEM!
Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Have It by Sons of Maria
…when I WANT IT!
This song literally says the same thing over and over again. It sounds like “Don’t tell me I can’t have it… when I want it.” To me, it’s all about the confidence of pursuing the things we desire. Sometimes, we feel like we cannot achieve all we want. Some people doubt us — including ourselves. As we move in the direction of our dreams, the doubts begin to subside.
In 2023, I felt more confident in my professional and creative pursuits. I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and completed a 12-week spiritual journey to connect with my inner artist. In the transformative process, I changed my website and Instagram handle from “KConn Wanderlust” to “Kristen Wandering.” I felt this was more in alignment with who I am. I am a wanderer and explorer — someone who seeks adventure near and far. I no longer felt connected to the idea of “wanderlust,” which romanticizes the idea of traveling. Instead, I actually walk the walk! I travel, explore, create, and inspire!
I also began stepping into exciting professional ventures, including beginning private work, accepting a teaching position at a local physical therapy school, and moving up the clinical ladder at my job! So, YES — I can have it ALL! And so can YOU!
Oh, Noah. Your words were pure medicine this year! Noah was my top artist of the year, and my #5 song was “All My Love,” which was his opening song at the Boston Calling Music Festival in July. Perhaps it’s predictable at this point, but this song brought me to the feeling of love that is all-encompassing. It stirred up a nostalgic love — the kind where you’re kissing and you don’t want the parents to hear or walk in. It also feels like the kind of love where you can faithfully let each other go, wishing the best for each other. True love is the capacity to let each other go — to be free.
Write me a list of how it is, of how it was, of how it has to be
You burrowed in under my skin, what I’d give to have you out for me
I still recall how the leather in your car feels
And at the end of it all, I just hope that your scars healed
We once sang— Noah Kahan, “All My Love”
Retrograde, we’d shake the frame of your car
Now I know your name, but not who you are
It’s all okay
There ain’t a drop of bad blood, it’s all my love
When I hear the lyrics “I just hope that your scars healed,” I feel my scars healing. I feel my heart accepting the letting go of people while also staying connected to them and the love they have brought into my life.
My number five artist of the year was Jon Pardi and I peaked listening to him in February 2023. This does not surprise me in the least, considering my most listened-to song was “Ain’t Always the Cowboy.”
Her hands wrapped up in mine
Tears rollin’ out of her eyes
No messin’ with a made-up mind
Sun settin’ on goodbye
Yeah, it’s hard to believe
It wasn’t me tryna leave this time
It ain’t always the cowboy— Ain’t Always the Cowboy, Jon Pardi
That ain’t got a lot of hang around
Ain’t got no settle down in their boots
Gone’s just what they do
That restless runnin’
Searchin’ for somethin’
Being the kind of person who seeks the unknown to foster growth, I had the goal to move in 2023. When I was with my partner, we dreamed about moving to a different place because we felt Boston couldn’t be home for us. We thought about living in Colorado or North Carolina. When we went our separate ways, I was still attached to the idea of moving to Colorado. I missed the lifestyle I had while living in Washington and living so close to the mountains! When I traveled to Colorado for a skiing vacation with my family in February 2023, I also snuck in a job interview at a Children’s Hospital. I was entirely convinced I needed to change my geographical location in order to be happy.
After the job interview and an incredible few days skiing, I returned home to Boston feeling like I was ready to take the leap and move to Colorado! However, I leaped into my nephew’s second birthday party where I was surrounded by family and friends. I remember looking around the party thinking, “Can I leave all of this?”
While the idea of living near the Rocky Mountains of Colorado felt like it’d be in alignment with my values, I had many reasons to stay on the east close and Boston area. I made a list with my counselor of all the reasons I would stay in New England, which made for a very strong argument against moving across the country. While I felt somewhat settled on this idea in March, I spent much of 2023 swaying between the idea of moving to Colorado and staying in Boston.
At the end of 2023, I can wholeheartedly say I am so glad I chose to stay. My community continues to expand and I have formed incredibly meaningful friendships with people who inspire and support me! I did end up moving, but only a few miles from Brookline, MA to Allston, MA. While it was a small change, it was hugely impactful. I now share a quiet, beautiful apartment in Allston with two wonderful roommates — honestly the best roommates I’ve EVER had. I love how I can hear the birds outside my window, we have hosted many friends, and I live so close to the Charles River and Harvard. There is so much joy I have created right where I am!
What I realized is change is an inside job. Sure, we can change our location and move across the country, but the lasting changes happen when we look inside us. I chose to ask myself what is important to me, which led me to the below three words:
I exited 2023 with a “crying on the dance floor” type feeling — the ugly, beautiful tears I can’t help but cry out of sheer gratitude and disbelief that pain, suffering, and grief can birth so much love, freedom, and gratitude.
As I enter a new year, I am excited to continue blooming where I am planted. I am surrendering to God and the Universe to guide me toward forming meaningful relationships and becoming the best version of myself. I will do so while staying curious, connected, and creative.
Thank you for being a part of my story. I am so grateful you’re here.
All my love and gratitude,