British rock band Coldplay’s debut album Parachutes turns 21 this year, and as I reflected on how much I love that album it made me realize just how connected it is to the early story of my adulthood. I was 21 in the fall of 2000 and living in Cambridge, England through a study abroad program with my university. I lived in a flat with nine other American students, two of us were black.
I didn’t have a clue what to expect traveling and living in England; I almost didn’t go because I so wrongly believed that I wouldn’t learn anything, because the British spoke English. Pretty stupid, right? Well, turns out I learned more about the world and myself than I ever imagined, and the choice to study abroad happens to be the greatest experience of my life so far.
Day trips on the train, beautiful, kind strangers and drinking cider in a pub with a random rugby team are just a few of the things my mind ventures back to from time to time. But one of my most vivid memories is the very first time I heard Coldplay. It was love at first sound.
It rains quite a lot in England, and on that night, I was waiting for a cab to take me home after getting caught in a downpour. It was dark, and when I got into the cab, I sunk into the backseat in relief. Then I heard it. The piano and a sad voice singing the song that I later learned to be titled “Trouble.” I don’t know if I was a bit homesick or if it was just the English rain, but that song stuck with me. I couldn’t shake it, so I was determined to find out who sang it.
After a bit of research, I found that the band was called Coldplay. As soon as I found out, I started to see their faces on magazines at petrol stations (gas stations here) and hear their name quite a bit. I was able to get my hands on their CD (man, I feel old just saying that). It became the soundtrack of my young adulthood.
Coldplay is now completely synonymous with the bridge I walked into becoming an adult. Anytime I hear Chris Martin’s voice I am transported back to a time in my life when I felt the most connected to everything and everyone. One of the alluring things about being 21 in another country is never having to say sorry. Having a drink with a handsome stranger in Liverpool wasn’t the least bit scary, and neither was dancing close all night in a club. Things I would probably NEVER do today for lots of reasons, by the way.
But, when I hear the beginning piano chords to “Trouble” or the guitar strings that open “Yellow,” I remember feeling young and free and like I could be and have anything. I wish I had taken more pictures, but because I was so busy living my experience I didn’t act like a tourist. Sadly, most of my memories abroad are stored in my head and heart and not in print, but boy do they come back with a vengeance whenever I hear that familiar voice.
I took several classes during my stay in England, because of course this was a school thing. But more than university could ever do, the opportunities to meet people from all over the world, learn their stories, and share in their culture are what made the study abroad experience so life changing. So I say cheers to Parachutes for turning 21 this year and to the beauty of the memories it releases each time I hear it.