James-Brown_1973I listen to a lot of music these days and I mean a lot. And, as any of my friends will tell you, I’m more than happy to give out recommendations on who to listen to — a new artist, a freshly released track, an upcoming band or somewhere in between. And naturally, to be able to give out these tips, I start by asking, “What genre of music do you listen to?”

Genre is handy because you place a whole bunch of songs with similar musical elements into the same bucket. And, considering the nature of subjective music taste, it’s easy to reach into that bucket and pull out something that you will, more or less, like. It puts me on the map as to where to go in terms of recommendations.

It’s pretty obvious in music that genre never dictates a song. It’s the opposite; the style of the music forms the basis of what bucket, or classification it should fall into. It isn’t often that a musician starts from a genre and then writes a song — they make a song and it conveniently fits into a genre, an easy way to label music.

And that idea seems pretty cut-and-dry and logical with regards to music, and yet with people — real human beings, mind you — it gets a little fuzzy. Because it’s easy to let labels define what kind of person we are and not the other way around.

Not too long ago, I got asked if I was a “gamer,” with regards to the whole Gamergate controversy (check that out if you want to see that whole train wreck). I am, but that’s not even close to everything that I am. I’m a writer, a student, a brother, a cellist and an animator.

We are each amalgamations of many things; we’re multifaceted individuals with different interests, talents and goals. And who we are to one person may be completely different from who we are to another individual. So to let one aspect — one hat you may wear on one day in one situation — dominate the rest is really demeaning to how incredible each of you really are. You make yourself less interesting as a whole by only giving yourself one title, even if that one role you play is interesting on its own.

Personally, I tend to immerse myself in one thing for an extended period of time and get tunnel vision; I let one aspect of my life rule the others. Inevitably, I end up getting burned out on that interest and give it up or lose momentum, only to find something else that I’ll eventually get burned out on. Instead, I’ve learned by exploring different interests, I get a temporary release that essentially hits the refresh button — especially crucial in midterm season.

It’s easy to get bogged down with classes and the constant midterms that scatter themselves across each quarter. At least in my own experience, I lose track of other interests or goals I set earlier in a quarter because of the flurry of tests and essays. Being students might easily be the most important part of our lives at the moment, but branching out into other passions at the same time might actually be what keeps us invested and interested in our academics.

We’re fascinating and incredible as students because we aren’t just students. Beyond just our usual college sides, we do amazing things and have remarkable talents and backgrounds. Keep up the studies and preparations for midterms, but don’t lose everything else in the process.

Yeah, we have these labels and while we should keep those in mind, feel free to expand that list of hats we wear. We’ll all be better off for it.

And yes, Christopher Chen is available to give music recommendations.