ashley dean
It was midnight in my childhood bedroom when I decided to dig through my closet over winter break. Midnight is always the time for too much introspection.

Imagine my sugar cookie-fueled excitement when I came upon stacks of CDs. Then, imagine my Charlie Brown Christmas-level melancholy when I discovered they were all empty.

Every summer, from the ages of 3-13, I went to summer camp. There was the typical nonsense -- a summer boyfriend “cheated” on me and swimming pools were basically war zones. But the biggest injustice of all was when someone stole my CDs.

I had one of those big sleeve-filled cases so I could cart them back and forth to camp and school. God forbid I go anywhere without my entire music collection. So when the CD case disappeared, I was horrified. We were not quite at the dawn of the MP3, so I had no backups. The music was straight-up gone. Whatever brat took it might as well have stomped my discman and snapped my headphones while they were at it.

When I found the stack of jewel cases, I was eager to play them and revel in ‘90s and early nostalgia. After reliving the heartbreak, and without anything to listen to, I wound up thinking about when, where and why I got the CDs.

There was the Spice Girls, which were part of my attempt to fit in at a new school. They were also the gateway drug that lead me from my parents' classic rock to Britney Spears, *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. As I got older, I picked up Destiny's Child and Jennifer Lopez, because with puberty came more sexual music (ugh).

Then there were the CDs that represent the subsequent rejection of pop -- Sum 41, Green Day, New Found Glory -- and the age at which I started hanging out with neighborhood skaters. My favorite are the burned CDs of The Offspring and Sublime, made by a friend who drove me around in his Jetta with enormous subwoofers before swim practice.

This is all mildly embarrassing. I'd like to be able to tell you I was obsessed with the cooler indie rock that was around in those days, but I was only passively aware of it. I still loved classic rock, too, but it was more of a private thing. The music that was once in the empty jewel cases was what really shaped the tween and early teen years, and I'm willing to bet this is a pretty universal truth.

The Strokes may always be one of your favorite bands, but it was likely Simple Plan you and your friends were blasting in the car. You probably slowed-danced to K-Ci and JoJo's “All My Life” or kissed someone while Mariah Carey's “Always Be My Baby” was playing.

Our most embarrassing CDs might actually be the most important ones. Girl who stole mine, if you could please send them back, I would really appreciate it.