The power of punk

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The best day of my life occurred on Friday the 13th.

That was the day I saw my favorite band, The Front Bottoms, in concert.

The Front Bottoms have never been just a band to me. Amongst other things, the band is a time capsule, each song bookmarking a certain chapter of my life. For me, their music encapsulates the worst year of my life: the year that the girl who made me realize that I was a lesbian left me after two years together, the year my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the year that we had to bury her. It was also the year I fell into the most severe depression I’d ever experienced.

When I listen to their song “Maps,” I am transported back to a tiny bedroom with bright blue walls in my grandparents’ townhome, playing that song on guitar while my mother tended to her mother in the next room.

“There is a map in my room, on the wall of my room, and I’ve got big, big plans,” I would sing, not even knowing my plans for the next day, let alone the future. Yet I held on, waiting for the day when I would truly believe the words I was singing, when I would be able to make big, big plans instead of being preoccupied with the present.

When I listen to “Lipstick Covered Magnet,” I remember nights spent huddled in the darkness of my bedroom, feeling nothing where my chest and stomach should be.

“I’m scared I’m gonna die as lonely as I feel right now,” I would repeat over and over, feeling abandoned and betrayed by the friends I thought I had. A depressing mantra, perhaps, but one that brought me comfort. It let me know, in the words of the band, that everything I felt was common, even though I had never felt so alone. People might leave, but music was always there for me.

Listening to “Twin Size Mattress” brings back similar memories, but where “Magnet” was an anthem of sympathy, “Twin Size” was one of salvation.

When I saw the song performed live, the lead singer screamed my favorite lyric with desperation, as if he knew that it was a pivotal moment for me.

“I will help you swim, I’m gonna help you swim!”

I started to cry, but not with the same tears I had cried alone in my room all those times before. For the first time in a long time, I was happy just to be alive.

The Front Bottoms have never been just a band to me. In that moment, they were the future itself, the future that had always been distant and unimaginable but had finally manifested. They were a time capsule, a three-minute therapy session, a life saver. Because of them, I know now that I am not going to die as lonely as I felt when I was 16. Because of them, I have big, big plans. I am no longer the painfully awkward freshman who was afraid to even hold hands with my girlfriend in public, who would spend brunches and lunches crying under a secluded tree at the back of campus because upon coming out, all of my friends had left me. Now, I am fully engaged in my passions– I’m an editor on the school paper, I have a lead in the upcoming school play, and I’m president of the Gay Straight Alliance, where I mentor kids who are the very image of who I used to be. I know now that I want to be a writer, to give a voice to those who do not have one, to show that words can change lives, just as they changed mine.

Because of them, I am afloat.


*Image credits to Shea Stadium, Youtube, The Key, and Monkeygoose Magazine

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