Last week, I entered my first writing contest… Canada Writes: The Song That Changed Your Life. The contest spoke to me as music has always played a significant role in my life. Every moment is attached to a song. I live to the beat of a soundtrack. A mixtape of moments.
When choosing a song to write about, I was faced with a dozen or more… Nat King Cole, Jeff Buckley, The Pixies, Notorious BIG, Arcade Fire… the list went on and on.
Ultimately, I decided on Smashing Pumpkins, 1979.
I didn’t win (this fantastic one did), but it has compelled me to keep entering, learning from those entries that do win.
In my sheltered and painfully normal twenty years, I had been to more than a dozen concerts. Duran Duran. Stone Temple Pilots. Beastie Boys. No Doubt. Just a few of the legendary performers who imprinted their sounds in my memories but never changed me.
Until the summer of 2000. The year I turned 20 and compassionately kissed my teenage years good bye and good riddance.
The Smashing Pumpkins defined those endless high school years with their melancholic whispers and poetic lyrics. Siamese Dream, my first CD purchase, was played on repeat as I stared at my bedroom ceiling and scribbled fervent words in my diary. In fact, I would have tattooed the lyrics of Mayonaise on my body if my weekly allowance had been steeper and if the wrath of my parents’ disapproval weren’t so daunting.
In 2000, the Smashing Pumpkins arrived in Vancouver to headline a festival called Somersault. I knew magic was going to happen that night as they stepped on the brilliantly lit stage. As they played song after song, I remembered my adolescent years that had been filled with the strife and struggle all teenagers endure. But it wasn’t my dear Mayonaise that changed me that night. It was 1979.
In one split second, faster than the speed of sound, I made a decision to let go. Let go of the fear and self-doubt, worry and angst that had lingered on in my body after graduation. I did something I had never been able to do at all those previous concerts due to the strong grip of fear around my neck.
With my friends’ wide eyes looking at me in surprise, I turned to the man beside me and asked him for a boost up. As my head and shoulders rose above the thousands behind and before me, I fell back. Trusting. Knowing that I would be caught. That everything would be ok.
I threw my head back, opened my mouth and felt the rounded edges of each note tumble down my throat, tasting the sweet sounds that landed on my tongue. Freedom.
As hundreds of pairs of hands touched and grabbed my body, guiding me to the stage, I left my childhood behind and transitioned into the adult unknown.