That’s right. In my mind, Eddie Vedder, the grunge icon from Pearl Jam, is perfect and I have no interest in ever finding out otherwise.
Eddie first rocked my world in 1993, when I was 13. Up to that point, I’d been pretty much flailing along in a pubescent world, desperately trying to define myself, attempting to write hard-hitting articles for my school newspaper and hopelessly crushing on boys who would eventually prove to be dull and really kind of douchebaggy.
But most of all, I was exhausted by my own clumsy attempts to play it cool all the time. By “play it cool” I mean specifically that I felt compelled by the laws of teenager-dom to act like I just didn’t give a crap – about anything. But bored apathy WAS NOT ME and never would be.
No way. This world routinely leaves me dazzled and breathless. I was, even as a teen, curious, enthusiastic, easily impressed and I had a bleeding heart. I wanted to patch the ozone layer, rescue dolphins from fishing nets, let gay people get married and I could hardly wait to vote. And why couldn’t people spay and neuter their pets?! What was wrong with the world? In the meantime, I fell in love with writers, movie stars, teachers, classmates and other males who were no match for my loyal adoration. I cared so much and loved so large, it actually hurt.
And then came Eddie Vedder, this beautiful human being who sang like his heart was breaking. The first time I played Ten, Pearl Jam’s debut album, I felt like the ground gave way beneath my feet. This, as the media would lambast him for, was a man who gave a crap. Eddie Vedder was talented, popular, jaw-droppingly handsome and he wore his heart on his sleeve.
The masses grew tired of Eddie’s incessant caring but I had been somehow validated. Even then, I was sure that I loved in the same tortured way that Eddie did in the song ‘Black’. I knew the grief and loss in his voice in ‘Release’. I ached for the underdog the way he did in ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Why Go’. And Pearl Jam played in my ears and my heart when I started to attend protests and turn my high school newspaper column into a painfully earnest soapbox.
Eddie and Pearl Jam went on to fight Ticketmaster to keep ticket prices low. They minded their carbon footprint, they collected cell phones for abused women, they created ways for their fans to get involved with worthwhile causes. And when Eddie sang, I knew he freaking meant it.
I distinctly remember long nights as a teen in which I lay awake, genuinely panicked over the possibility that I might never get to meet or even see Eddie Vedder in person. I loved his music so much, I felt like I would never, ever be able to get close enough to it to curb my insatiable longing.
But over the years, my love for Eddie Vedder led me to new music and authors, best friends, benefit concerts and rallies. His influence would also steer me towards non-profit work. Now, my career is nearing its first decade milestone and I’m proud to serve as a voice for abused and abandoned animals at a fantastic and progressive animal welfare organization.
And all those wonderful things, I was surprised to find, both quenched and continued to fuel that feeling of large longing.
Even as Eddie has mellowed and started to write more songs about the love he has for his family, my heart swells and soars when he sings. In fact, it’s his recent solo album that helped me figure out what I’m still searching for in this wide, wonderful world. Apparently, Eddie has found a love that’s big enough for his enormous and hopeful heart.
I hope I will, too.
Today (after 18 years!) my crush on Eddie Vedder is as big and all-consuming as ever. I’ve followed Pearl Jam around the country and even sat by Eddie at a hotel bar (He just didn’t know it. Or care.). But I also got to shake his hand after a 3-hour wait outside a concert venue in Santa Barbara. Eddie Vedder held my hand, looked me in the eye, and gave me a few sincere moments of his time. And I knew then that I hadn’t been wrong about him. Eddie Vedder’s kindness glows.
He really is perfect.
by Jolene Miklas
You can read more from Jolene at Misadventures in Pittsburgh.