Like most teenagers during the noughties, there were three things on my mind on a daily basis: how much I hated high school, how much I loved music, and oh, how much I hated high school.
Every morning I’d wake up, re-do the panda eyeliner that I’d barely washed off from the day before, and get ready for high school. Needless to say I dreaded it every single morning, and every day that feeling of dread always seemed to justify itself. My mum would always give me a lift to school so it gave me the chance to sit back, stick in my earphones and brace myself for the coming day. And believe me, I really needed those earphones in.
I’m only one of millions who found solace in music during their teens, and like a lot of millennials the genre in question was usually rock music; a specific kind of angsty yet sometimes hopeful mix of emo, pop-punk, nu metal, grunge, and a secret bit of pop for guilty pleasure hidden behind the ‘cooler’ music of that decade.
A lot of adults often ask teens why they’re so obsessed with their music, and to be honest it’s such a silly question. We all have our own reasons why we love our tunes, but during high school I’d say the biggest reasons are often distraction, escapism, having someone and something to relate to, having lyrics that reflected the situation you were in or the situation you wish you were in, to have positive lyrics and melodies to make yourself feel better about everything that had gone wrong, and even having negative and loud angry music to feel like your own anger was justified, and normal.
For me, music was mostly escapism, and it linked directly to the stories I’d imagine when I was trying to distract myself from the hardest parts of school. When I started high school I didn’t have any friends to chill with during break, or sit next to in class, so I was bored as heck, as well a lonely. I’d wander the school halls during break so I could waste time till classes started again, too paranoid to sit in the lunchall as I was clearly a target: short, glasses, so pale that 90% of people assumed I was always ill, and I generally had an air of severe shyness and ‘weakness.’ Add all this onto the fact that there were no friends to back me up, I was prime game for the bullies.
So eventually I found sanctuary in the school library, which I didn’t even realize was open during lunch time. I pulled out my heavy walkman and slid on some Green Day; a band I lived and breathed back in 2003-2005. As I wrote my very first novel, a grammatical mess filled with the most obnoxiously perfect set of characters you’d ever seen, I let the music guide me into a more comfortable, safe place.
After a couple of years my music collection grew, as did my novel, and my bad memories. But luckily thanks to that music (and our love of comic books!) I made some friends, and by then the mp3 player was screaming my name.
Nirvana, Tenacious D, Creed, Nickleback, HIM, Blink 182, Generation X, Evanescence, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Aerosmith—you name it, I had it. Looking back a lot of the music I listened to on a regular basis was quite whiney and angsty—Blink 182’s Stockholm Syndrome still blares in my head – and for years afterward this kind of embarrassed me, and I tried to forget about my mosher days. But to be honest, I now feel nostalgic thinking back on it all.
I related to Blink 182’s lyrics of feeling trapped as a youth, to Linkin Park’s lyrics of feeling smothered by loved ones and enemies, and as much as I hated to admit it at the time; Avril’s worries that she would become ‘ordinary.’ And since they were my favorite band, Green Day never left my walkman, looking back I realize I could barely relate to their lyrics of punk justice and criticism of the U.S government, but I think in a way it did set me up to look more critically at the world around me.
Nirvana and HIM were the favorite bands of my then best friend, and she was the one who introduced me to the more symphonic metal bands such as Nightwish, Within Temptation, and many more. This type of music was fantastical to me, particularly songs like Ghost Love Score, as they sounded like the soundtrack to some sort of mystical story, like a Narnia tale or an elvish dream. This pure escapism is really what I needed considering the academic, social, and emotional pressures I was going through, that pretty much all teens go through.
I’m more than grateful that I had all of these amazing comforting musicians to fall back on, I genuinely feel that if I had not had such a meaningful collection, then my stress levels would have been through the roof.
I know this story is not a unique one, but that’s not a bad thing; it tells me that so many of us shared the same experiences, and that would make my teenage self feel much less alone.
For those who are going through high school this very year, then please don’t worry; you can create a happy experience for yourself, and you can stand up to anyone who tries to stop you. And for those days were you feel you can’t? Well, there’s always music.
[Images via x and Capitol Records]