Mommy’s Little Nightmare

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Angst: n; a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish.

Tension: n;

  1. The act of stretching or straining.
  2. The state of being stretched or strained.
  3. Mental or emotional strain; intense, suppressed suspense, anxiety, or excitement.

In my teens I considered myself the epitome of angst. I was misunderstood, pregnant with rage, and relished in the chaos I created in my quiet suburban home. This transformation happened overnight, or so the legend goes, more like a switch had been made. The once sensitive and sweet little girl replaced by a screaming, selfish nightmare that refused to wear any color but black. I often find myself retracing this chapter in my life as if it holds some secret to why I am, but it was especially on the brain the past couple of weeks, here’s why.

Last weekend, or I suppose two weekends ago now, I attended Chicago’s Riot Fest. It’s just what it sounds like, but also isn’t. Most of the performers were bands that I sacrificed my hearing to as a teenager. Bands like Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, and my personal holly grail, AFI. Just to give you perspective on what AFI meant to me, I spent the ages of 13 to 18 listening to them obsessively. I participated in fan chatrooms, was a member of the official fan club, cried myself to sleep when I missed their Detroit show because I was grounded and so on and so forth. So seeing them as a 23-year-old pseudo adult was a surreal experience. It was like picking at my adolescent scabs that I thought had turned into scars long ago; remembering the tension I awoke with in my chest every morning that made me feel strange and isolated, that attracted me to the band of people who also felt strange and isolated.

And there I was, Riot Fest 2013, standing amongst this group I had so intensely identified with; mud caking my sneakers, the smell of a grassy body odor and warm beer forcing its way in me, hard and soft body parts holding me together on all sides. And yet our rage and angst was so much less subdued. It was almost nonexistent. I realized somewhere between sets, that not only was this not the crowd I was expecting, but it wasn’t even the typical crowd you find at a Chicago festival. Normally you find north shore princes and princesses drunk and slobbering or the enlightened college students experimenting with mind-altering drugs (exhibit a: Lolla). But the crowd were mainly 20-somethings and up, who had jobs, responsibilities, families, seeing bands they had truly loved and worshipped, seemingly taking a quiet trip down memory lane. So I couldn’t help wondering where the angst went. Did we just grow out of it? Move on? Grow up?

This realization made me sad at first, nostalgic for the way I had been, as if life had crushed the spirit we once had, tamed us. The troubled, the dark, the passionate, turning out like everyone else, they had won, whoever they were. But nothing is ever that simple. In adolescence you are being stretched and strained to the brink of your true self, it is the transitory period between childhood and adulthood. So why do some act out in ways that alienate family and friends and practice self-destruction from a young age? There are all kind of theories on why adolescents act out, socioeconomic, family unit, ethnic-related theories, but I truly believe that these behaviors are a manifestation of a great personal growth, a straining, that can cause severe emotional and mental exertion, but that results in a truly mature individual.

We weren’t tamed or subdued, we just grew and transitioned. Transformed our rage into art, our angst into motivation, and found understanding in ourselves instead of searching for it in other people. However, I must note, this isn’t something that happens on its own. Many young lives are lost and wasted in the pursuit of the self because it’s so hard to see how big your life can be when it’s still so small. You need an anchor to reality; for me that anchor was my mom. She pulled me in when I was drowning. So what I’m trying to say in summation:

A: thanks mom.

B: being weird makes you a better adult.

C: riot fest was awesome.

D: sorry I rambled too much.

Live weird, and live long

Arty the Alien

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