Well, I do…

On July 21, I did what I do best. I wrote. The day before the musical world lost another of its shining gifts to suicide. But this one hit me. Hard. Because this one was one that had helped me through a lot of my own pain and anger and for as long as he had been on my musical radar, I had never not been a fan.

I was at work. Between haircuts, I checked my phone for messages and I had one.

Years ago, when someone I thought was my future had torn my world apart, I had a few friends who helped keep track of the pieces so I could find them when I was ready to put things back together again. We had been through thick and thin, high and low, by each other’s sides. I checked my phone that day and one of those friends had sent me a message, asking me only if what she had seen was real.

My instinct was to push it off until later, sending her a message back asking what she had seen. Then I checked into Facebook and the first thing, at the top of the screen, was he who occupies my heart, relaying the shock of the news.

I returned to the message from my friend and all I could say was “Fuck.”

I grabbed my cigarettes, my lighter, and headed outside. Shaking, from head to toe, I sucked down that cigarette faster than I had in years.

Back inside, I pulled it all together because I couldn’t duck out of work for the rest of the day over a celebrity’s death – could I? – and went back to it. Halfway through the next haircut, I hear the DJ on the radio. I hadn’t heard everything she had said but I heard the words, “This one’s for Chester.”

It took everything in me not to break, right there, in the middle of what I was doing.

When I finished – after what felt like a lifetime – I left the salon floor again, still shaking, or shaking again, I’m not sure. My friend had responded to confirm that we had seen the same horrible news and that she, like me, had no idea how to process this information. My co-workers had all seen it by this point and were discussing the band and arguing over how old Chester Charles Bennington, musical legend, lead voice of Linkin Park, was. It wasn’t, but to me, having turned to this man’s screams and lyrics at times when I hated everything about my life, their words felt callous and insensitive.

I took my nicotine and my phone back outside, away from people who could never understand how hard this had hit me. I noticed that sometime in the half hour between learning of Chester’s suicide and that moment, I had gotten a message from another musician with whom I have, over years, cultivated a very strange relationship, almost as if he knew I was going to need to hear his voice.

The rest of the day was long and emotionally draining. It took everything I had not to cry. I fought the tears for more than 12 hours until I couldn’t anymore and I broke. And I cried harder in that moment than I have for a celebrity death, ever. Every major celebrity death up to that point, that was someone who had influenced my life, had left me feeling shocked and numb. And I shed tears for a few of them. But as I thought of more than fifteen years I’d followed this man’s career,  as I thought of the times I would turn his music up and just let myself be angry at someone who had hurt me, so deeply, as I thought of hearing those songs performed live from not even ten feet away and feeling them in my soul, I cried until I couldn’t see anything through the tears.

And then I wrote. I dealt with Chester Bennington’s death by writing about what it meant to me, what he had meant to my life, how his suicide had hit me like a fucking train, because writing is how I deal with pain and sadness. But I censored it. I made it fit for a broad audience of other people who were mourning him and I gave it to them.

This is the uncensored version. I’m not rehashing the other piece. I feel like it said what it needed to say when it was said and I am satisfied with having it out in the world. But this is what else I’ve needed to say in the 12 days since one more light went out.

I am sad. I am sad in a lot of aspects of my life. I don’t feel like I am depressed, in a clinical sense, just that I am very, very sad. I am sad in a way that only a few things really bring me any kind of solace. Music is one of those things. And now I am sad that the creator of some of the music that has been so much a part of my life gave up his battle against the real, clinical kind of depression. I am sad that he couldn’t find peace while still being a part of our world.

But just as much as I am sad, I am angry.

I am angry at a world that stigmatizes mental illness to the point that people who are in the kind of pain Chester was in are not encouraged to seek help. If he had had cancer, everyone would have rallied around to make sure he was taken care of. And Chester, specifically, had a strong support system, although it turned out not to be enough, but so many people don’t. So many people with depression or anxiety are told to “just be happy.” Find a hobby, get a pet, just be happy. People with eating disorders are told they are “too skinny; eat a cheeseburger” or on the other side, they hear dieting advice from everyone they’ve ever met. “Moderation.” “Eat a lot of salads, that’s what I do.” Mental illnesses are just one more instance of the human body attacking itself and should be treated as such. No one should be made to feel like they are “being dramatic” when they seek help for depression or anxiety.

I am angry because in the hours and days following Chester’s death, the internet has overflowed with love and kind words about how he, and all of Linkin Park, had been a huge part of the lives of these people but just two months before – two months – how many of those same people were part of the hate for the band’s latest album? One More Light was released on May 19 to a cacophony of people decrying it as a sell-out album or even going so far as to call it garbage, attacking the band, and Chester personally for something that was markedly different to what they, as “fans,” were used to. One More Light is not loud and guttural the way Linkin Park has been in the past. It is introspective and it is heart wrenching and it is intimate and it is personal.

Chester and the rest of Linkin Park were so proud of what they had put together. He had publicly addressed the hoard of Monday Morning Quarterback Critics who were willing to share their nightmarish opinions from the anonymity of their computers and he had done it angrily. And he had been chided for the rage, without anyone really understanding that that kind of anger only comes from pain and that kind of pain only comes from love. No one gets that angrily defensive over something to which they are indifferent.  I am angry that his “fans” were capable of hurting someone they supposedly admire so deeply with their rank hatred of this personal, intimate creation.

I am angry because we’ll never know how much of that negativity was a factor in his death. Visibly the hate filled critiques had subsided within days of the album’s release but had they really. Was he still hearing how awful people thought this new record was? Was the hatred still flowing in? Were people still longing for the 25 year old kid with porcupine-spiked hair, angrily screaming his angst into the world? I am angry that people in our culture are so callous and apathetic that they don’t care about the weight their words carry. It is not that they don’t understand; they simply don’t care. So many people are so comfortable in their anonymity that they don’t have to care about how their words can hurt someone else. Or that something they say could be that person’s breaking point. They understand, they just don’t care.

My heart is broken and I am still reeling from this death of this celebrity. Mourning a celebrity is different to mourning someone who you have known in life. We mourn celebrities, not because we knew them, but because they helped us to know ourselves. Through your words, your beautiful voice, your tortured screams, you gave me an outlet when I needed one and I will never not remember that. Thank you, Chester Bennington, for helping me to know myself.

Rediscovery – What it means to come back

On April 9, 2017, I met the members of a band I’d found while in university. I was 21 when No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls was released. I lived in the dorms. I had a tight knit group of friends, I was involved with some campus activities. It was a pretty good time in my life, truth be told.

I don’t remember how I found Simple Plan. At that point, most of my music was filtered in through my friends or MTV/MTVU, so it was probably something along those lines. At the time, and for several years following, they were a band I really liked but it was always on a superficial, aesthetic level. I loved the music – it was catchy and poppy and something I could turn up loud and dance to, singing at the top of my voice – but I never felt a true emotional connection to any of it.

I’ve always believed you hear what you need to hear when you need to hear it.

When I was 21, life was pretty good. I had friends I really liked being around, I had joined a sorority and some of the women I met through that are still some of the most important in my life.

My parents were still married. I had every intention of becoming an editor for a publishing company. I had what I thought was a decent thing going with a guy and if that didn’t work out, a couple other prospects waiting in the wings. I actually probably could have had my pick of any one of 20 guys at the time. I was a C-student but only because I wanted to be. I worked hard in the classes I enjoyed – for my degree – but in the ones I had to take, the math classes and the history classes, the science classes, I was satisfied with the minimum amount of effort. I had a fair social life between my sorority and other friends. Gone were the days of being a bullied weirdo in high school.

I was in a good place where I didn’t need the music.

Since then, my parents have divorced. Through that process, my dad did some ugly things I think he doesn’t think I know about. My fiancé suffered a nervous breakdown and destructively ended our engagement. I moved back “home” and have since gotten marooned in an extremely dissatisfying life. I still feel like I am meant for so much more than what I have, what I am doing, but I have, in the interim, lost sight of what I was meant for. My writing comes in sporadic bursts, at best, and the pieces that do come out are glorified diary entries. I feel like my hopes for the Great American Novel have dashed themselves on the shore.

About six weeks before the first time I would be able to see this band I’d found at a time when my life was so different and my future looked like a future, I dug out that old album. I played it top to bottom and then I put it on shuffle. I intermingled some of the later songs but I focused on the original album, the one that started it all.

And in that, I found new meanings. This is what is called burying the lede, and I apologize for that but I felt like some introduction was necessary. I have changed, dramatically, and I don’t always feel like it was for the best. But bringing out those old songs, from that time in my life, brought back some of who I remember being.

They also touched on some of the things that have happened since.

There are obviously songs, on No Pads… and throughout their catalog, that speak to my struggles with romance and unrequited feelings. “I’d Do Anything,” “Addicted,” “Perfect World,” and “Outta My System” all fit the bill, in one way or another. But that’s still just surface level connections. I am the love and love hard type; it’s easy for me to listen to lyrics about love and apply them to my own situations.

Even now, in my thirties, the deeper connections come from the songs that talk about frustration and desperation, about the need for understanding, the need for acceptance. Songs about feeling alone or out of place. Songs about wanting something more out of life.

Now that the anniversary show has come and gone, I find myself submerging in the entire catalog, hearing my life littered throughout the lyrics. From “Maybe one day, I’ll be back on my feet, and all of this pain will be gone. And maybe it won’t be so hard to be me and I’ll find out where I belong,” (“Lucky One,” 2013) to “Deafened by the silence, is it something that I’ve done? I know that there are millions; I can’t be the only one who’s so disconnected. It’s so different in my head. Can anybody tell me why I’m lonely like a satellite,” (“Astronaut,” 2011) I hear a lot of my day to day struggles. Feeling like I am going through the motions, feeling like I am not where I am supposed to be, feeling like I am alone, forgive the cliché, in a crowded room. These songs – songs that somehow flew beneath my radar for so many years – have put words to some of what I struggle to say, every day.

When you’re a teenager, or even in university, feeling alone and misunderstood comes from being different. Maybe you’re an emotionally driven artist surrounded by shallow people. Maybe you are a 98-pound weakling in a family of athletes. Regardless of your struggle, you are expected to have them. Some level of exile is expected in adolescence and young adulthood.

When you’re thirty – thirty-six – you are supposed to have it all figured out. Unfortunately, you are also supposed to have figured out the same things that everyone around you figured out. When you are slowly becoming the only person you know who is single, who doesn’t have any interest in marriage or children, who just wants to make art, chase music, and live every day with the potential for adventure, you become the flighty one who can’t let go of the past. Whether anyone says it out loud or not is inconsequential. You look around and that’s all you can see. Music that echoes those feelings of exile and distance can easily be the most comforting thing in the world.

“In my blood, in my veins, in my heart I know what’s right for me, so I refuse to apologize for who I am. And I refuse to ever let somebody say I can’t.” (“I Refuse,” 2016)

“Get outta my face. Quit bringing me down. Don’t care what you say. So what part of that don’t you understand? Hey! I’m doing things exactly like I want to. What part of that don’t you understand? Hey! And I don’t give a damn if you don’t approve. What part of that don’t you understand?” (“Opinion Overload,” 2016)

When I was 23 – 2004 – I was engaged. I was going to move from Colorado to Texas and start a new life with someone who had changed everything in my life in just a few months. And then he changed everything, again, and pulled the rug out from under all of my plans. For a long time after that happened, I was numb. I couldn’t even truly call myself heartbroken because heartbreak hurts and I felt nothing. But those people closest to me, those people who were watching me fall apart, were afraid that I’d fall asleep and never wake up. So they sat up with me so that didn’t happen and we listened to music and talked about music and when they weren’t there, I listened to music that made me feel something. And soon I started to feel pain and anger and I will tell you, unequivocally, that pain and anger are the greatest feelings in the world after months of feeling nothing at all.

“This Song Saved My Life” was written, essentially, by fans, through conversations with their heroes. The lyrics were pulled from those conversations, as fans explained, time and time again, how that music they loved had come into their lives at just the right time, at a time when their personal darkness was at its deepest. When I talk about songs and music “saving my life,” I wonder, deep in the back of my mind, if I sound melodramatic, despite knowing in my heart that it is very much the truth.

In seeing them live – and seeing them perform “This Song…” – I started questioning why a band I had loved so much before that deepest darkness descended on my own life, hadn’t been included in my own list. I had to separate the catalog into pre- and post-heartbreak and most, if not all, of the songs that would have easily been included in that came later. And I think, also, that that is a big part of why I had lost track of them for so many years. I found the bands that I needed, when I needed them, and those became the focus of 90% of my musical library. I’ve seen Kill Hannah 11 times, Dashboard Confessional 6, and AFI 4. I’ve only ever owned one Simple Plan album, out of six they’ve released. I’ve listened to everything they’ve released  – I realized, in my pre-show prep work I knew a lot more of the catalog than I thought – but that first album was the only one I deliberately sought out. And I’ve only seen them live once but, goddamnit, I made the most of that one time and I’ll do it again, given the opportunity.

There is some regret in losing track of this band that could have meant so much more to me over the past few years. But the reality is that first album, though such an enormous part of what I consider to be some of the most important years of my life, wasn’t what I needed when I needed the music to save me. There are messages in those songs for kids (of all ages) who struggle with familial acceptance and that wasn’t my struggle. And nothing can change that. So I lost track.

I can’t get back lost years as a fan but I can be a better fan going forward.

 

“I’ll See You Later”

I feel like I should say… something.

Today was the celebration of my cousin’s life. For 25 years I had a cousin I was never supposed to have. I can’t even remember now how we found out but one day we did and it stuck. The best I can remember, our grandpas were cousins. Except mine wasn’t my real grandpa; he was my dad’s step-dad, but he was the grandpa I’d always known so what difference did it make that we didn’t share blood?

I actually got four cousins out of the deal; five, if you count their mom. And I don’t mean to discount any of her siblings in any of this. The boys were enough younger that they didn’t want anything to do with their sisters’ friends, so we were never close. Her sister was one of my best friends for several years and both were 100% my family.

But today, we said, “I’ll see you later,” to the oldest of the four. And I feel like I should say something. Because she and I held three very important things in common: our love of music, our social awareness, and our words. And I feel like I should be using those words to say something.

I don’t know what to say.

The reality is that she and I spent several years apart. Not because of strife or ill-will. Our life paths just sent us in two very different directions for many years. When we came back together, it was so I could color the hair she was going to shave off in a week when she started chemotherapy. My cousin, less than a year older than I am, was dying.

We didn’t talk about it in those terms. She had been diagnosed with a very advanced, very aggressive breast cancer and by the time she started treatment, it had gotten into her bones. But she kicked it. Or thought she had. She was “in remission” when the tumors in her brain sent her into a seizure that would be the beginning of the end.

Today, I heard stories of her dancing through her treatments, joking with the other patients that she could get them dancing too. That is not the story of someone ready to lie down and let cancer beat her.

Even though, eventually, it did.

But she lived, all the way through it. All the way to the end.

I have felt selfish in a lot of this. My thoughts have been of losing my cousin and friend of 25 years and what the world will be like without her. Of her sons and nieces and nephews growing up without her in their lives. Of her never having the chance to see her sons drive or graduate or marry, of never meeting her grandchildren. But in all of that, my thoughts have been of myself.

Of not finding my partner.

Of not being given the same kind of love I put into the universe.

Of never being anyone’s first choice.

Of all the things I want to do that I have been too afraid to do.

Because she wasn’t afraid.

Of anything.

Not even of dying. Not even of leaving her young sons behind. Her sons she named after Nikolai Tesla and Leonard Cohen. Not of being arrested while standing up for what she thought was right. Not of doing it all on her own terms.

And by “it all” I mean life. Everything. Raising her sons, living for her art, standing up for what was right. Everything. She did it all her way.

I’ve always wanted to be that person. I have sparks of that person. I have moments where I am that person. And then my Type A, Scorpio control freak side rears its head again and my brain shouts louder than my heart, proclaiming that job security and food and shelter and my mother’s approval and her family’s approval of her (not of me; as far as they are concerned, I’m 12 and everything I do is a reflection on her) are important things and I can’t just go running off to do whatever my heart wants me to do whenever my heart wants me to do it.

Sometimes my brain is an asshole.

Fear of missing out is not just a social media concept that has come about with the invention of #FOMO. It’s a very real thing and I have it except I also have #FOF – fear of failure. Tell him you love him, the FOMO says. But what if telling him that, ruins our friendship, the FOF counters. Quit your job and move to a new, unfamiliar city, FOMO says. But how will I eat if I can’t find a job, FOF argues. Join a movement, march, protest, stand up for what you believe, FOMO shouts. They’re arresting protestors, FOF sighs in response.

And this is my daily life. And this has always been my life. Sometimes, FOMO wins and things turn out wonderfully and I’m exhilarated and energized and ready to take on the world and FOF is silenced… for a little while. Until the next opportunity to do something outlandish comes along and FOF is ready and this time, FOF wins.

I’m tired of FOF winning all the time but I don’t know, after all of these years, how to stop the cycle.

I’m trying to put together some things for some of the more important people in my life. Letters and lists and wishes. I feel a little macabre. “Hi, my cousin just crossed over to the next life and it has prompted me to tell you a few things I think you should know. Sorry about the timing…” But at the same time, it’s going to sound like that no matter when I do it. At least now there is a discernable trigger.

This has gotten so far from where I started. There were ideas in my head, when I started this, about creative writing classes in high school and about knowing that she was reading my blog, fairly faithfully, right up until the end, and about the times she’d ask all of Facebook for music recommendations, then tell me she was specifically eager to see what I had to offer her. The idea, when I started this, was to talk about her and reflect and remember my cousin and my friend. But the natural flow didn’t take me to those places. It brought me here, where I reflect on the things she was that I aspire to be. And where I say I want to try harder to be those things. For her. And for myself.

Reunion Tours

On the one hand, I was never a fan of Madina Lake. I didn’t not like them, they just never had the same effect on me as some of their contemporaries. As such, I will not be, personally, affected one way or the other, should they carry their reunion tour back to the States.

That said, even though I wouldn’t go to a reunion show if there was one to go to, I still find the whole situation a bit infuriating. And by “a bit,” I mean a whole hell of a lot.

But not for the reasons you might think.

See, here’s the thing…

There is a very distinct problem with the American music industry, in general…

Madina Lake is 100% a Chicago band. They cut their teeth on the Chicago scene, they made their name there, they played their final shows there…. When Matthew Leone was beaten and hospitalized for trying to help a woman out of a domestic dispute, it was the Chicago scene that rallied together to host benefits for him and his family.

I had started writing this piece, in my head, earlier today but then I had a conversation that kind of added fuel to my fire. I met a guy today who had been a professional drummer for a Denver-based metal band, nearly 20 years ago. As we talked about music and the like, it came out that his band was supposed to tour with a bigger, more well-known band but the label they were signed to refused to support the tour. Basically, if this guy and his band wanted to tour with this other, bigger band and really get their name out into the world, it was going to be out of their own pockets. Tour costs, merch, the whole works was going to be on them. Unless they could get some other corporate sponsor.

Which brings me back to the current Madina Lake issue.

Yes, it absolutely, 100% sucks monkey balls that they are not (probably) booking a U.S. leg for their “reunion” even though they are a U.S. band. American fans, the fans who made a reunion even necessary, are getting shafted. Again. This isn’t the first time and it damned sure won’t be the last. Because if you take a look at the tour poster that was released to announce this reunion, it is sponsored by Slam Dunk, which is a music festival in the U.K., which Madina Lake are booked to play. This reunion isn’t being sponsored by their label. They are being funded, sponsored, promoted by the company that controls the festival. Slam Dunk is not going to fund a U.S. tour. That would be ridiculous.

And this is where we come to the American industry problem. A good portion of American bands, especially in the “pop punk” and “alternative rock” arenas get big because they get lucky. There are a few, like Fall Out Boy, who worked the system and figured out how to force the masses to pay attention. But, in a lot of cases, you have stellar acts who are at the mercy of whatever whim the staffers at Alternative Press or Filter or Revolver are floating on that day. A lot of whether or not a band is successful in the U.S. is down to how their label markets them but the mainstream music media, like AP, have just as much influence on those careers.

And not just American media. The reason some American bands spend a lot of time in the U.K. is that they get press from Kerrang! or NME when the American media won’t touch them. So they tour where they are getting sponsored, where they are being supported. Slam Dunk is funding a Madina Lake reunion tour, Madina Lake is going to tour where the sponsor wants to send them.

In the U.S., maybe Hot Topic jumps in and sponsors them. Probably not. Hot Topic has more current acts to get behind. Maybe Riot Fest sponsors them. At least their hometown Chicago fans will get a reunion show, but likely that will be the only one. Maybe they get on Vans Warped Tour. A lot of maybes. Plus, the U.K. is roughly a third the area of Texas. Five tour stops in the U.K. would be the equivalent of a U.S. tour stopping in Amarillo, DFW, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi. Which, granted, never actually happens, but it’s not physically impossible, and realistically, a weekend road trip.

A full U.S. tour, on the other hand, is EXPENSIVE. And getting someone to sponsor that for a reunion of a band that had a very strong cult following but not a lot of mainstream success is going to be next to impossible.

All I can say, American Madina Lake fans, is get out your credit cards and warm up your crowdfunding button fingers because that’s probably the only way it’s going to happen. And that really does suck.

Open Letter to Davey Havok

Open letter to Davey Havok

Two weeks ago, I met you for the first time in twenty years.

I told you that I had started listening to your music when I was fifteen, to which you quipped you started writing it when you were fifteen. I stumbled and couldn’t tell you that I was fifteen when Answer That and Stay Fashionable was released and have been on the AFI trail ever since. Twenty years. Twenty-one years of my life devoted to one band.

Answer That wasn’t my initiation into “fandom;” that came later, when I was older and better equipped to understand. Black Sails in the Sunset was my first album as a legitimate fan and I haven’t looked back. Black Sails in the Sunset is still my favorite album, even as each new offering overflows with exquisite intensity.

I told you that it would mean a lot to me to add your handwriting to my small collection of handwritten tattoos. What I couldn’t tell you because my words betrayed me, was that that collection of handwritten tattoos were from three other musicians who, along with you, created the music that saved my life.

Literally.

The colloquial term is “broken heart syndrome” and looking back on that period of my life, I believe what those closest to me believed then – that I was in serious danger of going to sleep and never waking up. As it relates to you and your music, my friend, my best friend, my sister, sat up with me, night after night, and kept me distracted with AFI music and puzzles and mysteries. We watched Clandestine more times than I can even count, trying to decode the meaning, trying to determine what was in the box.

I told you that I could talk to you for hours if you’d let me. And I could have. I had twenty years’ worth of words and only thirty seconds within which to say them.

I asked you if you could write a lyric for me. What I couldn’t tell you was what that lyric meant to me. “We burn like stars” was chosen out of a full page of star lyrics that I had collected for a tattoo I had created. I became obsessed with the star imagery in your lyrics and with the allusions to fallen angels that were hidden within some of those images. Now I have your handwriting to add to that, to something that is exclusively mine, something no other fan will have.

I don’t remember if I ever thanked you. I thanked you for the autograph, for the show, for the lyric, but I don’t think I was physically or emotionally capable to say thank you for writing the songs that have gotten me through so much. Through high school where “High School Football Hero” was documentary. Through university where I was gaslighted by someone who was supposed to be a friend and where I met my soul mate who later decided he didn’t want to be the missing half of my soul. Through the destruction of that break up that could have killed me and through my most recent heartbreak as well. And thank you, as well, for providing the soundtrack for the good times in my life as well. I have met some of my best friends because of AFI. I have stood beside two of my best friends and shared the experience of seeing you do what you do best and we will have those memories for forever.

I told you I could talk to you for hours if you’d let me and I wasn’t lying. But this is where I will leave this because I am afraid saying more will fall short of sincere.

Thank you. For everything.

When You Really are Offended by Facebook Memes

Sometimes I feel like the odd girl out.

I spend a lot of time floating around on Facebook and there are a few recurring themes that tend to follow me around. Politics, especially as we approach Orwellian dystopia, cats, and this idea that people and society are to avoided at all cost but if they must be approached, they should be approached with an air of obligation and disdain.

I am disheartened by this thinking.

I love people. I am terrible at making small talk and I generally prefer to hang out and observe but I love being around people.

I am an extrovert, which, if you are to believe the majority of Facebook/social media memes, makes me not only the exception but somewhat of a social pariah. Like my desire to get out and socialize and to watch people being people and to be surrounded by people of all types makes me some kind of freak.

The ideas of seclusion, of self-imposed exile, of shunning both pants and various undergarments in favor of hiding from the world not only do not appeal to me, they make me very sad. As an extrovert, the more I am locked in away from people, the more I feel the effects on my body. I become physically tired and completely drained of energy and, likewise, motivation – in much the same way introverts explain how they feel after being around people for extended periods of time. I find myself growing irritable, moody, cranky, whatever you want to call it, exponentially, the longer I am sequestered away from people.

So, when I see Facebook meme after meme after meme talking about the desire to stay in, with head under covers, and do literally nothing but watch 18 straight hours of Netflix, I become a little – irrationally, I’m sure – angry and even a little hurt. Yes, it genuinely hurts my feelings to see so many people in my life, in my friends circles, who seem to hold extreme animosity toward all of the things on which I thrive.

I don’t even, really, need to interact with people when I leave the house. As long as there are people wherever I am going.

People ask me why I go to so many concerts. The answer is, partly, I don’t. Not really. Not in comparison to how many I would like to go to. And the second part of that answer is that I just really like being around all of the people. I enjoy the crowd. I like the chaos and the intense surges of energy. I even like the powerful emotions, which as an empathic extrovert, I can feel in tangible waves (In real life, those types of intense emotions make my brain hurt but at a concert, they are different forms of intense emotion).

I’m not sure what any of this was intended to say. I just had to say it. I am a little injured by knowing that so many people I know don’t like people the way I do. It’s ridiculous. They aren’t saying they don’t like ME when they say that, just that they don’t want to join me when I just go hang out and observe a crowd of people doing all their peopley things – from the inspiring to the foolish to the ridiculous to the infuriating.

Mourning Carrie Fisher (and so many more)

Everyone is touched, in their lives, by different things. People react differently to what is going on in the world. When you are raised in a home where a thing is prominent, that thing becomes an unwavering part of who you are. You may not love the thing as you grow into adulthood but it is there, woven into the fabric of your soul. It is a part of who you are and the thing taught you lessons.

For me, music was a huge part of my life growing up. I would lie on the living room floor in front of the massive 70s style stereo system and listen to records and an AM radio “oldies” station for hours. I was almost always doing something else – drawing, reading, writing – but I had the music on. As I grew older, I carried the music with me. It has evolved and changed and now that massive stereo has been replaced with a tiny microchip and an internet server somewhere in a far off land. For me, 2016 has taken some of the prominent voices of that part of my life.

I was ten years old in the summer of 1991. I was helping my aunt assemble bouquets and centerpieces for her wedding while we listened to the soundtrack of Purple Rain. Although I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I’d ever heard those songs, it was my first, concentrated, “this is important” dosage. It was the exposure that would stick with me.

I can’t tell you how old I was the first time I saw David Bowie in Labyrinth (although, I can tell you I was young enough to call it Laby-rin-ith) but I know I loved it. Jim Henson was to mini me what Tim Burton has become to adult me: an enormous influence on my personality and my creativity. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t some part of me that wanted more than anything to follow Sarah into the Labyrinth and if I were to say that my love for the Frouds didn’t come from Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal, I would be naive or lying.

It seems silly to say, at this point, while talking about huge influences on my life, but Careless Whisper was (and really probably still is, cheesey as it might be) one of my favorite songs as an over-dramatic, broody pre-teen. 12-13 year old me would belt out the lyrics I didn’t fully understand to pictures of boys who didn’t appreciate everything I wanted to offer them.

The rest of 2016’s victims have been no less influential on my life, though.

Gene Wilder was in so many of the movies that introduced me to comedy as a child. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, aside, I watched those comedies 100 times over. Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silver Streak, Stir Crazy. In many ways, those movies became part of the standard to which I still hold all comedy.

Alan Rickman was Snape, but he was also the Sheriff of Notingham. And he was Metatron and Hans Gruber and he had that voice that carried his deadpan sarcastic wit with such grace and poise that even poop jokes seemed eloquent. He may very well have taught me everything I know about sarcasm and snark.

I will be 100% with you and say I was probably three years old when I watched the original Star Wars trilogy. I saw Episode I and II in the theatre when they first came out (one of them twice because two different friends wanted to take me). I did not see Episode III and I haven’t seen VII or VIII. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate their value or everything that Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia were to the world, as icons of true feminism alone. Leia as a character and Carrie as a woman were strong, powerful women in the world of the 1970s that, despite its claims of enlightenment and advancement, had not yet fully embraced the strength and power of a woman who could hold her own in an intergalactic war – or in the quiet, hidden warzone of Hollywood.

When someone mourns the death of a celebrity, they are not mourning the death of someone they have never met. They are mourning what that person meant in their lives. They are mourning the influence that person had on who they have become and who they will continue to be later on. They are not foolish or naive, they should not be mocked or ridiculed. Something that celebrity created in their time on earth touched that regular vanilla person’s life so profoundly that had that celebrity or that creation never existed, that regular vanilla person wouldn’t be the same person they are today. Something that celebrity created was responsible for a key sequence in the coding that makes that regular vanilla person tick the special way they tick today. Without that sequence in their coding, we would never know how they might be different but it might be the thing that makes them your friend.