Nostalgia-induced story time ahoy!
This isn’t going to be one of those “oh this band saved my life” stories; that’d be stupid. Credit for that feat goes to my therapist in high school and my own hard work for literal years. Just the same, I have MCR to thank in no small part for me being exactly where I am today — and to a degree, who I am, because the people I’ve met as a consequence of their music have shaped me in uncountable ways.
See, when I was a 13-year-old edgelord I would buy any bargain bin CD with a cover that looked like it’d upset my mom, which is how I first came by I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. I don’t think I even listened to it for the first six months I had it in my collection. But eventually I put it into my terrible portable CD player– the one that skipped from being dropped out of my sweatshirt pocket so damn often with a regular rotation of cheap headphones because I kept blowing out the speakers, much to my ENT’s chagrin over my hearing. (I’m already half-deaf, I won’t miss the rest of it, was my rationale– my stance on my hearing has changed since.) Every single afternoon spent in the hospital or in hospice with my great-grandma or my grandma I’d have it playing and that went on for the long years those two pseudo-parents of mine took to die.
I remember being heartbroken that my mom wouldn’t spend the money to get me a copy of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge when I finally found it in Walmart. I wouldn’t own that one until high school, when I’d illegally download it from Limewire. I’ve never had a physical copy of it, come to think of it…
When Welcome to the Black Parade came out (I eventually bought it with my allowance, because that year mom could afford to give me an allowance) I spent mornings glued to MTV to stare at the music videos… I listened to that CD so much I ruined it and had to get a second copy.
High school happened, as it does. It comes for most of us, much like death or taxes, and I enjoyed it less than either death or taxes. But then I got access to the internet. I went from figuring out songs on my guitar via obsessive listening and transcription to having the vast hive mind of Ultimate Guitar’s tablature library to draw from… I spent long afternoons avoiding my mother’s husband, plucking out what I could on my cheap Pepto-Bismol-pink electric guitar with my headphones plugged into an amp, another set of headphones over them plugged into the refurbished laptop with a sparky power cable that crackled whenever I turned the damn thing on. I joined a band sophomore year, an awful and loud band full of dysfunctional queer kids with more enthusiasm than sense… it didn’t last long but it made for a magnificent summer that probably kept me a live long enough that I could get into therapy.
Concurrently, I discovered bandom, the terrible and wonderful magic of RPF and OC roleplay and writing elaborate scifi spin off universes and high fantasy– the year I turned 17 was a wild time for me. I had to rebuild my mom’s old Gateway desktop so that I could stay online even longer. I wrote 3 original novels and an incalculable amount of fanfiction on LiveJournal. I made some of my first friends– genuine friends, not just people I sat beside in choir or gym– on LiveJournal. I learned how to critique others’ writing in useful ways and just how utterly transporting a story could be. I learned that literary canon was, in fact, pretty goddamn useless.
I tuned into the livestream for Danger Days November of 2010 and wound up reconnecting with the boy who had been the drummer in that garage band. Sam. He would be my best friend for years– as long as it stayed convenient and entertaining for him, anyway– and through him I learned a lot about what love meant. We would spend a lot of late nights texting. It was enough to irritate the hell out of my mother’s husband when the phone bill came in every month until he got me unlimited texting. I would tell Sam fantastical stories every day on the city bus to and from school: a little melancholy or romantic (in the aesthetic sense) or we would bemoan our luck with father figures or we’d debate what passed for teenaged philosophy, trying to parse out our places in the world. We saw MCR live together on their last tour before I left Reno for my tiny college in Missouri– after the show he reassured me, adamantly, that my mother did not in fact hate me despite all the evidence I had to the contrary at the time. (He would wind up being right– my mother loves me, but when I was younger and less articulate she never knew how to relate to me. I’ve always been just past strange.)
Sam would turn out to be too wedded to the ditch his family dug him from birth. It resembled a grave, the last time I spoke to him, more than a rut, to my great grief and his utter apathy… but through him I met Moira. I think I was 19 that spring. Moira is the closest thing I can think of to defining a “platonic life partner” in my conceptualization of the term. We live together, work together, write, eat, fight, talk, and laugh together. She’s changed my life in countless small ways and helped me find a calling of sorts through writing and study.
All I can think, right now, is that if I hadn’t picked up that one CD when I was in middle school… or any one thread shifted a little to the left at all… all of this might have gone so differently. But I like my life as it stands today, for all the complaints I might lodge with the Universe at Large. I can’t imagine enjoying any different life half as much.