Is there an exact moment you can look back on your life and say, “I am who I am because of this”?
I was only 13 when I had that moment. April 15, 2005.
I was young when I first noticed something in my nature making me clash with the suburban, beach-town, strict lifestyle I was brought up into. I doubt I’ll ever know for sure what caused that clashing, but I dealt with it privately, entertaining the occasional outburst. It became a struggle the older I got, until I found my outlet.
Green Day released American Idiot in 2004, which seemed to be the perfect timing in my life. I heard the title track single here and there on the radio, and I asked someone to burn me a copy. Being 13 and completely unaware of how albums were intended to be listened to, I pressed repeat on my portable CD player and “American Idiot” played over and over again.
By February, my best friend and I had tickets to see Green Day in Miami (with her parents, of course). We were called out of 8th grade early that Friday and rode south in her parents’ gold minivan to our final destination.
Walking into that enormous, smoke-filled venue was like stepping into another universe for a girl like me – surrounded by people, some with skin decorated by tattoos and piercings and hiding behind heavy eye makeup, others proudly sporting a Dookie shirt from the ’90s and holding a $8 Bud Light.
When the lights went down, my eyes widened, and that fast, frustrated, catchy punk music played for the next 90 minutes. I sang along to what little Green Day I knew, but I wanted more. And then the real moment came for me: their “We Are the Champions” cover. To see a sea of people together for those few minutes made me feel more alive and more togetherness than I’d ever felt.
I found the piece of me that was missing, and that once foreign universe now feels like home to me.
To this day, I believe that music, especially live music, can heal, change and give hope to the lives it touches in the same way faith and religion can. Music came into my life at 13, unexpectedly yet undeniably welcome as my most understanding, non-judgmental, comforting friend, and I haven’t been the same since.