I used to romanticize pain when I was younger. It seemed the best solution, because I was surrounded by it and I wanted to put it to a purpose. I wrote angsty poetry about unrequited love, I wrote essays about how it felt when my head was slammed into the bus window. I was lonely and I couldn’t seem to keep friends, eventually they would decide that I was just too weird and they would join the ranks of my bullies. That is, until sophomore year of high school when I met Lizbeth. She loved how weird I was, and never seemed to get tired of me talking a mile a minute and imagining elaborate alternate realities that we could live in. I can say with absolute certainty that I would not be the woman I am today without Lizbeth’s influence, she introduced me to books and music that changed the fabric of my very being. Not the least of which was Boxcar Racer.
I know, I know, Boxcar Racer is just Blink 182 in a different package. Regardless, the one album that David Kennedy, Travis Barker, Tom DeLonge, and Anthony Celestiono put out under the name Boxcar Racer stands apart in a way that’s difficult to put into words. Thankfully what I do here is try desperately to put indescribable things into words, or die ranting.
When Blink 182 gave a voice to the voiceless teenagers that were wasting away in angst, they created a community – all of us that felt displaced could come together and find a community. After Lizbeth took me under her wing, I gained the confidence to create a small group of friends and the one thing that we all had in common was a love for Blink 182. Some of us formed a band (Called Band O’ Nerds) and we only learned one song in the garage – Cat Like Thief by Boxcar Racer.
While Blink 182 was comforting in its unification, Boxcar Racer felt like it was made for the solo angst. For the problems that didn’t have solutions, for the pain that I knew would never heal. While I did romanticize my pain eventually the novelty wore off as I realized that some of it would never leave me. While my love for my first crush may have evaporated over time, the intense rejection of him kissing me one day and the next telling me that he asked a girl named Lindsey to be his girlfriend – that sting leaves a scar. One that lights up every time I feel rejection now, whether it’s growing apart from a friend or a magazine passing on something I submitted – I always feel fifteen again. I feel small and powerless and like everything that I am is not good enough. No matter how much time passes I still feel the ghost of that rejection, it has become a tiny voice in my head that I have to fight with. I have to insist that I am not how I feel.
Rejection is not the only pain that has lingered through my adulthood. After spending my formative years being bullied for being weird (read: hyper and talkative) my go to negative emotion thought train is a cyclone of feeling misunderstood. Sometimes I feel like my brain is wrapped up in a blanket and I can’t seem to think through the fuzz and connect with another human being. The meaning I reap from the poetry of “There Is” has changed over time – when I was younger it used to give me hope for a desperate love story, the two of us bonded by damage. (I grew out of this fantasy at some point and decided that a healthy relationship would be best) As an adult, I listen to this song and I think that at least Boxcar Racer understands me, and that there are other people who feel the same way that I do and find acceptance in There Is. The idea that “there is someone out there who feels just like me” is all the comfort I need. I just need to know that I’m not alone.
Maybe it’s because I was raised in the era of gender norm rom coms, or that my head was buried in books and no one published books about women that didn’t involve a relationship, but I was very confident from a young age that true love was real. The great fallacy in that training is that if you believe in true love, you’re willing to look past a lot of flaws because the stories teach you that people are flawed and it’s ok if they hurt you as long as they love you. It took me years to deprogram this from my brain, in a painful and lengthy process involving several experiences with one sided unconditional love. I used to love with all of my being, at the expense of my being, I would give everything to someone I loved who said they needed it. When that love wasn’t returned to me in kind, I was devastated. I’ve lost count of the times that someone has loved me on the surface and then ran away when they saw more. It began to feel like love was losing control, allowing someone to take the very breath out of my lungs. Whenever I fell into this trap and I needed to be comforted and boosted simultaneously, it was Cat Like Thief that I turned to. It was those lyrics that taught me that love can hurt, it can take advantage of us. But we can always get back up and find joy again.
There are some problems that cannot be solved or even explained. The kind that come about when you’re bickering with someone and it feels like you’re having the same fight over and over. The kind that comes about when you just drift away from a friend you used to be really close to, and there’s nothing to be done for it because your lives are just going down different paths. Last week, I felt the anger and anxiety bubbling up inside of me, a year of quarantine and the unfairness of life combining to make a potion that would surely turn me into a demon. There was nothing to be done for it besides get out of the house, the one room house (not one bedroom, one room) that I share with Edward and Inman. I had to spare them from the shrapnel that would surely come out of me if I didn’t run the grenade away from our homestead. Irritability, it turns out, does not have a solution. The only thing to do is to get it out, and try not to inflict it on anyone else. So I went for a walk and blasted “I Feel So” through my headphones. The drums and guitar forcefully repeating themselves feels as if they’re pulling the darkness from my soul like venom and spitting it out of me. I put the song and repeat and I texted Lizbeth, still the only one who understands my obsessions, asking “do you think they put the piano intro in the song so that if you were listening to it on repeat, you’d have some downtime to chill out?” She immediately wrote back “probably, or that’s just how emo works.”
So many things in this life don’t have clear answers or solutions. The reality is that some things just really suck, and when I’m sitting in the angst that has no reason, it’s nice to listen to Boxcar Racer and feel a little less alone.
Sometimes, I wish I was brave
I wish I was stronger, I wish I could feel no pain
Wish I was young, wish I was shy
I wish I was honest, I wish I was you not I
Because I feel so mad
I feel so angry
I feel so callused, so lost, confused again
Turns out that whether I am thirty one or fifteen, I will always be answering to the call of the angst.