A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar. The essential soundtrack for the emotional teenager in the early aughts. All of us that lived in the angst listened to Hands Down on repeat and wished for that date. In fact all of my dates in high school were compared to that song, it was a measure that no one could live up to. No high school boy could compare to Christopher Ender Carabba, let’s just be real.
I picked up the band from my older brother and sister, who used to listen to it while driving me to band practice (I believe with a tape deck adapter plugged in to a walkman CD player) and I wanted to be cool like them too, so I kept the CD in my own Walkman and learned the album word for word. When DC was featured in the Spiderman Movie (anyone else miss the Topher Grace spiderman? Just me, cool) I loved their song “Vindicated”. Today when my ADHD brain took me on a journey through my musical childhood, all I wanted to do was listen to Hands Down and Vindicated. I added it to my Summer 2021 playlist (which you can find on youtube music here).
It’s no surprise that I knew all of the lyrics to Hands Down, but I was shocked that I remembered all of Vindicated. I loved it when it came out, but it didn’t resonate emotionally or define a moment of my personal development…until now. Until I’ve had the year that we all had and I found myself drowning in old trauma, PTSD that resurfaced and wreaked havoc on my entire life. I’ve been clawing my way out of the pit since February, and only in the last week have I really felt like I can see changes in my life. I was self destructive for awhile, but I’m cleaning up now. It took a lot of work to get here, some pharmaceutical assistance, showing up for virtual therapy that I hate, and last but certainly not least – the support of my partner Edward as I clawed my way out from circling the drain. So while I was dancing around in my underwear to Dashboard Confessional this afternoon, reheating a couple slices of homemade pizza, the chorus started blaring out of my new JBL.
I am Vindicated
I am selfish, I am wrong
I am right I swear I’m right
I swear I knew it all along
And I am flawed
But I am cleaning up so well
I am seeing in me now the things you swore you saw yourself
I screamed the chorus, whipping my air guitar like a pro, head banging side to side while the microwave ticked down the seconds in front me, the homemade pizza my only audience. When I screamed “I am seeing in me now the things you swore you saw yourself” my knees buckled and I fell to the floor, posed with my arms up to the sky like I’d just escaped from Shawshank. I was literally struck down by this line because it is only now, that I’ve got an arm out of the hole I dug myself in, that I can see the sky. I can see myself improve every day, I can contain the collateral damage of my own mental illness. I’m finally on the up swing. It’s only from this position that I can see the things that my support group has been telling me this whole time. I am validated. I am vindicated. I am healing.
One of the reasons that Dusk and Summer (the album that Vindicated is on) wasn’t on repeat for me as a kid was because everyone said it was a bad album. My older siblings lamented the drop in quality, when a song came on the radio and I said “I like this band” my dad listened to their entire song and said “wow, they’re pretty terrible”. I wanted to seem cool so badly that I agreed with them, and I barely listened to the album after that. I convinced myself that it wasn’t good. I was so busy absorbing other people’s opinions that I didn’t stop to think about how I felt. In hindsight, I’m grateful, because I needed that come to jesus moment today. I needed to feel all of the emotions I felt as I screamed the chorus into my empty house, no one but the cat and the pizza to witness.
While I am grateful for the moment that I had, one that couldn’t have been achieved if events had gone any other way, I also learned a valuable lesson. Just because someone else doesn’t like something, doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to. Being cool should not come at the expense of being myself. I can see that now, on the other side of my mental breakdown, and I’m grateful to Dashboard Confessional for still writing straight out of my soul.
I hope the lady who lives out of her van in front of my house doesn’t mind “Vindicated” blasting on repeat through my open window. I hope she didn’t pay attention to me dancing around in my underwear (the very same pair from my T Swift dance party awhile back…I think these are my dancin panties). If she did, she can park down the street.
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