The HOPES & dreams of my youth (An Ode to Taking Back Sunday)

During high school, I was accustomed to hopping in my friend York’s busted up Jeep Cherokee and listening to the undiscovered bands only he seemed to find.

One day during my Junior year, I jumped in his Jeep to check out the latest band he’d discovered. I’d be lying if I said half the time I wasn’t a little skeptical about what he’d found; his taste and my taste wasn’t always in sync. This week, though, was different. By the end of the first song, my skepticism had evaporated. This band we were listening to was good.

And by the midway point of the album, something clicked. I wasn’t sure if it was the lyrics, or the emotional and guttural screaming of the lead singer, or the way the music made me feel, but I felt like this band understood me.

The stories they were telling mirrored the teenage angst that I had no clue about how to deal with inside.

Then York told me why this band was so cool, why they were his new favorite.

“Dude, the lead singer of this band is from our hometown. He went to our high school.”

I was sold. This was my new favorite band.

But it wasn’t the fact that the lead singer once walked the same bland whitewashed walls of my high school that sold me on the band.

My hometown is like most small towns in the US: a place the young feel they’ll never escape, and the dreams of leaving the shithole and it’s backwardsass people are the only hope you have.

And this guy who was belting these lyrics from the deepest corners of his emotions had left the bumfuck hellhole I called home and become something more.

Those were my dreams.

I wanted out. Besides a few close friends, I hated high school—I felt alone. I knew I had more to offer the world. And it felt like this place (“home”) was only there to suffocate every ounce of hope I had.

But Taking Back Sunday “got me.” The amount of unrequited love I felt from the girls I had crushes on made their lyrics feel even more unique— as if they’d been written for me.

Taking Back Sunday

Oh, and if Adam could get out of Trinity, NC and make something of his life—so could I.

Taking Back Sunday opened the door to a whole new genre of music, a genre I jumped head first into. Every band that was similar to Taking Back Sunday that I could find on Limewire, I downloaded. And York continued to provide a healthy dose of new bands as well.

My mix CDs became nothing but TBS, Saves the Day, Mae, Copeland, Bright Eyes, Straylight Run, Julianna Theory, Sunny Day Real Estate, At The Drive-In, Dashboard, Thursday, Finch, The Used, From Autumn to Ashes, and, of course, Brand New.

(There’s another great story about Brand New from high school where one of their lyrics damn near became real life. But that’s for another day)

All of this music I still listen to today. And I’m grateful that York shared his passion for those bands with me.

A few nights ago, as I neared the city limits of my hometown, something felt “right” about blaring Tell All Your Friends. And, as I did in high school, I sang every lyric as loud as possible. (I was slightly horse by the time I walked into my parents.)

There are days where I try to forget the small town I lived in for 18 years.

I brush off those memories of high school. Those nights where all we had to do for “fun” was to stand in parking lots and “talk.” Because in a small town with nothing but churches and strip malls, what else are you supposed to do?

My whole life I wanted more. I wanted to see more. Do more. BE more than everyone around me. Settling down and sending kids to the same high school I went to sounded like a waste of life.

If Adam could leave this town and do something like becoming a rock star, what could I do?

Where could my life lead?

Over the years, some of my friends have never understood my love for all of these bands or why I found their lyrics or music a constant inspiration; or why I believe Taking Back Sunday wrote the greatest lyric of all time. But there’s always been something more to all of it.

Even in all the angsty, heartbroken, whiny lyrics that you’ll find in many of the bands I mentioned above, what permeates through most of that music is hope. And when you’re living in a town where it feels like no one ever leaves, sometimes what you need is a little hope.

Taking Back Sunday has always been that hope for me, it’s why their albums and music have always meant so much to me.

At the 2003 Warped Tour, I had to beg a guy to extend the cut-off line by two people so I could get Adam’s autograph. When I walked up to Adam, all I said was: “Hey, it’s awesome to know a dude from Trinity left and did something with his life.”

And that’s why this album, Tell All Your Friends, has always—and will always—be one of my favorite albums of all time. Because every time I fired it up and let the music wash over me, I was reminded to have hope.

Who knows, maybe I’ll meet Adam again one day and I can tell him exactly how much his music has meant to me. But even if I don’t, my only hope is that maybe through my writing or podcasting someone else from a small bumfuck town finds the same inspiration and hope in my work that I found in Taking Back Sunday’s.

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