When you listen to a song you haven’t heard in a while…it can be pretty emotional.
Especially for someone who loves music as much as I do. Each band represents an era. And for me, the rock band, The Academy Is… represents my innocence. That high school feeling where things are never as bad as you think they are…at least, until they get worse when you grow up. It’s a sad feeling…one dripping with the worst kind of nostalgia.
[Listen While You Read: 40 Steps / The Academy Is...]
Regret and bottled up emotions come to mind. I remember playing with my first band. Spending late nights playing guitar instead of drinking and drugging. I remember my best friends. Concerts. Seeing our favorite bands in technicolor. Pretending like the world was infinite. Stolen kisses in moving cars. Prom night. The certified sorrow that comes from leaving for college.
I remember the changing of the guard: when my old friends thought I had changed too much. When everyone left. I remember the winter wind and the lonely walks home from late classes. I remember the loss of innocence. I remember time ticking and turning...swirling above me like the crisp cold of January. I remember the light going out in my eyes.
I thought it would be a cold day in August before I thought of those times as anything but a big pain in the ass. But today…as I sit in Seoul, South Korea…I’m sure that they weren’t as bad as I thought they were at the time.
I am a full blown adult. And that hits me pretty hard. Time marches on even if you're not ready to march with it. Slow down, and you'll be trampled by its militant feet.
Time can cripple you. It creeps up and makes you want to be younger than you are now. At 22 you can easily get nostalgic for 16. It’s too easy. If you could…you’d probably go back and do it all over again. But you can’t. There’s no going back. And you can say that sentence over and over until your lips get blue and your limbs fall off. But you can’t. It’s over. Done. If you think about this concept for too long, you could easily send yourself into a panic attack. But if you push those thoughts out with immaturity and embrace the past as a guide…then you can move on. But these songs…this band…bringing it all back to a time where I didn’t know what alcohol was. I wasn’t all that fucked up in the head. I didn’t have an inferiority complex to everyone and everything around me. Those feelings have long been alien to me, but when I listen to this song...they come back. It's refreshing and scary.
My mind wonders, and I start to wonder where that bright eyed girl who gave the graduation address to thousands at Brecksville High school went. I wonder if she died a long time ago…or she still lives inside, crawling and scraping to get out of the black and back into the light.
[From Left to Right, William Beckett (lead singer of The Academy Is) Adam Siska (bassist) and 16 year old Tess hanging around after a concert in Akron, Ohio)] I used to subscribe to the fact that she, 16 year old Tess, was a primitive version of the person I am now. But she was sure of herself. She had the world in her hand. She could have done anything. This person I've become...I'm not so sure what she's capable of. More destruction than construction for sure.
Younger Tess would hate this person I've become. And that scares me. The change...the weight of it. But you can't be afraid of what you can't control.
Maybe younger Tess wasn’t a primitive at all…maybe she was evolved. Maybe I’ve regressed and turned to madness as a course of action against the past. Or rather…a regression into the future.
[Continue with Forever Young / The Academy Is...]
As these nostalgic songs enter my consciousness I feel them...the pangs of regret. The missed opportunities. But I also feel a sense of hope, that if I could overcome the past, then I could have a future.
The notion that I may have peaked a long time ago. But I march on...not with time, but beside it, challenging it's angry, militant footsteps with mine. I will force myself to keep up.
I will be comforted by these changes, because learning to appreciate the past is part of coping with the future. It's part of the forward march to happiness, freedom or just being comfortable. Hopefully...that pure soul is still in me. I want her to fight against the darkness that has developed over the past few years. I want her to win. She didn't know a lot of things, and she had no idea what was ahead of her...but somehow she survived.
And I think she wrote these words.
We have to take responsibility for our changes. We have to understand that the people we were when we were in high school couldn't possibly survive in our worlds now. It's not good for bad. It just is. And throughout these moments where we look back and doubt everything we've ever done, we have to have faith. That we're progressing...in some small way. Maybe we're a bit smarter, more worldly. We've definitely seen more things that have helped us grow and mature.
That person I was, I may not be able to feel her all the time, but she's there. Singing these songs and cheering me on.
The Academy Is... is reuniting for the 10th Anniversary of their debut album "Almost Here". You can read more about them here.