*technically a baby steer. We’ll come back to him.
Summer isn’t over until I rejoin society, I think, and that’s definitely not happening until after my brother’s and my roadtrip next week. So this is still summer, and I’m pretty sure when I look back on the spark notes of my life if I get to be an old lady someday, this chapter’s gonna be “Marvel, Fall Out Boy, and I Bought a Cow.”
Marvel, because in the midst of a total personality crisis last April I found myself alone in the back row of a movie theater watching Captain America; The Winter Soldier. I think something about Captain America’s isolation and loneliness hit home because I, as they say, lost my shit and proceeded to go on a five-month (and going strong!) Marvel binge that’s rivaled my teenaged obsession with Johnny Depp. Like, hot diggity dawg, gimme super heroes with tragic back stories and mental illnesses! The Hulk tried to commit suicide? Gimme. Iron Man has panic attacks? GIMME.
I hit all the levels of fangirling, including spending hours at my buddy Brian’s apartment reading old comics by his pool.
I ate that shit up.
I was embarrassed about how much I adored the Marvel franchise until I realized, hey, when I’m really, really depressed, I don’t like anything. I don’t get excited or nervous or heated about anything; I’m listless and tired. It’s like when you’ve been swimming all day and there’s still a ton of water in your ears, distorting the way everything sounds. Depression is like that watered-ears feeling, but with emotions.
So I realized, oh my gosh, I can’t be that sad! I LOVE MARVEL!
From then on I totally owned it. Hell yeah, I know the back stories of every character in the MCU. Yeah, I dressed up as the Winter Soldier during Super Hero week at camp and cracked myself up saying, “who the heck is Jess?” when kids called my name.
Sometimes it’s the silly things, and sometimes all you’ve got to hang onto is the mantra at least I’m not as sad as I used to be.
Fall Out Boy.
Ah. This. So, a couple months ago my little sister and I really liked the band New Politics, and I saw they were opening for the Monumentour. Some bands called Fall Out Boy and Paramore were headlining, but whatever, NEW POLITICS. I bought us tickets and waited.
Meanwhile, my sister did some “research” for the concert.
In May when I made it to LA, she frantically introduced me to the Holy Trinity of Pop-Punk; Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and My Chemical Romance. All of the sudden the music I may have listened to at thirteen was all I wanted to hear at twenty-three. It was amazing; all the intellectual sad bastard music I’ve listened to for the last ten years or whatever faded until all I resonated with were these eyelinered emo boys.
I told my sister that “pop-punk” was my guilty pleasure and she gave me a really weird look.
“Really?” She asked. “You feel guilt about something harmless that you enjoy?”
So I stopped feeling guilty. I started just openly enjoying these fun little bands I should’ve liked when I was in high school.
We’ll come back to Fall Out Boy after I tell you about the cow steer.
At camp this year I had a baby dairy cow named “Boca” to care for. He came to me skin and bones and nervous around people. My co-worker and I worked fervently to put some weight on him, feeding him separately during the day and making sure to spend extra time petting him. Soon he was like a puppy, following us around and mooing when we left the arena. Everyone at camp fell in love with him.
The last week of camp we learned he was to be auctioned off in the Fall as cheap hamburger meat and again, my shit was lost. I don’t know what happened, but I went to my boss in tears, mortified that this baby creature who we all loved and who loved us was going to be slaughtered for such a wretched industry.
And like any absurd person with a heart…I decided to buy him. The camp director donated a hundred and random counselors pitched in, and we bought the cow. I thought my dad was going to cry when he realized I was serious.
I found Boca a home near San Francisco and last week my mother and I rented a trailer and drove halfway there to transfer him to his new owners. Now Boca lives with another cow in bovine paradise and I’m short a few hundred dollars, but grinning like a loon because I did something I believed in and frankly, I don’t care how ridiculous it is.
Ridiculous, like knowing everything about Marvel and listening to bands that were all over Teen Magazine ten years ago.
Sometimes in life you feel like you’re losing yourself, like you have no idea what the point is or who you are anymore. And sometimes it takes an act of futile compassion to regain some sense of direction. Driving down from the halfway point, after leaving Boca with his new cow apologists, I thought of Marvel and the Pop-Punk music I’m usually too “mature” for, and felt like myself for the first time in a very, very long time.
It’s a soul thing.
It’s taken me longer than it should have to realize a few things, like how life doesn’t follow a linear trajectory and how even if I felt like I was soooooo far beyond this point three years ago, this is ok. This is more than ok.
Friends, I urge you like I urge myself; lighten up. This is a season of becoming. This is a season of rediscovering. This is a time to be moved by things other people may not be moved by, because it shapes and solidifies our personalities into something that can be used to uniquely rock our sphere of the universe in a good direction. Yeah, some of its futile, but it’s a soul-thing. It can’t be translated and it doesn’t need to be, because most everyone has their little pointless, soul-enriching pleasures they can’t explain.
I like superhero stories and catchy music and it made a difference to me to make a difference to one baby animal.
What are your soul things? What are the pleasures you shouldn’t feel guilty for anymore?
“Life’s a bitch and then you die,” my friend Amber says. It’s really hard and we need each other, says my old pastor.
So damnit, enjoy those things you enjoy.
We can talk theology and philosophy and all that stuff later on. Right now though? Relax your shoulders. Breathe. Listen to whatever you wanna listen to and watch all the Iron Man movies in one setting, and spend your paycheck on something frivolous and pointless and foolish because you need to do it for your heart.
Two nights ago was that Monumentour concert I was telling you about. You know who’s a good front man? That punk-rock pretty-boy Pete Wentz. And you know why? Because he never once even humble-bragged. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show where the band’s frontman spoke so intentionally to positive self-care, camaraderie, and work ethic. This guy knows where he’s been and he knows where his fans are, and he uses his platform to speak about mental health and to encourage people to stop the “it gets better” rhetoric and just make it better.
I was impressed and encouraged and somehow reaffirmed. Yeah, I started listening to Teenager Music in my twenties, but did you hear these bands applaud the kids in the crowd who are beating suicide’s lure? Did you see how happy my punk ass little sister was?
So yeah, that’s Summer ’14 in summation. And that’s how we’re moving forward. Tell me what makes you happy, tell me what gets your heart worked up, tell me if this friggin’ rambling post was too long.
See you soon, P-Town.