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Like a Wrecking Ball
My dream is like a child, and I'm taking all the custody.
A decade. A collection of ten years pinnacled as a statement of time. To my mind an era of significance and definition. Use your ears, and you can hear the seas of change through music. The 70s were defined by the funk and glam of disco. The pew pew synths and four-on-the-floor beats pulsated a culture that bred a sexual revolution. Hustle forward a decade, and disco's significance had been burned out by the Disco Sucks Movement and drowned out by the social and political waves of the conservative Regan Era. The 80s were instead defined by the sounds and impact of its superstars: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, and Whitney Houston. If the music of the 70s gave us liberation, the 80s sold us commercialism.
For me, music has always been a bookmarker of time. Songs are like magnets to my memories. As toddlers, we remember few, but when the electricity of Freestyle music hits my ears, I transport to early childhood—being three or four. The songs of Exposé, Stevie B, and Debbie Deb ignite images of my mom's nose in a book studying for college, the color of highlighter fluorescent yellow, and my dad in the driver's seat of our white 1993 Nissan 240SX singing in a sharp falsetto to "Lookout Weekend." Freestyle music brings me to a time when most of my memories were only that my parents were my everything.
My adolescence sounds like The Spice Girls. The zig-a-zig-ah of their dance-pop harmonies conjure up memories of obsessively falling in love with pop culture and of the years I discovered and learned shame. When I listen to "Say You'll Be There," I vividly remember the cheetah print "SPICE" on the cover with the quintet posing in a line of chairs—Scary Spice at the end with her hands in her hair. I remember gripping the CD single, bubbling with excitement to share it with my cousins, and the pain of being ridiculed when they told me I was "so gay!" Memories of training myself to suppress that gayness sounds like *NSYNC's No Strings Attached. I hate how some of my favorite music is paired with remembrances of my trauma.
In 2022, I was introduced to the term Horse Girl. Twitter fags employ it derogatorily on affluent annoying white girls who you'd assume would love horses based on how annoying and white they are. Jokingly it led me to listen to HAIM. In a surprising turn, I became obsessed with the rock trio. I listened to "The Steps" on repeat and played their album Days Are Gone on constant shuffle for months. Later that year, when my dog Chewee died, I stopped listening to the sisters because I refused to have them be the bookmark of my grief. I opted to listen to Folklore by Taylor Swift instead. Sacrificing her as the mascot of my sadness.
I was in a hot yoga class lying in Savasana when the Horse Girl instructor played "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus. It's an odd choice to play during the meditative corpse pose—even though it is technically a ballad. Hugged by the humidity in the 100-degree room with my mind clear from an hour of moving meditation, I realized another defining decade had passed without me realizing it. Ten years ago, I went viral on YouTube with a "Wrecking Ball" parody I made on a whim during a sick day from work. When Miley sings, "I came in like a wrecking ball," I come in on-screen bouncing on a grey yoga ball. I spend 3:41 minutes chaotically mimicking the video. The video got me signed by a YouTuber management company and airtime on German TV news. I traveled back in time to when I was more carefree and idiotically fun when I heard "Wrecking Ball." It also sparked a reminder: I celebrate a decade at my day job this year. The anniversary fell under my radar. I thought maybe because it felt like barely any time passed or that I hadn't changed much as a person. On the drive home after class, I listened to the song again and realized that's actually not true.
Ten years ago, I called my day job my career. At the time, the Original Broadway Cast Recording of American Idiot scored my eagerness to enter the "real world" and to make my mark as a professional. Seven years ago, I wrote my first play, Before and After, and slowly began drifting away from that dream. "Work From Home" by Fifth Harmony is the soundtrack to that and marks the dawn of becoming a writer. "ICY GRL" by Saweetie marked the shift when I decided playwriting would be my career, and therefore my career would become just a day job. When Saweetie raps, "My dream is like a child, and I'm taking all the custody. Obstacles be slowing me, but that buffer moldin' me. So I take my time 'cause I'm always where I'm supposed to be," its as if she's sampling my inner thoughts and spitting them as her own over a West Coast beat.
I've been so lost in the stillness and hush of my day-to-day that I forgot to look up to notice how I've evolved and where this past decade has taken me. Physically I may have stood still, but internally my dreams and priorities have been rearranged, allowing room for my soul to grow. Like Dumbledore soothing memories out of his head and drowning them away in his Pensieve at Hogwarts, I file cabinet away most of my memories and bathe in forgetfulness. Happiness is the hardest to remember, and sorrow is the hardest to forget. Useless pop culture factoids are instead always at the ready (Did you know: Paula Abdul set the record for the most number-one singles from a debut album on the Billboard Hot 100?).
Out of sight, out of mind. This is part of why I created My Ugly Mouth. To dissect my experiences and point of view. To verbalize them to give them weight. To write them down to face more of my truth head-on. So I don't forget where I've been and what I'm after. And, hopefully, so I can learn to define an era by my actions and triumphs rather than the music singing to me.