“I got an e-mail in my pocket, and I think it’s starting to melt!” The little ditty went through my head for the twentieth time that day. It was the opener for one of my Strong Bad Emails, an online cartoon I loved to death, and which my parents, for no real reason, despised. We lumbered boringly through Walmart, 4 kids, another on the way, admirably well behaved. I was the oldest in the bunch, twelve years old, and I was about ready to break.
“Nathan, take your sister, my arms are exhausted.” My sister slid effortlessly from my mom’s arms into mine. I was her favorite, and all three of us knew it. I set her on my hip and bumped her up and down, feeling important. I made a bit of a show, just to pass the time, of walking around the displays, pretending to be interested, mostly just observing my surroundings. My sister looked around with me, she seemed to feel like I needed her, and I did. She gave me a purpose in that family; she was the one person I seemed to get along with. She had one little arm on my back, the other hanging to her side.
“Yeee?” She pointed at a sparkly pink dress with a lacy, frilly thing at the bottom. She wanted me to hand it to her. My mom had been getting worried about her little “yeee’s,” because it was how she communicated. With three big brothers, all she had to do was point and squeak, and we’d get whatever she wanted; she wasn’t learning to speak because of it. I didn’t care, I knew what she wanted and that’s all that mattered to me. I picked up the dress and let her admire it. Eventually we put it back and moved on. I wasn’t thinking much about clothes, or even my sister. I had something else on my mind: Linkin Park.
My parents didn’t want me to be independent. Our home was rigidly sheltered: no visits to friends, everything required near-unattainable permission. I’m surprised we even went to school. I was stuck in that house, which was fun at times, I read a lot. We also got to play computer games, which was fun, but I needed more. I needed to be me. My rebellion started that day when I decided to listen to what I wanted, and what I wanted was something angry. So, at some point, I dumped my sister back with my parents. I broke away and found that CD, Meteora, Linkin Park’s brand new album. I hurried to a register and bought it before anyone could stop me. It was mine! When I met back up with the family my mom saw it.
“What’s that?” She asked.
I showed her. She said she would need to take it and “check it out,” before she could let me have it. I was hopeful, and maybe slightly trusting, so I handed it over. At least I had gotten it this far. My mom had a habit of taking my stuff and losing it forever, which is probably why I snuck into their room and stole it back. That was probably one of the first things I ever stole from them.
I listened to my CD. It was delicious. I loved it. The anger I had bottled up with thousands of “Ok’s” and “Whatever’s” was finally coming out. It was real. Chester’s screams, filled with perfect, high pitched hatred, made me feel amazing. I felt the release go through my spine and show in my eyes. I felt as though I were the one screaming. I listened to it over and over, memorized every word, sang along when I was alone, or sometimes with my brother. I became addicted to the adrenaline. Linkin Park became my gateway drug.
Once I realized I could let myself out, first from within, eventually right out the door, I was gone. Linkin Park handed me my first cigarette, my first joint. Linkin Park landed me with a gang of violent druggies I would fight and do cocaine with. Linkin Park landed me in the hospital for three months, suicidal, with a permanent case of paranoid schizophrenia. I was so angry at Linkin Park, I shut them out for good!
It was a long ten years. Suddenly, I was paying my parents their respects. I had spiritual debts I owed to God. My rebellion went too far, and I was determined to make things right. I spent all my time in the scriptures, preached against the evils of the world, especially the evils of music. Music was what ruined me, and I wanted everyone to know it. Determined to never listen to Linkin Park ever again, I was the Lord’s servant now. I grew to love my family. I taught them I could be trusted. I learned how to serve people in need. There were many during this time who were greatly blessed because of what I had dedicated myself to. There were times when doing the right things became just as hard as doing the wrong things. These trials built me up, however, instead of tearing me down, and I became a truly good person. But the natural man is an enemy to God, and I needed to break again. I needed Linkin Park. I needed a release. I was still angry. But I was a changed man; I remembered all too vividly how dark my life was in the past, and I knew I didn’t want to go back; so I didn’t.
Now, when I listen to Linkin Park, or any hard rock, I use it as a tool. No longer do I overdose on it, every day, for years. Now it is my heavy dose of caffeine. Now it’s a Diet Coke, instead of a gallon of E&J between three people. Now I’m grateful to Linkin Park. They gave me a door to open. They helped me take my first steps into my very own life. I’m grateful for the journey I’ve been on, the times I’ve been hurt, the times I’ve triumphed. I owe a lot to Linkin Park because I never would have gotten out of that house if I didn’t ever learn I could.