Finding My Way - Chicken Soup for the Soul
This is a story I had published in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School. It's an absolutely true story about my friend Scottie Somers and my experience as a "punk rocker" in high school.
Finding My Way
He who sings scares away his woes.
Don't drink, don't smoke -- what do you do?
From the outside, I was a goody two-shoes in high school. I never had a sip of alcohol, never tried cigarettes, and the only parties I went to were parent-supervised. I didn't even date boys.
Instead, I spent my four years with men twice my age, ruining my hearing.
I was a concert junkie.
I'm a loner Dottie, a rebel.
"So are you straight edge or what?" they would ask. My fellow classmates assigned labels to me at will, puzzled by my nonconformity and non-partying. Sometimes the popular kids perused my concert pictures, but their weekend activities consisted of drinking beer and flirting with cute quarterbacks. While they would see large pop acts like *NSYNC once a year, I addictively attended concerts bi-monthly. My cynicism told me they thought I was weird, but I'll never know the truth.
Pretending not to care what they thought was a satisfactory defense mechanism. All I wanted to do was listen to music. Concert venues were the only place I felt free. No parents, no restrictions, just me and the music ringing in my ears.
When the first guitar chords rang out, the adrenaline was so addictive I could fly. Crammed against one hundred strangers, I'd let the music take me away for hours. For the first time in my life, I found I belonged somewhere. My heart was at home in a run-down, badly lit room with a makeshift stage and an unknown band.
Many of my concert experiences were extraordinary: backstage at the Warped Tour, onstage at the Grove of Anaheim, meeting a member of Green Day (my favorite band), but those were merely moments. The one experience that continues to stand out, inspire me, and shape my world is more than an event worth flaunting. His name is Scottie Somers.
You're the meaning in my life, you're the inspiration.
Towering over my 5'2" skinniness, Scottie was a cool bassist in the band Lefty. I was an awkward, rock-loving fifteen-year-old. We met after a concert he had just played with another band I loved. Scottie and his bandmates were the only musicians I'd met who treated fans like friends. They talked to me and my best friend for hours, and their music was great, too. I was hooked.
I stumbled upon Scottie's e-mail address a few months after the concert, which commenced my Scottie Support System. Anytime I had a bad day, his encouraging words always lifted me up. "Hope you're doing great, you're beautiful." "Hope to see you soon, My Melissa Baby." I cherished every e-mail -- I still have each one printed out, kept safe inside a journal.
When 9/11 happened, Scottie reminded me to stay safe. When I was applying for college, Scottie hoped I would get into my first choice. Scottie was there through my change in best friends and the inevitably hard fallout.
Nothing cheered me up more than watching his band onstage, and as soon as he saw me at every show, he enveloped me in the biggest hug possible. But he spread his warmth to more than just me. I watched Scottie talk to his fans, and his selflessness restored my faith in people. Scottie accepted others for who they were, and he had no desire to make me something I wasn't. He was the first genuine person I felt that I'd ever met. I now had something to strive towards.
...Until you shared your secret with me.
Scottie never told me he had Cystic Fibrosis. He was always in the hospital, but I never knew why. One day I deduced the truth, and suddenly all the hospital trips made sense. As a concerned seventeen-year-old wanting to learn more, I wrote my report for health class on Cystic Fibrosis.
What I read concerned me: Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease with no cure, affecting the lungs and digestive system. Most don't live past age thirty. I secretly worried about Scottie from then on, but never told him I knew. "I had my gall bladder taken out," he would write, and I prayed he was okay. When I saw him, I'd hug tighter, smile wider, and appreciate him more. It was my first real life lesson: the people you love aren't going to be around forever, so cherish them.
Eventually, Scottie's band broke up and I didn't get to see him anymore. Our friendship was strictly through e-mail, probably because of the formidable age gap between us (even more pronounced when I was underage). I graduated high school and didn't get into my first choice college after all, but I ended up at one that suited me better. I was Scottie-less for years. He stopped writing me uplifting e-mails and I had no other way of contacting him. All I hoped was that I would see him one more time.
Better thank your lucky stars.
Miraculously, years later, I found Scottie thanks to the wonders of the Internet. Reunited at last, we were like pen pals who had lived on opposite sides of the world. And I have seen him more than once since then. Today, my tiresome high school days are long over and he no longer plays in a band. Much has changed for both of us. At twenty-four, I am helping adults with developmental disabilities, and he, at forty-one (a CF miracle), founded Living the Dream and is making dreams come true for children with terminal illnesses. Turns out our passions, although new, are still the same.
Even though I didn't do everything the popular kids did, I am further ahead in finding my place. I hardly go to concerts anymore, but Scottie is still family to me. My experiences in those days shaped how I see the world today. I have no regrets. While taking a different path, I learned that it's okay to stray and find your own way. After all, the road less traveled has better music.
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