Hearts Still Beating

The other day I had the immense pleasure of seeing The Mountain Goats play the Vic Theatre. I adore John Darnielle. Each of his songs is a carefully crafted story full of beautiful and tragic and doomed characters and he’s so very passionate about each and every one of them.  I connect with many of his songs on a very personal level, but none as much as the song above. The song isn’t on any album and has never been recorded to my knowledge. I had no real hope of getting to see it performed live but in an unabashed fangirl moment, I tweeted a plea to Darnielle himself a few days before the show. And I swear, he must have seen it. (At least that’s the story I’m stickin’ with.)

it’s good to be young but let’s not kid ourselves
it’s better to pass on through those years and come out the other side
with our hearts still beating
having stared down demons
come back breathing

I stood in that sold-out theatre gripping the railing in front of me, tears streaming down my face. Heart still beating. Surrounded by so many other hearts still beating, a room full of survivors.

you deserved better than you got
someone’s got to say it sometime because it’s true
people should have told you you were awesome
instead of taking advantage of you
I hope you love you life like I love mine
I hope the painful memories only flex their power over you a little of the time
we held on to hope of better days coming
and when we did we were right
i hope the people who did you wrong
have trouble sleeping at night

With that last line a collective howl of vindication rang out and it felt comforting to be amongst fellow misfits. It felt triumphant. In that room at that very moment, there were likely others just like me, transplants who escaped the cruelty of our homes and never looked back, maybe others from Appalachia, some from small Midwestern towns or places buried in the deep South. We were called freak, dyke, faggot, queer. We were spit on, shoved, shunned, some of us beaten. We grew up with scars that, though now healed over, still ache from time to time.

It was nearly 20 years ago but the memories remain fresh. There is still anger that resides deep inside for what was done to me, to us, though it doesn’t burn as bright as it once did. But over the years I have taken that anger and channeled it to become someone strong and determined, someone who fights for social justice, someone whose very being is a protest of the status quo. In a word, I am awesome. I hope all my fellow freaks know just how awesome they are too.