My Emo Phase Actually Helped—A Lot

First, a small disclaimer: I was never full-on "emo." My mom wouldn't let me.

Sometimes I wonder, had my mom not controlled aspects of how I looked and dressed, how far would eighth-grade me have gone to be emo?

As a "wanna-be" emo, I tried the best I could to fit the label. I wore ripped jeans, combat boots, and a flannel shirt over a pop-punk band t-shirt. My mom would roll her eyes or suggest I change, but I never did. She'd sigh before dropping me off at the mall with my friends, where we would go to Hot Topic to buy more band merch.

Hot Topic, AKA, my favorite store

I should first explain why I wanted to be emo. It all started with the music- the defining feature of emo culture. In middle school, I always felt like an outsider. I'd been called weird before and that label always stuck with me, so I embraced it. I never wanted to listen to the mainstream music everyone else listened to. Had pop-punk music not been temporarily popularized by the emergence of "5 Seconds of Summer," I may have never come to know my favorite band of the time - All Time Low.

All Time Low became my gateway to pop-punk music. I listened first to them, then Green Day, followed by Blink 182, Fall Out Boy, Mayday Parade, Panic! At the Disco and more. At this time in my life, I refused to listen to anything which didn't fit the genre. Lyrics were always my favorite part of music, and these ones stuck out to me like no other.

Witty, emotionally-stinging lyrics are some defining features of pop-punk music. As a strung-out middle schooler who deemed herself a weirdo and took everything too seriously, I found these words comforting. Certain lyrics stuck out to me in a way that made me feel like they were written just for me. Alex Gaskarth knew me better than anyone else, I decided.

All Time Low was my favorite band in middle school.

Being "emo" to me was about embracing differences and being bold enough to stand out, which is why I tried so hard to fit this ideal style. Had Catholic school allowed me to dye my hair, I probably would have. Instead, I was limited to kool-aid dip-dye during the Summer of 2014.

But alas, my emo phase really was just a phase. I matured in high school, came out of my shell a bit and became more outgoing. I realized being myself didn't mean having to wear band shirts and combat boots everywhere- I simply had to be myself.

My continued influx of Hot Topic rewards member emails remains as evidence of my emo phase. I don't spit on pop music anymore. In fact, I'll listen to just about anything and everything, including rap, thus breaking the unspoken "Emo Code of Conduct."

However, I still listen to the music, in small doses, and not as often as usual. But every so often a song comes on, and I'm hit with a wave of nostalgia. One song in particular, "Missing You" by All Time Low, still resonates with me. This song was the reason why, for the longest time, I called this band my favorite. Even though I've outgrown them a bit, I sometimes wonder, if I ever met them, would I still cry, or faint, as I fourteen-year-old me imagined I would?

I can remember so clearly, in eighth grade, listening to "Missing You" while sitting on my bedroom floor. I was facing drama with friends and school-related stress. Again, I do believe I exaggerated everything in my head—but what middle-schooler doesn't? I found comfort in these words, about staying strong and sticking out tough times.

All Time Low - Missing You (Official Music Video)

The pop-punk genre is one of the few which explicitly addresses issues of mental health, especially in adolescents. These bands sing about the struggles of growing up and dealing with pressure in life. Although I've outgrown my "emo" phase, I know this music was there for me when I needed it most, and if I were ever to meet Alex Gaskarth or Billie Joe Armstrong in person, I'd thank either of them, on behalf of former, wanna-be emo me.

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