(Post title courtesy of the wonderful Maartje De Man, one of the coolest people I’ve ever had the honour of meeting in a concert queue. Check out her professional page, she is a brilliant fashion designer!)
Today is the 25th of October, 2011, and I can’t help but reflect on the significance of this month in my life during the past few years. In October 2008, my life started on a downward spiral that was quick to turn into a nosedive. It took me some months to get it back together, and the most important decision on the road to being happy again was quitting my job at the time. The intention had matured for a few months and became reality in October 2009. It was around the same time that I have been introduced by the music of My Chemical Romance, and while back then, it wasn’t a major factor in my decisions yet, it certainly helped me to keep my spirits high, or as high as they were capable of being kept at the time, and to have the guts and actually go through with what remains one of the best decisions I have ever made in my currently twenty six years of life.
The year that followed was amazing in many ways. For starters, I didn’t have full-time job, full-time education or a part-time combination of the two. Being freelance, I earned enough to live rather comfortably, and my time was my own, free to distribute as I saw fit, for the first time since I had turned seven. I went on a trip that my mother and I had been planning since 2005 – a journey around Australia and New Zealand, with a side of Japan on the way. I did a little bit of writing, for which I had lost the inspiration during the previous year. And I had fallen completely in love with My Chemical Romance.
It was the music that made me want to sing along to it, all the time. And it was the story of the band, a story with a persistent moral that anything is possible if you work hard enough, that made me keep singing despite being utterly incapable of it. I had never learned to sing, and for the past ten years never even tried, having been told to never sing if anyone could hear me, ‘for my own sake’. Now, I kept singing. I sent my objectively horrid recordings to my friend Emma, who never failed to cheer me on. I pestered my musically-gifted husband, who, despite my often overly emotional reactions to criticism, never told me to either shut the hell up or leave him alone. After one such emotional reaction to criticism, I flipped enough to search for a vocal coach, and here came another one of my best decisions ever. I was in luck that day, because my tutor has done more for me than the Phantom of the Opera for Christine Daae (she had some basic training, at least; I was an absolute zero with nothing but sheer bloody-mindedness to keep me going). All in all, I’d say that a lot of that year was spent regaining my sanity and finding my feet, with occasional floundering as I learned to balance life, freelance work and some creative efforts.
Thus passed the end of 2009 and nine-and-a-bit months of 2010, and then came the Danger Days. I flew into the UK for my first two My Chemical Romance concerts ever, in Manchester and Edinburgh. Later, I wrote about them at length, and should you wish to read a rather long and very emotional account of those two days (the shows were back-to-back), you can do so here (Story time!). For those who want a summarised version, the first show was good, the second one was incredible, and there was signing after the second one. I got my DVD of Life on the Murder Scene (the band’s documentary that had influenced me so much) signed by both Way brothers (Gerard’s signature is rather wonky because I pulled the DVD back too early, and he took it back to complete the signature), Ray Toro and Frank Iero; I managed to give Gerard a lucky charm I got in Japan, on which I made a wish to meet him; I got a high-five from Frank, and a high-five and a half from Gerard (I missed the first time, being a panicky mess). Then I ran around some more, and got to briefly talk to Gerard – well, more like shouted at him that I came to the show all the way from Ukraine. This merited another high-five, bringing the total count of the evening to three-and-a-half MCR high-fives. And then I got my yellow goggles, a part of my costume, asked off me, and offered a pack of cigarettes in exchange, along with the suggestion to take up smoking again – the only piece of bad advice I had ever received from Gerard Way (it was a joke, of course, the cigarettes being the only thing he had to offer for the goggles). There isn’t any photographic evidence of the memorable exchange, and no picture of me with anyone from the band, since pictures weren’t allowed. Yet there is an shot of my last high-five of the night, taken by a miraculous accident (and Emma). Gerard is the recognisable blur. The light green blur is my hand that he’s high-fiving.
Before I descend into the same type of rambling that made my linked account of two days ten thousand words long, I will stop with the memories of that night now. All I’ll say was that the next day, I was wandering through Edinburgh, and thinking how bizarre it was to be returning to the everyday boring life, after the amazing events of the past few days, culminating in the meeting. And then I had a painfully obvious epiphany – that it was only up to me whether my life would be boring, or something else.
It is now October 2011, exactly a year since I had stood in the second row in Edinburgh Corn Exchange, queued at the barrier for autographs, high-fived Gerard Way and Frank Iero, shouted Gerard’s name to attract his attention for long enough to exchange a few words and ended up with an almost-empty pack of Marlboro Lights.
I have written a fanfic roughly the size of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It took me only two months, and reawakened both my belief in my ability to write and the pleasure that is writing.
I have written several short stories of original fiction while working on a longer one, and got three of them published/accepted for publishing in four different online publications.
I have remembered that I used to take piano classes, and discovered that I still remember enough to play after some practice.
I have started taking my random bits of lyric-writing more seriously, and wrote music to several of my own lyrics.
I have progressed enough in my vocal classes to include the Phantom of the Opera theme in my practice list, and hit all except the highermost ending notes in it.
I have rented a house in the UK, and by now have done everything depending on me to organise my upcoming move there, the rest depending on my husband and the border authorities.
Why the move to the UK? Well, aside from the fact that I never wanted to spend all of my life in Ukraine, UK happens to contain two of my bandmembers (three now that my husband is there too). Yes, bandmembers. I honestly cannot say at which point the joke of ‘we should form a band’ transformed into jokes beginning ‘when we have a band…’, and then stopped being a joke as we found ourselves writing music and playing together.
Has it really only been a year? All in all, I’d say that in my quest to prevent my life from being routine and boring, I’ve done pretty well.
The pack of Marlboro Lights is kept in a box, in my bookshelf. Every now and again, I take it out and convince myself that the night of October 25, 2010, and every day that followed it, had really happened. But I know exactly what I would do, were I to wake up one day and find the date being 26.10.2010, and the past year a dream. I would treat it just like any other dream of mine. Live it.
P.S. The title of the post mentioned a supposed exchange of cigarettes and gloves, yet my story only mentions goggles. I did indeed wear a pair of green fingerless gloves that night, and I still have them. So, in a way, I did bring my gloves. If you find this explanation too flimsy, write it off to artistic license. If you really want a pair of gloves to be featured in this piece, here’s a picture featuring our trophies from that night. These gloves are Emma’s, though, and signed by the band. Good luck wrestling those away from her.