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How A Small Smile Saves A Life
This year marks the two year anniversary of something very important to me; the day that could have been when my picture showed up in the obituaries section of my town's local newspaper. I say that like it's no big deal, yet it is something that haunts me every day. I hold it above my head the way a cruel man holds a bone away from a poor puppy dog that stares up at him with wide, excited eyes. He refuses to give it to him, and eventually, the pup realizes that he's just being teased again.
I'm getting ahead of myself, though. It's something I do often. I'm the kind of person that's quick to react to nearly everything and a lot of the time, it gets me in trouble. Nothing compares to the time I almost died because of my silly, too-fast thinking technique, but just as quickly as I could have been gone, I was saved by a kind young man named Jon Walker. This is where my story begins.
You might know Jon as the ex-bassist of the popular rock band Panic At The Disco, or you might not know him at all. I know him as my savior.
Let's back up to the year 2008. In March, my favorite band, who just happened to be Panic At The Disco, released their sophomore album, Pretty. Odd. Jon was the newest member of the band, but his influence on the Sgt. Peppery-esque album was very evident. It quickly became my favorite album of all time, especially its seventh track, Northern Downpour, that questions if 'life is but a dream,' begs the moon to 'forget to fall down,' and compares the world to a 'broken bone.'
By the end of April, I had seen my favorite band play live in the pouring rain at an outside venue in Atlanta, Georgia. Watching the lyrics of my favorite song by my favorite band light up on a screen, with hundreds of kids singing at the top of their lungs and more importantly, the band members that stood like caged animals with angelic voices in front of me, will always remain etched in my brain until the day I die. Possibly after that, even.
I often got criticized for liking the music I did, including Panic. One of the most unsettling things was the way I was labeled in as an 'emo kid,' whatever that means. People didn't seem to understand that Panic At The Disco and all of its members, especially Jon Walker, were only helping the depression I was facing, caused by my home's destruction by Hurricane Katrina a few years before, multiple family issues, and low self-esteem.
Every day I would come home from another dreadful day of school and listen to Pretty. Odd. on my iPod until I fell asleep. Metaphorically, this album served as my comfort blanket.
Despite the beautiful sounds of Brendon Urie, Ryan Ross, Spencer Smith, and of course, Jon Walker's music, my depression worsened and people began to question the multiple cuts they noticed were appearing on my wrists. Cutting soon wasn't enough for me. I picked up a worse habit; burns. They decorated my wrists like ornaments on a Christmas tree, yet no one tried to stop me. Once, my best friend actually helped me burn myself on my right wrist, where a smooth scar still lays, harsh against my otherwise pale skin, even two years later.
Assured that no one would miss me, I began to plan out ways to end my life. Just as I had finally picked the perfect way, I learned that I would actually be meeting Panic At The Disco on November 4th, 2008. My heart raced with all kinds of concerns and, naturally, excitement. Then, I realized something that somehow managed to sound logical to my sick, demented mind.
I intended for November 4th not only to be the best day of my life, but the day my life finished too. I wanted to go out with a bang and possibly with a smile on my face, just like anyone else in my condition would have.
The day came faster than I had expected. I got ready for the show with a shaky grin that refused to leave from my face, my plans replaying over and over in the back of my mind. Soon, I was in the car on the way to the final great event I expected to attend of all of my life.
There was a total of twenty-five people who also had the special chance to meet Panic that night. We stood in line for hours, chatting absently to one another about how excited we were. I didn't speak much; I was consumed by my thoughts, plus the burns that were hidden by my oversized black jacket were stinging so much I could have cried.
All of the pain disappeared when me and the other twenty four lucky people were escorted into a large room with white brick walls. We had a long talk with the band's security guard, Zack, about all the rules of what they called the 'meet and greet.'
Then, in order, Spencer, Jon, Brendon, and Ryan walked in, wide smiles plastered on their faces. They waved hello and I admit, I couldn't keep my eyes off of Jon. His smile was as bright as the sun.
Standing in that line, I was the happiest I have ever been. My hands were shaking with anticipation as I turned to whisper breathlessly to my mom. After she laughed gently at whatever I had said, I slid back around, only to see Jon Walker facing me with the grandest smile I have ever seen. Something in my stomach fluttered. I felt different than I ever have before, like I supposed to surpass his smile with my own. And I could because someone who had recently been deemed my hero had just directed a smirk at me, of all people.
Though we didn't say much more to each besides an awkward greeting or two, that emotion remained in my stomach. Just as I was waving goodbye to Jon a little bit later, I remembered what I was planning to do once this night ended. The magical sensation in my belly suddenly disappeared. It was replaced with regret and maybe even some confusion. I was torn between what I felt obliged to do and the brand new feeling I had just experienced.
"Is it worth living for?" something devilish in my mind asked me.
I shut my eyes. Imagining the broad grin on Jon Walker's beaming face, I made the most important decision of my life.
"Yes," I answered to myself, with a stern nod. "It is worth it."
Now, nearing two years later, I look back on that day with a positive outlook. Of course it isn't fun to admit that you were once a pitiful, not to mention suicidal, teenager, but it's clear to anyone how much progress I've made since then. It changed and literally saved my life. Obviously, things didn't instantly go from awful to great, but these days, I'm happy and it barely takes any effort to get me to smile. I don't feel the need to injure myself on purpose any longer. In fact, I try to help anyone who feels like they do.
Recently, I got to tell Jon Walker, who is now in a band called The Young Veins, about how much he has helped me put my life back on track. In fact, I have gotten to meet and talk with him three times so far this year.
Not only did he help me that one day in November when I was more miserable than a lot of people think is physically possible, he continues to inspire me every day. Whether it's just a John Lennon quote being posted on his Twitter account, a beautiful song he plays called Everyone But You on his band's new album, or a bold declaration of, "love is never a mistake," at a recent concert in Greenville, SC, Jon is always making me think of different ways I can become a better person.
I can't explain what changed me so instantly when he gave me that smile, but I do know that it was the best thing to ever happen to me. It showed me I was worth people's time and that life can be beautiful, as long as you give it your all. I just never thought I'd learn so much from a rock star, like Jon Walker.