This Is A Story...
a story of one girl, one album, one musician, and a life forever changed.
It was August 23rd 2005. The day that I had been waiting for all summer had finally come. It was the release day for ‘Everything In Transit’, the debut album from Andrew McMahon’s new band Jack’s Mannequin. I jumped in my Mom's car, arrived at Best Buy just as the store was opening, and purchased my copy of the album. Upon returning to the car I popped the CD in, hit play, and was immediately captivated. I didn’t know it then, but this album would change my life forever.
Music had always played a huge role in my life, and I had loved Andrew’s first band Something Corporate, but I had never felt anything like what I felt when I listened to ‘Everything In Transit’. I listened to the songs and I was immediately overcome with emotions. Emotions that I had felt before and ones I hadn’t. I was touched by every song and felt deeply connected to each, whether I could relate to what was being said or not. The words hit me in ways I can’t explain and I was hearing music in a way I never had before. These songs weren’t just words matched with melodies. They were stories, happy and sad.
A little less than one year after EIT had been released I found myself in the middle of the fight for my life. I had suffered from Anorexia on and off since I was 15 (2003) but in the winter of 2006 it completely took over my life. I had never been as sick as I was and by July I was wasting away in a hospital bed being fed by a feeding tube. I was full of emotions, but at the same time I couldn’t feel. I was numb to everything around me, except music. Music was all I had. Music was the only thing that could momentarily bring me out of the hell that I was living in. Music was my God, my playlists my religion, and ‘Everything In Transit’ my Bible.
Time went on and I got sicker, and Andrew continued to release new music. And with every record I felt more and more connected to the songs, and so many became my anthems. I could feel myself in ‘Rescued’, ‘Caves, ‘Swim’, and more.
As my mental health continued to get worse I became what the doctors refer to as ‘treatment resistant’. Therapy wasn’t working, I wasn’t participating, and so many professionals had given up on me. I wouldn’t listen to anything anyone had to say. But I listened to music. All different music. It is what I lived for. I lived for the connection that I felt in my favorite songs and records. A deeper connection to music that was forged during the very first time I listened to ‘Everything In Transit’ that summer morning in 2005. Song lyrics became my voice. I lived my life in them. I saw the world in them. And soon, those song lyrics started to bring my mind back to health. I started doing things I loved again, things that I had abandoned because all I lived for was my eating disorder, things like my photography.
While my mind was healing my physical health quickly declined due to the years of starvation my body had endured. I wound up to a point that, for close to five years, I was reliant on medications, surgical feeding tubes, home IV nutrition/hydration, major surgeries, and hospital stays that lasted months at a time, just to stay alive. It was painful, both physically and mentally, and a lot of times I wanted to give up, but I did not. Any time I felt that way I listened to music and got my strength and inspiration to live from the songs and artists I had come to love.
Somewhere along my journey, around 2012, I was connected with Andrew and came to know the man behind the music. Because of this I gained a huge supporter and ally in my fight. He has been an endless source of inspiration, and his belief in my talent as an artist has been integral in growing my confidence. It has been an honor to shoot countless shows of his over the past 9 years, and be given the opportunity to visually document his ever evolving and growing career. More importantly though, is how his music, and his heart, have impacted my life. His songs put into words the feelings that I can't and his friendship and support throughout some of the darkest years of my illness has meant the world to me. I truly wouldn't be here without all of that. Today, while nowhere close to 100% healthy, my life has taken a huge turn, and I actually have a life worth living. A life worth fighting for. I credit the music of Andrew and Stephen Kellogg, both of their support and belief in me, and who they are as individuals, for giving me so much of the strength I needed to get to that point.
Today, August 23, also marks the 16 year anniversary of Andrew being declared cancer free after battling Leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy and a successful stem cell transplant. Just like me, Andrew battled for his life, and in many ways it was the way he fought that inspired me to do the same. He was courageous in his battle, and vulnerable, sharing his fight with his fans through videos, his second record, and the documentary he would later release, “Dear Jack”. It was this that taught me that it was ok to share your struggles and put yourself out there through various creative outlets.
To set aside the fear and shame, and be open and vulnerable. It was Andrew who gave me the permission I was looking for to stop hiding, and to tell my story.
So, Andrew, I have to thank you. Not only for "Everything In Transit", and every other record you've ever released, but for the person that you are. Thank you for being my 'Mixed Tape' through both the darkness, and now through the glimmers of light. Thank you for making me "see colors when I hear your music playing". Thank you for teaching me to 'Swim', if not for myself then for my family, my lovers, my sisters, and brothers, and friends. For letting me see that it is OK to let go, be free, and literally dance with my headphones on. For helping me 'Learn To Dance' figuratively, even when it seems like "there is no tomorrow". For reminding me to "live the life I'm given", even "with the storms outside". And for being my "light in the dark as I search for the resolution".
In just a few short months I'll see you on the road, and I'll take pictures and soak in every lyric as you create magic in some "old punk rock club". Until then, congratulations on celebrating another year cancer free, and for finally getting that gold record. It may have taken 16 years too long, but it's better late than never. Now, it's time to find your way to Mars.
And to all of you out there reading this, it's time to make a toast. To raise our glasses and celebrate Andrew. To celebrate his talent, his courage, and the fact that he is here on this Earth touching the hearts of all of those around him. And all of us. We thank him today, and everyday, for all the lines he cast that led us home.
- ALL LOVE -