You know that really aggressive kind of nostalgia? The type that causes an actual physical ache, like invisible strings constricting around you, tugging you back towards that time?
Facebook spit out one of those memories for me this morning.
I’ve always been a fan of pop music, even back when I’d get trampled on the insane stairs in my high school (the school was legit 150 years old, and the stairwells were far too narrow for the amount of traffic, so we had an up-only stairwell and a down-only stairwell) than admit to anyone that I lip-synced to Britney in the mirror every morning while I obsessively straightened my hair. (Twenty years later, this is still a big part of my morning routine. There’s no better getting ready music than the Blackout album!)
By 2014, I no longer apologized for my love of pop. On the days I forgot to turn off my ringer when I got to work, every call I got blared, “It’s Britney, bitch” through the entire office while I fumbled to mute. So I bragged to everyone that would listen (and probably a bunch of people who wouldn’t) that I was going to the Miley Cyrus concert. I was obsessed with the Bangerz album; it was the soundtrack to my daily strut to work. I swear my excitement was so contagious that even people who couldn’t give a shit about Miley were super excited for me. One of the VPs at work even asked me to report back on whether she actually had muppets at the concert (spoiler alert: she did!).
I left work that night buzzing with energy. I rode the subway downtown and perched at a restaurant bar with a magazine while I waited for my friend Ashley to arrive. She was one of the biggest Miley fans I knew, and I was stoked to share the experience with someone who was just as excited as I was.
We had an amazing night, filled with dancing, singing, and silliness. And a lot of selfies with our tongues out. We were on our feet the entire time, but I didn’t even feel tired. (I would feel it the next day, though, when I could barely walk for having spent so many hours dancing.) The concert was kooky and fun, filled with bright colours, amazing dancers, and a shit-ton of energy. She even rode a flying hot dog at one point! (Fun as everything was, I’ll admit here that yes, the cultural appropriation of this era of Miley was pretty gross in hindsight.)
Ashley and I went out to a bar afterwards. As often happens with Ashley (she’s one of the nicest people I know), we immediately made friends with a woman who turned out to be some sort of DJ or promoter (the details are fuzzy). She bought us Patron all night, and I flirted with some guy across the bar. For the first time in what felt like years, I was really feeling myself. And it wasn’t just the alcohol; Miley’s swagger was contagious. I felt like I could take on the world, that I was invincible.
We partied until the wee hours. I got home around 4, even though I had to go to work the next day. I slept for a few hours and then somehow dragged my ass into the office. I think the only thing that kept me going was my excitement to tell everyone about how great our night had been.
That day, I thought about how far I’d come. I’d spent the previous few years intermittently depressed, always down on myself. I’d ended my most meaningful relationship (even though I knew it was the right thing to do–we wanted different things–it broke my heart to do it). I’d been in a short-lived, truly terrible rebound relationship that had torpedoed my self esteem. I’d had a bully of a boss who’d verbally abused me and made me question whether I was even a half-decent writer. I’d had a coworker who’d (I shit you not) kept track of everything I would eat in a day and send it to me to “try to help” me lose weight.
After all that, I was so proud of myself for finally building myself back up. It had felt like clawing myself out of a deep, dark hole, my nails torn and my hands bloody from the effort. But I’d made it.
I thought back to a conversation I’d had with my best friend Fiona a few days earlier. We’d gone out for breakfast and midway through our meal, she told me, “It’s like I have the old Julie back again.”
I’d beamed at her. I knew exactly what she meant. I felt amazing. I was so grateful and so very proud of myself.
…Too bad it was so short-lived.
A little over a week later, my world came crashing down around me during what I call The Incident™. That pit I’d stubbornly clawed my way out of? After my short time in the daylight, I was kicked back down into it… where I started to wonder if I belonged.
I have mixed feelings now about that Miley concert. I’m so grateful that I had that night of pure joy. But, on the other hand, sometimes it’s painful to think back on that last night of The Old Me, the pre-Incident me that I know I’ll never get back.
But I still remember her fondly whenever I hear We Can’t Stop. That bitch was a blast.