1. (n) young ruffian; hoodlum.
I was fifteen when I fell in love with punk music. It was my voice. It could pulse through me like adrenaline through veins; it could settle like cold air into the craters where my heart sometimes dropped. I memorized my favorite lines, rolled them off my tongue and penned them in the margins of my homework assignments. I carried them all over in scraps and thoughts. I paired black-and-white chucks with dresses, cut my bangs crooked, rimmed my eyes with too-thick liner, chewed loud-popping bright lemon gum to ease my social anxiety. I begged my parents to let me see shows in the city on school nights. I decided there weren't any cool kids, just interesting ones.
2. (n) inexperienced youth.
As is to be expected, high school (and then college) magnified the differences between all of my friends. Some girls got boyfriends and stopped hanging out. Some boys made up girlfriends and later came out. Some missed our prom to study for AP exams, and one missed it after a bone-breaking fistfight. Some friends drove too fast while the ones in the passenger seat dangled their thin wrists out the windows and laced the night with trailing cigarette smoke. I sat in the back, rolling down the windows to wild up my hair, breathing in the honeysuckle-heavy air of June. We watched the suburban landscape rush by, knowing it was home to us but hated in all our favorite songs. We scattered in all directions throughout our growing-up, but all of us remained tightly bound through one thing: the music that we loved and the CDs we'd swap in homeroom or through the mail to a dorm address.
3. (adj.) worthless; unimportant.
I'm 24 now, but that's only just old enough to realize that 1) you never really stop growing and 2) nobody really grows up, anyway. I still worry about who I'm going to be tomorrow and who I want to be five years after that. Sometimes I still have nightmares that I missed the school bus. There are days that I feel unlovable and days where I feel like I love all wrong. Some days I feel like time is turning over faster than I can keep up, while other times I go back to a place and get chilled with the feeling that I hardly even left. Some days I wish that I took more risks, and some days I make chocolate chip pancakes for dinner and cut them into shapes the way my mom used to. I still get scared. And on those days, I remember why I still love punk--it often blends the monsters we knew in childhood with the monsters that lurk in our heads (and aren't they all the same, anyway?). I go back to my favorite records over and over again, remembering the battles I've overcome since I first heard those songs and feeling connected to everyone who can hum the same hooks.
4. (n) A substance, usually at the end of a stick, that smolders before setting off sparks or kindling a fire.
The punk of my youth meant questioning everything, and now it means not caring so much about what the answers might be. My friends and I stayed awake late in high school to post blogs or get in fights or sneak in calls on our cell phones. Now we're teachers and travelers and activists and addicts and brides-to-be. But that's not to say that we're done growing, and challenging, and ripping holes in our metaphorical jeans. Or our real jeans. Sometimes I still get the feeling that I'm on the verge of something bigger than myself. I get a buzzing in my blood and I have to put myself in motion, whether it's with a long late-night run or an aimless drive down empty streets. I have to turn my favorite songs up loud and raise my voice with them until I'm hoarse. I go back to the core of who I am, to the lyrics scribbled in the margins of me, and I hold fast to that in the face of whatever. And those moments are punk as fuck.
1. (n) young ruffian; hoodlum.