Growing up, music was always my safe haven. Putting on my earphones, getting completely lost in a singer’s lyrics often meant safety to me because this often seemed to be the best way for me to escape many of the problems that followed me as a young, poor, Black, queer kid from San Bernardino, CA. After several years of dealing with the dysfunction in my home life and being bullied by both peers and family members, I can recall thinking about suicide on a daily basis.
But this all changed with one artist and one album that I truly believe is the reason that I am here today.
I have always said that Pink’s second album; “Mizundastood” saved my life.
Each track, each lyric spoke to me on a spiritual level, one that no other artist or album has even been able to accomplish in my life.
The opening song on the album outlined how I felt about the world and how I felt the world viewed me. Contending with issues related to both my sexuality and the fragile relationships I had with both my mother and father at the time, “Mizundastood” helped me to understand that it was okay to be different in a time where sexuality was not something being openly discussed. This carried over into songs like, “Don’t Let Me Get Me” because hearing her talk about being compared to other artist helped me rationalize the pain I had thinking about how I often compared myself to other men both in my family and in my high school, with specifics to the pressures I face to present as a hyper masculine straight Black man. While songs like “Get the Party Started” and “Respect” allowed me moments to sing along with little to no thought, songs like “Just Like a Pill”, “Family Portrait” and “Numb” helped me validate the elements of toxicity I had in the relationship with my father.
The album strikes and even deeper chord for me knowing that Pink sings lyrics like, “I learned my lessons young / I turned myself around / I’ve got a guardian angel tattooed on my shoulder / she watches over me” in the song, “Dear Diary”. A year prior to the release of this album, I lost my best friend to heart failure. She was often more to me than just a best friend, but often the big sister I never had growing up. Knowing that she was the only person in my life at the time that knew I was queer made the song even more personal because I saw this song as a reflection of our friendship, the secrets she kept for me and most, the loss of safety in a time when I needed it most.
While it is easy to say that most of this album speaks to a great deal of the sadness I faced as a young queer man, this album did have songs that helped me to comprehend some of the pain I felt and where that pain came from. The song “My Vietnam” helped me understand what it meant to be at war with oneself, specifically the war I was fighting to stay alive. This song helped me to understand that my life as a queer Black man would always be that, a war, but by simply existing I was resisting. Though songs like “Misery” helped me to make sense of the silly crushes I had on boys in high school who I knew would never want me back, the song “Eventually” helped me to understand the importance of waiting on karma to get back at those who hurt me and the importance of not getting locked in feelings of spite and retribution.
The song from this album that truly spoke to me specifically was “18 Wheeler”. With lyrics like, “You can run me over with your 18-wheeler but / you can’t keep me down”, reminded me of the importance of being resilient in this life when people go out of their way to hurt you. This song became my anthem for so many reasons, specifically thinking about times I would talk to friends and family members about going to college or wanting a good job and being told that I was not smart enough to attain either one. This song reminds me to this day that others can only take me down if I give them the power to do so and how much power you have when you learn to stand in your truth.
In all, this album was a subtle reminder that being different is and will always be okay. This album from beginning to end paints a story of someone who recognizes their difference and the power you have when you learn to embrace it. Though the album is over 16 years old, this album helped me make sense of my 16 year old self.
It has always been said that art often imitates life and I truly believe that this work of art from Pink is what saved mine.
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