No matter how you shake my core

“I’m beyond the arc of time”

“Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it”

“Victory is in my veins”

“I will not negotiate”

“I will transform”

2010 was the year that Katy Perry exploded across my horizon. I was on a bus at summer camp, wearing a yellow shirt with the program’s new emblazoned on the back, miserable in the depressive heat, and California Gurls came on the radio.

I remember my dad accidentally buying her album Teenage Dream at Starbucks (it was also the year of cake pops for me). Both my sister and I could tell he was getting into it – after all, he now breaks out in passionate dance whenever Taylor Swift comes on – but back then my sister was seven and I wasn’t much older and, well, the lyrics seemed a little wrong for a pair of kids to be enjoying.

That didn’t really matter for me. What my dad didn’t realize was that unlike the ’60s, this was a time when children, as my sister and I were, could get anything we wanted. There was the internet. There was school. There was the public library, the place I resorted to when I was banned from reading the fifth Harry Potter book.

(I have always wondered about the first day that I would prevent someone from reading a book…)

There was so much that was open to us, and so little time to gobble it up. I spent my breakfasts with my nose in a book.

Since then, not much has changed. The internet has only grown. I’ve discovered new bookstores lurking around my neighborhood. My middle school and high school have opened up entire worlds of knowledge for me to explore.

I still read at the breakfast table, but the fantasy novels and poetry have become fewer, while school’s far-reaching grasp has taken over this most personal time of mine. Macbeth whimpers next to my orange juice. The Scarlet Letter might just be burned into the bottom of my backpack.

Wait wait wait wait. I’m not trying to say that I don’t enjoy what my English class offers to me. I value the chance I have, one that many people don’t get, to widen my horizons and delve into a book I might not have chosen for myself. I only wish that short stories, flash fiction, and poetry were not so few and far between as the traditional prose I analyze with my classmates.

(Can’t we all agree that Carl Hiaasen is far more friendly at 6 a.m.?)

So I now cling to music.

As a junior, I still take the bus (and probably still will as a senior). I can’t participate in the struggle of searching for a parking spot, or in the conversations about the most hectic streets of Boston. I don’t even have my license.

The bus is a quiet place. There are so many kids finishing homework, studying, reciting speeches and presentations in their heads…I can see it happening. That’s been me, too.

It isn’t anymore.

Someone in my English class described her philosophy of life a few months ago. She named music as a central aspect of this long (short?) journey we’re all going through, that can bring the most happiness. I barely heard a word of what anyone else said after she spoke.

Music helps me. It’s why I have given myself the time on the bus to listen and let myself feel better.

I feel Katy Perry in my ears and think back to that summer seven years ago as a sweaty camper, when college was far away, friends were honest, and play was play.

I am empowered.