Conversations with a Stewardess (How Suicidal Tendencies Saved My Life)

It was 25 years ago at this time I was on my way home from college after only a semester. Things were not going very well for me. I was living off of one meal a day, very little sleep, having serious issues with a class that was the stepping stone to my major, and dealing with a decision that was very upsetting to my family. My state of mind and my state of health were both in question. The decision to leave school and go back home was, suffice it to say, not popular with my family. I had many of arguments both behind and ahead of me. I knew that I was not going to be well received when I landed in my hometown. But I also knew that I had to do this for myself.  And, unfortunately, I also knew that I was going have to face the music when I did get home. The short three hour flight home was going to last an eternity.

After getting settled in my seat and ready to go on, I put on my Walkman and put headphones in to try and get myself to relax. I needed something to make the time go by and get my mind off of what was to come. When the plane was about ready to take off the stewardess did her normal announcement to stow away all electronic devices. I was asked by one of them to turn off my music. I did as I was asked and put my folded up headphones and Walkman in my lap for the take off. I must have looked pretty bad, as she asked, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, just dealing with some stuff."
"Oh, sorry to hear that. What are you listening to?" she said trying to make polite conversation. 
"Suicidal Tendencies", I replied
"That type of music I don't understand. Talking about death and things..."
"Actually, their songs are very positive. They don't talk about death. They actually talk about life and living it to the fullest."
"Really? Then why the name Suicidal Tendencies?"
"I am not sure how they got their name. I just know what their songs actually say. And this CD actually saved my life."
"Really, how is that? Actually, I have to get us ready for take off. But you need to tell me more. Do you mind if I come back and we can talk while we are in the air?" She said politely. 
I am not sure if she just saw the desperation on my face and wanted to help, or was genuinely interested. But it really didn't matter. I needed to talk. So I said, "Sure. that would be fine."
The plane ascended and we were on our way. The stewardess went about her routines, making sure to stop by every once and awhile. We would discuss song lyrics a song at at time, as I had the CD with the lyrics in the linear notes with me and could show her what the lyrics meant. We discussed Trip at the Brain, How will I Laugh Tomorrow, The Miracle, If I don't Wake Up. Suicyco Mania,  and The Feeling's Back. We went through the lyrics and I talked about what they meant to me. Not necessarily what Mike Muir may have meant for himself. Music, as all art, has personal meaning that may be different for every person that experiences it. Even though it has been well over 20 years since we had the conversation, I still remember most of what we talked about, how nice she was to me, and how I changed her idea on what heavy music was about. I think we both benefited from the conversation. I know I did. It had been a long time since I was able to talk openly about how I was feeling, how overwhelmed I was, and how I almost ended it out of desperation. I can't remember the conversation, word for word, but I would still like to share what these songs meant to me then and still do now:
Trip at the Brain is about finding your own way to get past all of the bullshit in life. When everything around you has you so overwhelmed that you don't think you can take it anymore, you sometimes have to look inward to escape. For me, this meant a lot. I had some friends at college, but no close friends and most of the people I knew in college were doing drugs or drinking non-stop. I never did drugs and was not drinking while at college, so I did not hang around with most of them all that much. I was working a lot more than most students, as I did not have family money to rely on,  I was having issues being away from my girlfriend and my family, and I felt like my world was crashing around me. I really did not fit in where I was at and had no one that I could really talk to. So I had to look inward to find the strength to deal with everything that was going wrong in my life. Music helped me get through most days. I would just put it on and drift off to another place, away from the troubles that seemed to take over my life.

How Will I Laugh Tomorrow was the single off the album and the song that I can say initially saved my life. When I would get extremely stressed out, I would put on the CD and put this song on repeat. The desperation and the angst that this song portrayed me and my situation, as I am sure it did with so many others. It is a cry for others to listen, to see what you are going through, and to have them not notice or not care is devastating. In the time that I grew up in, no one talked about how they felt. We were always told to "deal with it and move on." If you were depressed you were weak. How Will I Laugh expressed the depression and the anger I felt at no one noticing how I was hurting better than I ever could. I just wanted someone to see how I felt, to say they would help me. But no one ever did until much later in life. This song helped me get my emotions out in a healthy way and, by doing so, kept me from going too far when I felt like it was not worth fighting anymore.

The Miracle is a song that inspired me because it is about not waiting for something to happen. It is about self-empowerment and creating the best life that you can. Never waiting for someone else to do that for you. There is no real miracles in life, just what you make of your life itself. This is not an easy lesson for someone to learn. We all hope for better days, but the truth is we can make our own better days by doing what we want to do, and finding those things that make us happy in life. We just have to accept that we, as people, are the true miracle of life.

Suicyco Mania is a song that was not on the original cassette (yes I am old) I had when I first got the album. It is a mostly instrumental song and the lyrics are not on the linear notes. But it does have a great message of not accepting where you are at and striving to be the best you can be. And it ends with lyrics that I know will always stand out to me and Mike Muir has said many times in interviews throughout his life, "If you are not now, you never ever were." In philosophical terms it means that you are the person you are now, not who you were in the past. If you truly were someone, then you will always be that person. In music terms: If you were a punk, you are still a punk. If you are not a punk now, you never were one to begin with. These words have stuck with me as I tried changing who I was many times as I was growing up to fit in with others. And it never made me happy or accepted. I was not who I should have been. I was not myself. I was who I thought others would like. Kids go through this on a daily basis and it drives some to do terrible things to themselves. This is why, now that I have children of my own, that I will never let them try and be who they are not. We talk all the time about being themselves, being individuals and loving who they are.

If I Don't Wake Up was a powerful song to me during the few months leading up to leaving college. It is about questioning why someone should even bother with life. Why should I keep going on when everything just seems to be crashing around me? Why do I bother when no one understands? The same questions that too many ask themselves on a daily basis. If I Don't Wake up turns about 2/3 of the way through the song to say you have to wake up, you have to keep living, you can not give up! It turns from depression and questioning your own existence to self hope. By the end of the song you are cheering for yourself and wanting to keep fighting knowing that you are important.

The Feelings Back is the best way to end an album full of inspiration and self empowerment. It is about finding that thing that gets you going, that gives you inspiration and saying, "I am back from the land of the dead, and you will not stop me from doing what I want to do!" I made my own hell, and now that I am back from it, I will make my own way and be the person I want to be. No one is going to stop me from doing that. It is such an inspiring song that I listen to even today when I need a boost. "I am going to shout, I am going to scream, That's right. Nothing is going to stop me now...that the feelings back!"

By the end of our conversation, the stewardess asked if she could actually listen to the CD. I obliged, and she took a listen to "How Will I Laugh Tomorrow". She handed back the Walkman, and said, "I still don't understand the music, it is just too loud. But I have a new respect for their lyrics at least. Thank you for talking with me."
"Sure, no problem.", I replied knowing that the conversation was more about giving me an opportunity to talk. I felt so much better, and the flight was almost over and it did not end up seeming like an eternity. I still knew I had to face the music when I landed, and that was one of the hardest things I have had to do. But I also was able, for the first time in a long time, be able to talk to someone about how I felt. Even if it was vaguely shielded in a conversation about something I truly
To that stewardess that saw a scared young man and took the time to talk to him, listen to his passion for music, and hear about what it meant to him, "Thank you." You helped me through a very rough time in my life and gave me a few minutes of joy during a time when I thought there might never be any again. Your simple act of compassion meant the world to me at that moment. And it is something that I will never forget.
In life we have to hold onto the things that keep us going. For me music has been that one constant. That one thing that I know I can escape into when I need it. As I was growing up it was always my refuge, and at times my savior. For others refuge may be books, friends, movies, comics. It isn't a matter of what it is, but what it does for you. When depression takes over, we tend to move away from the things we love. Yet those things are what we need to keep us going. If you are hurting, please do not give up those things that made you happy. This actually was the original idea behind Don't Let the Music Stop. To keep listening even when you feel as if you don't enjoy it anymore, as that music might be what ends up saving you. As Mitch Lucker said, "Keep listening to music. It gets you through everything, I promise."