To My Sixteen-Year-Old Self

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The Smashing Pumpkins perform in Tinley Park, a suburb of Chicago. (Photo by author.)

Dear YesterMe,

I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond to your letters. I found them a few months ago when I was moving. Just as you predicted, I had completely forgotten about them and have no memory of writing them. That said, they meant the world to me. I wanted to respond immediately, but I didn’t know what to say. I’m sorry that everything is so terrible for you right now. Believe me, I remember it all, every bit, and I hate that you are going through that right now. I wish I could help. However, even at sixteen, your particular life experiences have already taught you that, despite all the odds, things do get better. I’m sad to say that, from where you’re writing from, they won’t get better for a while, and they will get worse first. But I promise you: you will turn out okay.

There’s a reason why now felt like a good time to finally get back to you. Where you are, right now, there is one major thing that is keeping you sane and alive: the music of The Smashing Pumpkins. You are aware that their music is helping you — they’re your favorite band, you listen to them all the time, and you reach for their CDs when things get especially tough. But I want to reiterate: they are keeping you alive. You don’t realize that because, unlike me, you do not have the benefit of hindsight. Now, at the ripe old age of Almost Thirty, I can tell you that, mentally, you are in a much worse place than you think you are. And that’s saying a lot because, to be frank, both my own memory and your letters tell me that you’re pretty aware of how bad your mental state is. I’m sorry to say that, in reality, it is even worse than you think. That’s why I’m thankful that you have The Smashing Pumpkins.

What does this have to do with me writing back to you? Well, I saw The Smashing Pumpkins perform live three days ago. I don’t mean the reunion that’s currently going on where you are — Billy Corgan (although he goes by William Patrick Corgan now), Jimmy Chamberlin, and some others — I mean Billy Corgan (that doesn’t mean I call him William Patrick Corgan), Jimmy Chamberlin, James Iha, and some others. D’arcy Wretzky returning, as you very well know, was never going to happen. You’re going to be angry with me for not going to see them at the United Center when they first reunited last year, and for that I apologize. I admit that I wasn’t thinking of you. But when their tour for this year was announced, I did think of you. I thought, “Sixteen-year-old me would love this.” More importantly, you deserve it.

I went with my roommate, who is one of my dearest friends. You will meet her, as well as a lot of other dear friends, in college. The opening bands were AFI (yes, really) and Noel Gallagher’s new band (yes, they did play “Wonderwall”). The crowd was, sadly, not the best. The Smashing Pumpkins, though? They were fantastic.

I wondered, briefly, whether I might burst into tears when The Smashing Pumpkins walked on stage. I think, if you could see them right now, you probably would. Then again, maybe not. I cry more easily than you, I think. That said, they opened with “Today,” and I did not cry. Had they opened with another song that meant more to me personally, I may have. You’ll be happy to know, though, that they put on a great show. Visually stunning and, of course, you can’t beat supremely talented musicians who have performed together for decades. They’re professionals, and they know how to entertain a crowd of thousands.

Billy was exactly how you would expect him to be — moody and ego-filled (the Cubs had just suffered a devastating loss seconds before they went on stage, and my roommate and I joked that he had been watching the game). James was charming and funny, and was very reluctant to refer to Tinley Park as Chicago (“We’re going to keep calling you Chicago even though this is Tinley Park.”). Jimmy was quiet, as drummers usually are, but he put on a fantastic performance. They didn’t play all the songs you would want to hear. No “Thirty-Three” and nothing from Machina. Because their discography is so large, they don’t have time to play non-singles. They did play “Zero,” “Disarm,” “1979,” and “Tonight, Tonight.” They even played some stuff from Adore, and people besides me cheered!

So you see, YesterMe, I went to this show for you, but it ended up meaning a lot to me, too. While I still consider them one of my favorite bands, I rarely listen to The Smashing Pumpkins anymore. But their music was there for me — it is there for you — when I really needed it, and for that reason, I will always love them. I will always appreciate what they created, because it saved my life. It will save your life.

One final thing — I bought this t-shirt for you. I know you would’ve preferred the Zero t-shirt, but, to be frank, sixteen-year-old me is not the one paying my credit card bills. Besides, this album has always been our favorite.

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The impossible is possible tonight. (Photo by author.)

I don’t know if I’ll hear from you again, YesterMe. I’m inclined to think not, but I’m always finding old notes that I wrote to myself and then forgot about, so you never know. Either way, hang in there. In nine years, the Cubs will win the World Series. And in just twelve short years, you’ll get to see your favorite band live.

All the best,

Future You

Cat mom, librarian, and writer in Chicago.

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