When I was 15 years old, a little show called American Idol premiered. I was instantly hooked. I loved hearing about the contestants and watching them every week. Of course, I had a favorite. Her name? Kelly. She was goofy, bubbly, and down to earth. She seemed so-well- real. Like she could be my friend. Oh, and she could also sing the hell out of any song she chose. Do you need a reminder?
Spoiler alert: Kelly won the first season of American Idol. To follow, her career blew up. And I followed it closely. I distinctly remember watching her music video for "A Moment Like This" every morning on MTV while I waited for my ride to take me to school. I bought her first album eagerly. I do believe it was the first time I had listened to an album and really FELT something.
Kelly continued to grow as an artist. She dropped a second album, Breakaway, that included such hits as Behind These Hazel Eyes, Because of You, and, of course, Since U Been Gone. For as much as I loved her first album, I loved this one even more. It was always on in my car. I remember one day after school listening to the track Breakaway and writing down the lyrics in my notebook. Yes, the Internet was around and I could have easily found the lyrics online, but I think I was more impacted writing them out. "Take a risk, take a chance, make a change, and breakaway" became a mantra of mine. It would serve as such for many, many years to come.
Let's fast forward a little bit: college. I went through a really dark period. It's one of those things I don't like to think about...it's also one of those things that I'm sure everyone deals with at some point in their life. But I didn't know that then. I felt all alone. At the time, I couldn't define it. I just felt lonely, anxious, and down. I also didn't know how to deal with it, nor did I know how to talk to my friends about it, so I kept most of these feelings inside. I became a person I could barely recognize. In June of 2007, Kelly's third album, My December dropped. I have this vivid memory of walking into Target to buy the album, coming back to my car to listen to it, and breaking into tears. That album, while dark, was the first time I didn't feel alone. It described everything I was going through. To know that Kelly Clarkson, a Grammy winning superstar, was feeling these same things, made me feel normal again. This was also the major milestone where I began to write about my feelings. I had never really written before- but after listening to Kelly's heartfelt lyrics, I decided that if it worked for her, it may work for me, too.
It did. For the next several years, and still today, writing was my crutch, my escape. I firmly believe that most, if not all, of my recovery process from that dark period was thanks to writing.
I was supposed to go to the My December tour, but my tour stop was cancelled. My December as a whole did not do well with critics. People thought it was too dark. Most of her fans, though, adore that album...because it was real.
Fast forward again. Kelly dropped another album- All I Ever Wanted- in 2009. When she toured for that album, I knew I had to go. I wanted to try to meet her this time, to tell her what My December meant to me, I entered the Fan Club meet and greet contest, just as I had a dozen times before. This time, though, I won. I was going to meet Kelly.
So in October of 2009, I met her. In that conversation, I told her about My December, and how it sparked me to start writing. She told me those were the best kind of compliments. We hugged, we took two pictures, I left. I thought I would never get to meet her again.
Kelly dropped a fifth album, Stronger, in 2011. She had some hit songs come off of it, and it seemed like she was happier, stronger, than ever before. How was I doing at this time? Average, I would say. I was going through your typical 20 something dramas with friends, fear of the future, dating, etc. But by Spring 2013, I was back in a dark place. I was just getting out of a rough relationship. I didn't care much for myself....I began to slip back into my old ways. I didn't think I would ever be loved, and I started to believe that maybe I just didn't DESERVE to be loved. I lost all sense of self worth. To sum it up, I would have rather done anything then to have faced the world.
But then something in me changed. I decided I was not going to let some stupid guy, or anyone really, dictate my life or my self worth. I decided right then and there that I was going to get stronger. I was going to become the best version of myself.
You guys (unless you are new here!) know the rest of the story. I've spent every moment since the day I made that decision changing my habits, becoming a healthier person, and, most importantly, discovering my self worth.
So many times during my weight loss journey, Kelly's music has been there for me. When I initially started, Stronger was my theme song. I aimed it at my ex. He was trying so hard to bring me down- even after things ended with him, he continued to harass me and send me messages just to try to upset me. So these words spoke to me, and helped me to push him aside and focus on my goal:
Thanks to you I got a new thing started
Thanks to you I'm not the broken-hearted
Thanks to you I'm finally thinking about me
You know in the end the day you left was just my beginning
Some of the songs that have helped me are off her most recent album, Piece by Piece. That album is special for me, because, for the first time in a long time, Kelly is genuinely happy. How can I tell? There are no heartbreaking songs about feeling low/haunted/dark. There are a few sad songs, sure...but those sad songs are mostly about love (and one about a relationship with her dad), not self destruction. For the most part, the message in this album is "I'm so much better than I've ever been, I'm in love, I'm happy, and I am a warrior". And that, my friends, is how I feel.
I want to specifically address the song Invincible. This song has become so powerful for me. Although Kelly has similar songs in her catalogue (think Stronger), the lyrics in Invincible really hit home. I can't think of any other song that describes, so perfectly, my weight loss story. Not just my weight loss story, my RECOVERY story. My story of going from someone who wanted to disappear to someone who is confident, strong, and empowered. Some of the Invincible lyrics that hit home are:
But now I am invincible
No, I ain't a scared little girl no more
Yeah, I am invincible
What was I running for
I was hiding from the world
I was so afraid, I felt so unsure
Now I am invincible
And I'm a perfect storm
We were both visibly nervous in line. We knew that we would not have much time. We both wanted a chance to tell Kelly "thank you". While in line, I encouraged Sam to speak first. Since I have met Kelly before, it was more important to me to ensure Sam said what she needed to say. We developed a plan...Sam would go first, I would stand by, I would say my thing, and THEN we would pose for the picture.We had to make the camera man wait for us. I didn't care if they tried to push us along.
Our plan worked. Sam very sweetly told Kelly what she wanted to tell her, and also gave her a letter that explained the rest. Then Kelly turned to me. There's a few things you should know about meeting Kelly Clarkson. For starters, she hugs you. Like, she doesn't wait for you to hug her. She reaches for you. The second thing is that she stares into your eyes as you talk. Which is awfully courteous of her, because you know she's paying attention. But it sort of takes you off guard. It's like she's a real friend, ready to listen to what you have to say.
So, very quickly, I said something like "I met you in 2009, back then I thanked you for helping me discover writing as my crutch for what I was going through, and I just want to tell you that your music has sense helped me overcome so many things, become empowered, and lose 120 lbs. This letter explains more".
Kelly's jaw dropped and she let out a very loud "DAMN!"
I don't really remember what happened next. I think she said damn another time. She gave me another hug and told me that was awesome. And then as we were taking our picture, she said "Dude i wish my music would help ME lose weight!".
Kelly gave us both another hug before we were swooshed away.
We both walked away shaking, smiling, and uttering "oh my God". I'm not sure if I got out what I wanted to say exactly how I wanted it to come across, but at least I can say I've made Kelly Clarkson say Damn. Twice.
The concert was incredible. Because she has six albums out, Kelly could sing all night long. Instead, she had a packed 1.5 hour show. She did an excellent job mixing in classic hits (Breakaway, Behind These Hazel Eyes, Because of You, Since U Been Gone, Walk Away, Miss Independent) with songs from her new album (Dance With Me, Take You High, Nostalgic, Invincible, Piece by Piece, Heartbeat Song, Tightrope). She also did a cover of Bang Bang, Uptown Funk (mashed with Walk Away) and Habits by Tove Lo. A huge highlight of my night was when she performed "Low", a track off her first album. It's one of her very best songs. I had never heard it love, and she totally ROCKED IT. I had the time of my life dancing to every single song. I shed a few tears- I was a MESS during Stronger. It was one of those moments, well, hours I guess, where I felt totally free. I didn't care who was watching me, I was going to dance and celebrate.
If you couldn't tell by reading this post, I love Kelly. I will always love Kelly. She's been part of my life since I was 15 years old. In my opinion, she has one of the best, if not the best, voices in pop music. I wish every person I knew could hear her sing live. It's incredible. Her music has been a soundtrack of my life through the good and the bad.
So thank you to Sam for bringing me as your +1, to Cricket Wireless for giving us this opportunity, and to Kelly- for everything.
PS: My VERY Favorite song from Piece by Piece is called Second Wind. Excellent workout song :)