Miley Cyrus' new single, "Malibu," was written about her fiancé, Liam Hemsworth, but I can’t help but personally relate because of my own bond to Miley. I never would've believed you, if 3 years ago you told me I'd be here writing this story. My life was filled with dark clouds that seemed to last for miles in every direction, but then there was Miley, making the skies more blue.
In my small suburban town of Sartell, Minnesota, my Grandma Alyce and I were sitting on the floor playing Polly Pockets, those tiny dolls with rubber clothes. We had Disney Channel playing in the background when the TV announced there was a new episode of Hannah Montana. Some girls had talked about the show on the playground; it was trendy with my schoolmates, and without many friends, I hoped Hannah Montana was going to make me popular.
During that second episode, I instantly fell in love. A schoolmate made me a burn CD of the first album, which I ended up playing more than teenage girls were playing Justin Bieber. I was an 8-year-old boy, singing "The Best of Both Worlds" on the playground by himself. My grandma died the next year on June 2nd. I was only 9, but I lost my best friend.
The day the Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus album came out, my mom bought it as a way to make me feel better. I was struggling. The final song on the disc, "I Miss You," about Miley’s grandpa, perfectly framed how I felt:
"I never wanted you to leave, I wanted you to stay here holdin' me. I miss your smile, and I still shed a tear every once in a while... My heart won't let you go, and I need you to know, I miss you."
The following school year I’d wake up early, and sit in the car alone before my mom finished getting ready. I’d listen to the song on replay, sobbing. It was the only way I could endure my sadness. I could relate to Miley, who helped me understand my anguish. It was kind of like James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke, except with a lot more crying.
Being obsessed with a Disney Channel superstar didn’t make life in middle school easy. I wasn’t ashamed to love Miley, but I hated the assumptions and jokes people made about me. Apparently my admiration for the female pop star, lead others to infer I was gay. They were right, but I didn’t want to admit that to myself.
I came out to my mom the summer before going into high school. I didn’t tell her because I was prideful— the opposite, I was embarrassed. I needed somebody to know that I was hurting, I didn’t want to be this way. At the end of freshman year, my parents separated and filed for divorce, which took two and a half miserable years. That summer I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression disorders, inevitable given the way I bottled up my feelings.
I questioned my future, fearing that I might end up killing myself before I saw graduation. I sat in class and contemplated jumping out of the window almost everyday. I started cutting myself on my upper arms and shoulders, so people wouldn’t see the scars. I’d rather feel that burning pain, over my emotional torture. I took a painting class in school to take my mind of things. Now able to visually convey my emotions, I felt a little less empty.
That October, Miley’s Bangerz album dropped and she announced her Bangerz World Tour. To afford my ticket, I sold one of my paintings for $150 to a relative. It was a semi-abstract piece inspired by music clefs and rainbows—not as cheesy as it sounded. The painting had Miley-themed undertones, but I don’t think my buyer knew that. That determination to go to a concert resulted in selling my first piece of art, it was also the first time I felt I had any potential.
Before Miley's concert the following spring, I started to explore my sexuality. Halfway through sophomore year, I found my own Liam (probably more like Miley’s other ex, Patrick Schwarzenegger, since my love turned out to be an asshole, too). My Liam was my first kiss. Nobody knew about us except the two of us, and my mom. The first day we met, we planned our perfect date, and over the holiday break we were planning to make it happen.
I had to postpone because my dad’s parents decided to stay in town another night. Liam got angry, and decided to go with his ex-boyfriend, posting pictures of them together on Instagram. He later texted me, saying he wasn’t ever interested in me, blocked me on social media, and then had his cell service block my phone number. He told me I was weak because I didn’t want to go public with our relationship. Somehow, that equated to cheating on me, and suddenly my world molded into the plot of the Bangerz album.
The album tells Miley’s own story of betrayal. Once again, having something to relate to, got me through all my suffering. Following the album’s path, I needed to say “FU”, "Do My Thang" and "Hands in the Air." I never thought I’d consider coming out, let alone in high school, but two weeks following the harsh messages, I came clean to family, friends and my peers through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Miley helped me come to terms with myself and my sexual orientation. When she declared her pansexuality, I felt supported from someone I’ve never met.
"Forget the haters, ‘cause somebody loves ya... It’s our party, we can love who we want, we can kiss who we want."
Liam Hemsworth is one hell of a lucky guy, and I can only hope their marriage is going to allocate the same happiness and inspiration she’s supplied me. My tattoo is the lyrics to her song, “When I Look at You...” People get curious why I love Miley so much, as if I’m joking. I refer to the song as my explanation.
"When there’s no light to break up the dark, that’s when I look at you."
I don’t perceive Miley as crazy, I see her as the bravest human I know. She endured barbaric public scrutiny and responded with an entire album about being unfazed. If she can do that, then I believe I can be who I want without feeling ashamed or worried how others respond. Without her, I wouldn’t have overcome the obstacles in my life. She really did save my life. I was a shy small town Minnesota kid under the impression I had nothing to live for, but now I have her to thank. Miley, you gave me a brand new start, a dream come true and I'm grateful for everything you do.