I’m a child of the 80’s. It began just as I became old enough to be able to keep and hold memories from every year of it. In many ways, it is the most significant decade of my life. And, in many ways, the 80’s are the sentimental favorite years of my life.
And yet, the 80’s were some of the most tumultuous, difficult, confusing, and challenging years of my life– and not for the obvious reasons. I was 11 years old when the decade began and became a young adult by the time it ended. Naturally, years like these would be considered formative years and would reasonably hold many firsts, milestones and a good bit of angst and adolescent drama. I only wish I were referring to these normal growing pains when I speak of those years as tumultuous, difficult, confusing, and challenging.
I began the 80’s, much like millions and millions of my countrymen, in shock of what had just happened to my beloved country, Iran. You see, whereas the people of America remember the late 70’s and early 80’s as the years of oil shortages, pesky long lines at gas stations and American diplomats being held hostage in Iran, the people of Iran lost everything they had, everything they were and they themselves also became hostages of a cruel, violent and primitive new regime, disgustingly called The Islamic Republic of Iran.
Imagine being 11 and having your world crumble into millions of unrecognizable pieces. The gravity of this experience was so immense and complete that there was no escaping it, even at 11. Life changed permanently, devastatingly and completely. Music died. Happiness died. In a way, we all died. Meaning, the people we were before the revolution died so that new people could continue to live in the same bodies.
I was 13 when I left Iran for the last time. And, once again, my world exploded into tiny little pieces. I was lonely, I missed my friends, I feared the future and I didn’t have any control over anything that was happening in my life. Kinda hard to begin teenage years in exile, without having any friends, or even people of the same age, or any privacy or sense of control. I didn’t speak the language, wasn’t in school and was constantly afraid of what was to come. Those were some of the bleakest days of my life. The fear, the loneliness, the alienation, the uncertainty, the anxiety- they superseded and overrode “normal” life and any natural teenage development. I had no time to worry about “fitting in” because there was no one to fit in with. There was no luxury of teenage doubt, angst and adolescent melancholy, for my life had exploded twice in four years and I was experiencing post traumatic stress and all that it entails.
I had one thing–a little transistor radio in my parents’ bedroom where I could listen to music a few minutes at a time. That radio was my salvation. It was my lifeline. And I clung to it like it was a life raft. Music kept me going. It made me dance when there was no one around. It made me sing when I needed to hear someone’s voice. And music made me feel like life was still “normal”, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
I still remember all the popular songs I heard on the local radio station. And every group and singer I heard for the first on that little radio, while huddled in a corner of my parents’ room, have a special place in my heart: Cool and the Gang, Culture Club, Prince, Duran Duran. And yes, Madonna.
Whenever I hear Madonna’s Holiday, I am transported back to that room next to that radio. I am 13 again whenever I hear her sing:
If we took a holiday yeah
Took some time to celebrate
Just one day out of life
It would be
It would be so nice
I’ve been listening to Madonna for the majority of my life. I’ve been listening to her lift my spirits and take me away from pain since before I spoke enough English to understand her lyrics. She has been there when I was displaced, sad, awkward, pretty, fat, thin, clueless, wise, in love, at a loss, confused, focused, scared, and at peace. Her words, her music, they have been the soundtrack to my life. She’s helped me laugh, cry, learn, move on, heal and live. She’s brought more happiness to me than almost anyone else in this world. She’s been with me when there literally was no one else.
I learned to cherish my life, to express myself, to dance, to sing, to be happy because of her music. She made it ok to explore, to be strong and be outspoken. She made it ok to be different AND to love being so. She made things ok when I thought I’d ever be ok again. I’ve copied her, I’ve danced like and I have loved her ever since that first afternoon in Rome when I heard Holiday on the that tiny radio.
Madonna is my friend. She’s also my imaginary older cooler sister, fairy godmother and muse. Most of all, she’s been the one constant in this absurd, ever-changing, tumultuous, unpredictable, and at times cruel world. There will never be another like her for me and I will never have another friend like her. If that makes me silly, well then, I am one silly bitch.
I can’t wait to see my friend tomorrow!