When I was 14 years old, I wrote something truly horrifying in my diary.
I remember very clearly sitting on my bed, on a hot August day, furiously scribbling this declaration in gold gel pen. I was angry and determined. And before I tell you what I wrote, you should know that I was never sarcastic or jokey in my diary. I wrote only my very earnest feelings. Sometimes when I think about high school I wonder if maybe I was cooler and more popular than I remember. But this diary entry alone confirms it: No, I wasn't.
The entry reads:
I was just pondering the song "All Star" by Smash Mouth. There's a line that goes, "Only shooting stars break the mold." I want to be a shooting star and show everybody I can play golf!
Try to ignore the golf part for now. Also try to ignore the fact that I was a teenager who wrote things like "I was just pondering…" I must deal with the darkest part of this passage: As a frustrated teen, I overcame adversity with the help of Smash Mouth lyrics.
The humiliating thing is not that I liked the song; I'm sure you liked that song, on some level, at the time. Don't lie. The humiliating thing is that I dissected the lyrics, found a deeper meaning in them, and then used them to become a better person. Smash Mouth was my life coach.
Worse, I was 14. Fourteen is (or should be) old enough to know what's cool and what definitely isn't. I checked the date multiple times. I wanted to believe I was 12 or even 13. Nowadays 14-year-olds are famous internet tastemakers. But in 1999, I was so painfully naive. I had absolutely no idea that Smash Mouth was uncool. I ignored all the warning signs.
I owned two Smash Mouth albums. I bought their first studio album, Fush Yu Mang, with my own money, when I was at Walmart with my grandma. She was very hesitant to let me purchase it because it featured a song called "Beer Goggles." Following that, I bought their second album, Astro Lounge — the album that holds the most inspiring song of a generation.
I remember sitting on my bedroom floor with my slightly cooler friend, flipping through my binder of CDs. (RIP, binders of CDs.) When she got to the Smash Mouth page, she was genuinely horrified. She looked at me like she didn't even know me. "Smash Mouth??" I can still hear the disgust in her voice. I was deeply confused. What was wrong with Smash Mouth? What could possibly be uncool about lime-green button-down shirts, a tasteful use of bongo drums, or pencil-thin facial hair? She owned a Kid Rock CD. Who was she to judge?
Besides, I'd sought comfort in the hairy, tattooed arms of Smash Mouth for a reason, a villain like the ones found in many coming-of-age stories: the high school girls' golf coach. I'll call him Coach Mason. Here are a few things Coach Mason did not seem to enjoy: high schoolers, golf, coaching. Did he believe that, with some hard work, I could achieve my goals? No, not really. He told me that I wasn't good, and that I wasn't going to get better.
"Keep your goals low," he said at the driving range. And it wasn't some kind of reverse psychology coaching style, because he spoke every word in monotone, with a blank expression that evoked the sentiment "We'll all be dead soon."
Maybe coaches are supposed to be harsh, but who thrives under apathy? I wasn't expecting a gentle kiss on the forehead and a whisper of "you're special" each time I hit a golf ball. I just wanted to be treated with basic respect. There were fewer than 10 girls on the team, and he couldn't remember my name.
Coach thought I was worthless. But not everyone felt that way.
"Hey now," Smash Mouth said. "You're an all-star."
These were the words I needed to hear.
My point: I WILL BREAK THE MOLD AND BE OUTSTANDING.
Two weeks later, I mentioned the song in my diary yet again.
I'm not exactly a shooting star, yet, but I am breaking the mold that [REDACTED] and the other coaches put me in. I've improved A LOT.
At our end-of-year banquet, Coach gave a speech about each player. When he got to me and another girl on the team, he told everyone there that he never bothered to learn our names. Maybe he thought that was a charming thing to say in front of our parents.
Why couldn't Smash Mouth come and coach my high school golf team? They were already doing a better job over the radio than my actual coach could do in person. "Get your game on! Go play!" is something a coach should say, and something a rock band should never say. But Smash Mouth didn't play by the rules.
The following year, I made it onto the varsity team, and Mason stopped coaching. The next two years, I played with our team in the state finals. I owe it all to Smash Mouth. You can't argue with results. The song WORKS. No one else told me I was a "rock star," or told me to "go for the moon" four times in a row. Probably because those are embarrassing things to say out loud. But that's why "All Star" is so valuable. It was brave enough to say the things no one ever wants to say.
Hey now, you are an all-star.