Panic! At the Disco coming out of the woodworks with new music since 2018 has me feeling particularly feral and nostalgic for the summer I fell in love them. And it’s funny how life that summer and life right now feel energetically similar.

Let’s go back to Summer 2017 to explain what I mean.

Summer 2017 was a turning point for me confidence-wise. I had just finished my junior year of college and got busy doing some cool but necessary for growth things. I literally started the summer playing catch up with myself and by the end of it I was like a rocket blasting off into space.

May 2017 started with me taking a couple summer school classes to get some GEs out of the way — namely Genetics and Piano. It was then that I met one of my dearest friends, Miss Katie Klopp, who designed our site logo. We set out on so many little LA adventures that reminded me what fun was. I should mention that I was also hopelessly grieving a romantic interest situation that had gone awry. Katie saw me, validated my emotions, and made it her mission to encourage me to go from hopeless romantic to badass boss lady in one summer. And not only did her constant validation help, it showed me I made a true lifelong friend who continues to do that for me.

Probably the first picture Katie and I ever took together while out with some new friends that summer omg. Dang my skin was so bad then lol.

Once we entered June and my summer semester was done, I prioritized finally getting my drivers license (I know, I was really late to the game). That came just in time because I then got a summer job working in marketing communications for Pepperdine’s IT department. The not so fun part of that was that for two weeks, I was putting in my hours driving from my home near Pasadena to Malibu every day. It was brutal during rush hour but I grew unafraid of the crazy drivers in LA and developed the patience of a saint.

After advocating for myself I was able to secure on-campus housing while I worked my summer job. And you can imagine the sigh of relief I had shortening my commute time from 1.5 hours one way to 15 minutes.

I worked steadily and before I knew it, August came to hit the gas pedal. In August, my best friend Juliette and I signed a lease for our senior year apartment and then I jetted off to New York for a journalism networking trip. I had helped organize the trip with one of our department heads and it felt like a dream. We were rubbing elbows with all the major media companies and talking about the state of the industry with real professionals. Like? How did I get there at 21?

Tbt that one time I was on a Bloomberg program lol.

I was pumped to go back to slay my senior year after that, but little did I know things would get even more unbelievable. My dad used to work as an Uber driver and one random evening before school started again he called me saying, “Kelly, you have to meet the guy in my front seat!”

Now, I had been enjoying some alcoholic beverages after a day of planning for the college newspaper, but hearing my dad this excited made me wonder if he was the one who was drunk. The guy in his front seat turned out to be the VP of Marketing for the band KISS and this man told me over the phone “Kelly, your dad has talked you up so much that I just have to meet you. So I’m gonna get out of your dad’s car and call you back.”

And that’s how I ended up a marketing intern for the band KISS as a college senior.

Me with the fabled man in my dad’s car, Mark Stroman. Eden told me he recently passed sadly. May he rest in peace.

Now why am I reflecting on all this right now? Well, first of all, how the hell has it been FIVE years since then. Second of all, this arc of doing inner work then catapulting into exciting opportunities is exactly what’s happening to me right now.

I’ve recounted over the last few months how much work I’ve prioritized my mental health and healing long open wounds. And finally it feels like I’m personally onto something good. I’m working for a company I love and believe in that also believes in me. I’m developing the confidence to share music I’ve written. I’m more confident now than I’ve ever been. And goddamn, have you seen me rock literally any outfit? I’m a cool chick!

I guess I’m just nostalgic for the foundation that was laid back in summer 2017 because the confidence I have now comes from that time. Back then, I thought the pinnacle of cool girl style was a black leather jacket and black thigh high boots. Now, I’ll pair that with a colorful dress and a set of statement earrings. Back then, I was just starting to see that there were more fish in the sea. Now, I’m the one with the net sorting through the fish I want around me. Back then, I was just learning that I had the power to make things happen. Now, I’m not afraid to be the one to take initiative.

Me being a soft but badass boss lady.

The songs on this playlist may be cliche and overplayed in some folks’ opinions. But for me, they feel like the water and sunlight to the seeds of confidence planted in that younger Kelly that current Kelly is reaping fruit from these days. Summer 2017 was a weird and wonderful time and I’m forever grateful that I learned how to start taking up space for myself then.

I gravitated towards loud, bombastic rock songs by Panic! At the Disco and Fall Out Boy that fed into that determination to reach my goals in this era of my life. So you’ll see a lot of that here.

Highlights

I still love this video too.

Ready To Go (Get Me Out of My Mind) by Panic! At the Disco

Oh man, summer 2017 was when I fully launched myself into orbit around Brendon Urie. I fell in love with his showmanship and his total IDGAF punky attitude. I was hooked in with the genre-bending of Death of a Bachelor and soon found myself unable to stop listening to the entire Panic! catalog. This song specifically felt like the blastoff for me because it felt just full of excitement and validation. I have a vivid memory of listening to this song on repeat as I prepared to take my driving test that summer. I listened to this song SO much that statistically speaking, it’s still one of my all time most listened to songs on Spotify. And yeah, I still love it.

The Phoenix by Fall Out Boy

After diving deep into Panic’s catalog, I felt inspired to dive into Fall Out Boy’s catalog after From Under the Cork Tree, which I grew up listening to. So many of their songs hit hard but something about this one made me aware of how the changes in confidence in me. I was on a mission to be a badass and this arena rock banger was exactly the rebel yell of freedom for me.

Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man

The iconic bassline of this song felt so right in summer 2017. I was adulting and calling it being “a rebel just for kicks” because I wanted to. It for some reason reminds me of weaving through the 10 freeway in west LA because that took skill to learn. When weaving wasn’t possible, this song still helped me dissociate in heavy traffic. Sometimes the only way is through ya feel?

I Miss Those Days by Bleachers

The grip the ENTIRE Gone Now album had on me this summer, dang. This song felt nostalgic then and now it’s exactly how I feel about this era of my life now. There were so many good changes, so many clear signals that I was going down the right path. This song points to the “I’m young I actually have no idea what the fuck I’m doing” feeling of then. I remember singing to this one and that whole album while working in Pepperdine’s IT department. I can still so vividly remember it.

Absolutely by Ra Ra Riot

This gorgeous upbeat indie rock song with string arrangements felt like the theme song I was riding into my senior year with. This song reminded me to say yes to good things and not hold back. And listening to it today, it gives me the same necessary reminder. The year of absolutely being, absolutely crushing, absolutely loving.

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