The first time Mandy Moore came into my life, I was a naive young girl. I was inexperienced. I didn’t know sadness, worry, or stress. I didn’t know heartbreak, and, I certainly didn’t know how brutal life could be. I was simply carefree. I would blast “I Wanna Be With You” and “Candy” in my bedroom, as loudly as I possibly could. I sang along with Mandy’s angelic voice. I pretended she was standing next to me and we were performing a duet. I danced, and felt the vibrations of instruments thump against my chest. It was a feeling of pure joy, ecstasy.
Mandy Moore continued to stay in my life. However, this time, I was no longer a naive young girl. I was more experienced. I knew sadness, and heartbreak. Mandy appeared to me in the form of “Have a Little Faith In Me.” I remember Mandy saying the original song was one of her favorites. I preferred to listen to her version; it’s one of my favorites.
I sang along with Mandy as I moved from Staten Island, New York to Hamilton, New Jersey. I sang while I adjusted to a new school, with so many new faces, new requirements, and intimating, new teachers. I sang while I struggled immensely with my parents divorce. I sang with a broken heart, because I couldn’t stop missing my dad no matter how hard I tried. I sang through many, many tears. I sang when my mom brought a new man into our lives; and with that, new changes. I sang, and sang. It was a feeling of pure comfort, support.
I was in middle school the next time I encountered Mandy Moore. I was an insecure young girl. I experienced sadness, heartbreak, stress, and worry. I attempted to find myself in a sea of thin, blonde, blue-eyed, tall girls who wanted to be popular more than anything else. I didn’t fit in. But, this time Mandy emerged through my vocal teacher. I’ll always remember the first time she played “Only Hope.” Although, I pictured Mandy’s performance from the movie, A Walk to Remember, when I closed my eyes, I felt found. Found by the person who was with me since I was a naive young girl.
I sang along with Mandy while a realization formed in my mind; I didn’t have to fit in with the girls around me. I sang, knowing in that moment, all I ever had to be was myself. I sang while my vocal teacher reminded us that we must enunciate, because it’s only hope, not only ho. I laughed. It was a feeling of freedom. I was completely free.
After my middle school years, my life was extremely, and painfully, dark. I was a young woman, now battling relentless bullies in high school. I felt weak and defeated. I hated myself, and I no longer wanted to live. Thankfully, Mandy Moore materialized when I so desperately needed her. This time, I heard Mandy sing “Extraordinary,” and “Few Days Down.”
I sang along to “Extraordinary” with Mandy as girls tried to break me with their harmful and hurtful words. I sang through tears, with the hope, and belief that I would be extraordinary, regardless of the words my bullies spew. I sang along to “Few Days Down” when the weight of the bullying became too overwhelming and too powerful. I sang, and sang, and sang until the pain was gone and the tears no longer flowed. It was a feeling of strength.
There were two different forms of Mandy Moore that I saw during my high school years. The first Mandy helped me through school bullies, and the second Mandy helped me as I learned to drive a car. Mandy appeared to me in my mom’s car, with a nervous teenager behind the wheel. I listened to “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” and “Senses Working Over Time,” repeatedly. I sang along with Mandy as my heart thumped wildly in my chest, and my hands shook. I sang along with Mandy as my mind started to race with visions of possible accidents I could cause. I sang until her incredible voice helped me reach a calmness I needed. I sang, and sang, as I drove all on my own. It was a feeling of pride.
In my four years of college, all the versions of Mandy Moore remained by my side. I was a passionate, educated, hopeful young woman with big dreams. I wrote all of my Literature papers and Women’s and Gender Studies papers while listening to Mandy’s voice. During breaks, I’d stretch, dance, and sing along like I have been doing my entire life. I sang as Mandy guided me through college, all of the ups and downs. I sang as Mandy replaced the tears, the doubt, the stress, and the worry of the future with a smile. It was a feeling of home.
Today, Mandy Moore is still with me. It’s a brand new Mandy, a returned Mandy. She comes to me in the form of “Fifteen.” I sing along with Mandy as I write and watch my words transfer from my head and my heart, to a computer screen. I sing along with Mandy as I head out to help young children learn English, reading, and writing. I sing along with Mandy as I plan my future as a businesswoman. I sing, and sing, and sing. It’s a feeling of growth, of love, and of inspiration.
Mandy Moore has always been with me. From a naive, shy, struggling young girl, to a more confident and hopeful young woman. She has been my joy, my comfort and support, my freedom, my strength, my pride, my home, my growth, love, and inspiration. And, I believe she always will be.