A very weird thing is happening to me: My Chemical Romance’s “The Black Parade” is turning 10 in October.

Logically, I shouldn’t think this is weird. I’m in my mid-20s; even if I had only started listening to music when I turned 13, that music would be at least 12 now. I’ve even been to two 10th anniversary concerts in the past year, so the concept isn’t new. But for some reason, this MCR news has me in shock. I think it’s finally hitting me that these albums—the ones that came to define me as a person, as a music lover, as someone who wanted to make a living talking about the music I loved—have been in my life for at least a decade. And I’m still very much under their influence.

I have always considered music to be one of the major pillars in my life. My childhood is rife with musical memories. I sang along to pop music with my mom and sister; I heard a lot of inappropriate things in the car when my dad played Prince or George Michael; and there were many a family dance party that involved “Rebel Yell” at some point. This was the foundation of my love affair with music. And while my first influences were eclectic, pop music was really where I hung my hat as a listener. My first concert experience was seeing the Backstreet Boys, and Christina Aguilera remains my vocal idol to this day.

Things started to change for me in middle school. Even as I sang along to Disney and pop medleys in honor choir (the best two years of my academic career), I was buying albums by Simple Plan, Blink-182, and Sum 41. Yes, I took the pop-punk express train into rock music. Don’t judge me; we didn’t all grow up with parents listening to The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith or Metallica (thank God). While these albums opened my eyes to a new world of music, they didn’t really stick with me in the long run—not even Sum 41, which was my first official favorite band, a title held for about two or three years. No, these were just the stepping stones.

High school was when I came across the four major components that led to my ultimate transformation into the alt-rocky person who is typing this (and who still likes pop and musicals and sometimes hip hop). The first was the launch of MTV’s alt channel, MTV2, where I first watched music videos from bands like MCR, The Used, and Franz Ferdinand. Next came all the music magazines—Spin, Revolver, Alternative Press, etc.—where I started reading more about the bands I was getting into and others I might like. Then, the Fueled by Ramen record label, which gave me The Academy Is and Fall Out Boy and eventually Paramore, Gym Class Heroes, and Cobra Starship. The final puzzle piece was FUSE. It was during a commercial on this channel that I first heard it: the visceral, beautiful, life-altering sound of Circa Survive. I waited for that commercial to come back on so I could find out the name of the band and the single (“Act Appalled” off “Juturna”) that was reverberating in my head for hours after that half-heard taste. I was never the same after that.

I lost myself in music during those four years between 2004 and 2008. I started going to concerts—big ones like Houston’s Buzzfest and small ones where I discovered bands like Moving Units—I wore black shirts with band names splashed across them, and the hot actors I’d plastered on my walls were (mostly) replaced by music-related posters. I lived and breathed music. Don’t get me wrong; I still read more than anything else, hung out with my friends, and kissed boys. I just did it all with a soundtrack. And all the bands that appeared on that soundtrack became shorthand for explaining myself to people. Years later, when I began dating the guy who would become my husband, I made him a “Welcome to Me” playlist because what better way for him to get to know me than through the bands that, in essence, WERE me?

It saddens me to say that I am no longer as tapped into the music world as I once was. In college, I had moved too far away from the friends I went to concerts with. No TV in my room meant no new music videos because I never really got the hang of surfing YouTube. My magazine habit replaced music with, of all things, the glossy pages of The Knot and Brides (and that was when I was single; go figure). Even though I never went anywhere without my iPod, I became disengaged from the very thing that made me feel connected to something greater than myself.

I’ve gotten so far out of the musical loop that I don’t think I’ll ever fully get back in. I know Florence and the Machine, Adele, Kanye . . . Someone named Frank Ocean? (What does he do?) And because I’m like every other nostalgia-driven kid from the 90s, it should come as no surprise that the self-curated playlists I listen to most on Spotify are called My High School Romance and The Sounds of My Youth. When I hear the songs on those collections I remember myself. I remember how, at a time when I was trying and failing to figure out my place in life, this music was there to guide me, cushioning the blows and allowing me to scream when I needed to. As great as music coming out today can be, how could anything make me feel that way again?

So yeah, I’m going to freak out when “The Black Parade” turns 10 in a few weeks. I’m going to reminisce with my bestie about seeing The Academy Is during their anniversary tour, and even after buying new albums, I’m still going to repeatedly listen to things like “Where You Want to Be,” “Future Perfect,” and “Hot Fuss.” I owe my life to those songs, those albums, those bands, and I don’t plan on letting go (which is a great Circa Survive album, by the way).

Featured image via Reprise Records.