For me, 2011 was characterized by revelations + rediscoveries. Rediscoveries of self + of what I knew/embraced 10-15 years ago as a teenager, but for a variety of reasons discounted, rejected or outright forgot over the course of living.
Music as emotional medicine is one of those rediscoveries.
I am probably one of the last of the pre-internet generation that spent countless hours of youth sitting anxiously in front of the radio with fingers poised over the 'record' button; getting trigger happy awaiting the second a coveted song began playing to create one helluva mix tape.
No matter how skillful I became, I would always catch a syllable of the DJs intro or the station call-letters at the end... and curse them for the audacity of talking over the song.
I replayed that mix tape to death trying to memorize all the words to each song. Going one neurotic step further, I would write down all the lyrics in a series of notebooks that I then covered with clippings from Rolling Stone magazines.
Ah, yes... those were the days.
Radio? What is this 'radio' that you speak of?
For those of you born in the 90s or after, what I'm writing about may seem completely foreign + quizzical. Keep in mind, those were the days when free airwave radio didn't suck. New music was debuted weekly + mixed in with what would now all be classified as classic rock + classic alternative (an oxymoron, in my opinion).
Also keep in mind, I grew up in the country. I now find it amusing when suburban Pittsburghers lament that there is nothing to do. Makes me want to pitch their cute little cheeks + say: No, honey, in the country there is LITERALLY nothing to do.
In the country, there is even less to do in the winter when going outside is not a sustainable option, particularly when daylight is around for one measly hour after school. Indoor winter activities were essential to combat cabin fever.
A big one for me was listening to music while drawing. Did I mention that I am an introvert by nature? Solitude was a fantastic past-time for me:)
Growing up in Somerset County, the only station that was worthwhile back then was a Johnstown station (I think it was called The Rock 99.1?). We lived just far enough from Pittsburgh to only catch spotty reception of The X... I rejoiced on those some crispy wintry days when the signal made it up + over the Laurel Mountains.
Nirvana, NIN, Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Oasis, Hole, Stone Temple Pilots... the stuff I listened to would be considered mainstream, but there was no where to obtain underground goodness. I was only 12 + in elementary school when Kurt Cobain passed, but old enough to remember it well.
In short, I am a product of the grunge era + really, really, really miss the angst-ridden music, attitude + way of life (the baggy clothes, wideleg jeans + flannel). Oh, how I miss the flannel.
The Hellish Years: Middle + High School
Let me first state, thank god for music as a refuge + release during those most torturous years of existence known as middle + high school.
I do not know how I would have survived, if music didn't exist or if those alternative, angst/all-out-rage-ridden stations were absent during that period of my life. This was also during the time when hitting became socially unacceptable. Punching walls is just not the same... though it did help a little. I honestly don't know how I managed to not break any knuckles;)
Middle school was the beginning of the woes; the mid-90s. My faves from the radio, included: Garbage, Silverchair, Bush, No Doubt, Our Lady Peace, Third Eye Blind, Korn, Filter, Seven Mary Three, Deftones, Gravity Kills, Fiona Apple, Better Than Ezra, Days of the New, The Prodigy (that music video for Breathe still creeps me out;).
High school was the very late 90s + very early 2000s. It was also the time where two unique circumstances collided: I started working at Walmart when I was in 10th grade (1999) amidst the same time-frame that I had started dating. Unfortunately, my first long-term boyfriend was an abusive asshole.
Let's just say music-wise, 1999 was the best of times; life-wise, 1999 was the worst of times:\
So, this is what it's like when worlds collide; this is what it's like...
The colliding of circumstances allowed me to begin building a music library, most of which was super angry to offset the emotional turmoil, though I was unaware of the extent of the damage at that time.
Thus, my fave music from my growing CD collection in high school was the early/good (meaning really angry) years of: Deftones, Tool, Static X, System of a Down, Staind, Gravity Kills, Chevelle.
Mind you, I had other goodness sprinkled in to break-up the monotony: the entire collections of No Doubt, Bush, Cake, Orgy, Fiona Apple, Depeche Mode + The Cure; some D+B raver stuff from my friend, Joey, like Dieselboy + Hanzel Und Gretel; + some very rare 'mellow' albums by Cool For August + Naked.
But, by + large the angry stuff was on heavy rotation.
I don't always practice what I preach
As I mentioned in a previous article, A Moment of Silence, about hanging onto old pain because after a while it becomes familiar, almost like it's a part of you... Yeah, I don't take my own advice all the time either.
That ex-boyfriend ordeal is something that I have yet to totally address + work through, even though it's been 12 years since finally breaking free, after 5 failed-attempts.
It's probably partly due to not wanting to relive old pain + partly because pain can be re-appropriated as a motivator. I've utilized it as the basis for my desire to be a voice for the voiceless.
However, I realize it is possible to still be motivated without the negative emotional baggage, so...
Maybe 2012 will be the year I let all of it go... finally.
Or... maybe not;)
A Stroll Down Memory Lane... Growing Up Sucks
You may never guess it now (because I'm so cute + stuff) but high school was also my era of semi-goth. Super long (+ sometimes washed) hair, black lipstick, 10+ kinds of black shirts, super wideleg jeans, Salvation Army finds (little boy polos were my fave + in abundant supply), chains, chokers + other decorative 'jewelry.'
Semi because I did still have to work in retail, I was pretty straight-edge (before I knew that was a thing/what it meant) + I didn't like to scare any more people away than my natural disposition did for me already. My awkwardness + quietness was always mistaken for standoffish. I didn't really need any additional help in being odd or off-putting.
|Exhibit A: Me + Emily in the only refuge in HS, the Art Room. |
Pretty sure this is my fave black tee, ironically of Hanson.
|Exhibit B: Me + Emily at the Art Fair? We were two peas in a pod. |
'Tool' ringer tee... classic.
After digging up these pics I realized that a combination of factors helped me to survive those trying times:
- Good peeps as support: Joey, Josh, Emily + I were a motley crew. I am forever grateful to have shared those days with you guys. It was like sunshine on an otherwise severely-thunderstormy series of years:*}
- Art as therapy: Most of high school was spent creating art in school + at home. Seriously, we must support art education funding. I would not have survived without it.
- Music as medicine
So, at the time + well after, I wrote all of it off as mere teenage angst.
Actually, The Oatmeal recently had a comic that changed the way I viewed my teenage experience, What we SHOULD have been taught in our senior year of high school. If you skip down to the P.E. section, I would have been Bernard, "cultivating a rich wonderful garden [of personality] inside that weird little head of his."
I had no idea that all of it, my music preference, my friendships + my physical manifestations, were a coping release for the internal struggles to make sense of life.
The teen years are tumultuous for many, many, many, many, many reasons. It gets better, kiddies... well, after you survive your 20s, which is a whole different kind of crazy train.
Getting back to the music thing
As a typical teenager, I became outraged when the bands that I had esteemed as my rage-release began 'mellowing' out.
Deftones' White Pony seemed to be the first, then Tool's Laterallus followed suit. Staind's first album, Dysfunction, was fantastically full of painful rage but the others were way too melancholic. System of a Down went from playfully enraged to politically serious + heavy. Static X eventually began sounding more like Orgy + on + on.
Everyone mellows out eventually, myself included... what I realize now is that it's a good thing that those bands did. No one can live in the realm of rage forever + be emotionally/mentally healthy. It's an early phase in the healing process.
Those bands just moved on well before I was ready/able to heal.
To be continued...
I know. But, I'm tired of writing + I'm sure you're tiring of reading about my dumb life;)
My next post will continue with my recommendations for practical application for music as medicine. Using it to meet you where you are emotionally + then gradually stepping yourself up from the abyss or down from the ledge.
Until then... keep on keeping on.