Music saves lives. It heals. I’m living-proof.
I’ll tell you a story. But there’s a lot I’ll have to put into context. Bear with me. This plays out like Dawson’s Creek meets La Dispute. Each moment or series of moments, some which take a day, some which span years, all somehow have a soundtrack to them. I found that Life unravels like a novel – one filled with coincidence and one where people chalk a lot down to fate.
To destiny. Or as I call it – the thing that has you scared to grab Life by the balls.
A year ago, I was in a bad place. Given the timing of the current Robin Williams incident, one year after, I figured it was best to let some cats out the bag here. Because no one knows what’s about to unfold on this page. So yeah, a year ago, I was ready to clock out. And 12 months on, I’m glad I didn’t.
Growing up, I lost two of my biggest idols – idols I loved before I knew what they were trying to say. Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith. I never understood why they checked out so early. Kind of despised them for that. And that’s me being selfish. But in time, I grew. I understood. Music got deeper into my soul. Saw a couple university students in my time commit suicide. Got confused again. How did I get educated? I didn’t. I found compassion, courage and empathy through the likes of Geoff Rickly. Through Good Charlotte. Jimmy Eat World. Funeral for a Friend. The Used.
Music was saving me then and I didn’t even know. I understood much less than I thought, I’ll admit. Sad because with a mother at the lowest point of depression it’s something I should have looked into more. But I was scared. In fact, I conditioned myself so that I could wake at any given day…to be unsurprised find she wasn’t here anymore, of her own accord. What saved her? A little stray dog we adopted.
Her 180 occurred so quickly, the bad episodes felt like a dream.
And I recall her saying at some point, it could be passed down to a kid.
Over a decade later, aged 26, I found what I believed to be True Love. Half a soul lost, which found the other half, me – and we were to complete each other. Wandering spirits rekindling something created at the beginning of time.
Music factored in there as well. Heavily. We shared so much. She was indie/hipster and I was…well, Punknews. But I worked magic. Set-list and paraphernalia? From live shows? Evanescence? Hawthorne Heights guitar pick? Death Cab For Cutie pick? Done. And getting that done from the Caribbean was no easy feat. Our contrasting musical tastes made things that much more interesting.
Got Young The Giant to even send her a private Christmas card in 2011. Holding up a chimney and mistletoe with her name on it. Felt surreal. I always went the extra mile. She bought me a Manchester Orchestra record and a Troubled Coast disc but only because I wrote about them at Punknews. That’s where the thought, appreciation and consideration for your insignificant other comes in. I’ll always be grateful for those things but they never felt organic or genuine.
You see, in Life and in relationships, it’s about balance. Don’t put in more than the other. I felt I could ignore that because of True Love but I ended up in a debt of heart. And soul. Still, I had Music. And it told me to keep believing in Love. In switching careers from engineering to writing. In Life. In People. Sad to say, the girl I loved and her family were obsessed with money. With the materialistic things in life. That helped further my already troublesome anger issues. But what quelled it? Music.
Pianos Become The Teeth. The Lack Long After was soothing. Kyle Durfey’s exposition on loss resonated and taught me to appreciate the people in your life while they’re here. I trudged on. Touche Amore’s “Gravity, Metaphorically” kept me anchored and grounded. “At least I tried” – were the words that Jeremy Bolm wrote for folks like me. It made me think back to the clichéd hopeless-romantic things I did. Stood in the rain with ice-cream? Stood outside a window? Snuck poems on post-its into her yard? Yeah, I couldn’t believe I did that. Nor would anyone who knew me. Somehow, I was exposed and vulnerable. As Adam Lazarra said – “defenceless, dependant and alone.”
But I was a machine and I kept believing in it. It drove me. My writing. My career. The fundamental principle of True Love. You can love many in a lifetime but there’s that one which comes along – different, stellar, and someone with the fire of a thousand burning suns.
Stay with me. Don’t get bored.
Thing is with rich, spoilt kids – and a love 7 years your junior – they wouldn’t care about walking out on a restaurant bill that would cost a young, black kid his job. That hurt me. I never grew up in money. So my rage built. That’s when things like my writing and my love for ‘rock’ music were levelled at me like stones. When people used my anger against me when I didn’t deserve it. I’ll stick up for that kid any day of the week though. Cutting out on a 3k bill is never worth the kicks nor is it worth the ignorance.
In the Caribbean, a young black kid finds it hard to get a job, if they’re not educated. And I wouldn’t stand for that. Because I believe in everyone helping everyone else to make the world whole. I saw said waiter’s face. Every night. I couldn’t stomach the revelation and I guess, having everyone look at me like a freak, like the wrong one – well, it eroded my sanity. I mean, seriously, you cost someone a job…you never know what could happen. And his face plagued me for months. I cried myself to sleep trying to think she was better than that. Believing that she wasn’t one of them. I fought my very fabric.
March 17, 2013. Two years went down the drain. We fought on her birthday. A Sunday. Tons of gifts. Tons of band merch. And a letter asking her to officially be my significant other. Down the drain. We tried to work it out. A week later, I turned down a HUGE LUCRATIVE job offer just to go see her and eat the birthday cake we never did. It was dour. But we were still together. Two days later, she wrote 1000 words of why I was the one NOT for her. And ended it. Over the phone.
And I haven’t seen her in person since.
“If we ever break up, it’ll take years to let my guard down. You mean so much to me.”
Her biggest lie. By May 2013, she had a new boyfriend.
I was left closing down a bank account I started for a ring, a lavish wedding she wanted and for many other things. I remember listening to We Were Promised Jetpacks in 2011 thinking that leaving a 25k job in engineering to write for 2k a month was madness. Why? Because I worked incessantly and my family never suffered a financial strain. It felt like I was cheating the system and winning. Being the lone breadwinner, I took care of mom, dad and my sister. And my 2 dogs or as I call them, little brothers. Weird thing is, I always budgeted for my girlfriend first. Then my family. I was there for her every step of the way in school, with her family and for every little thing that went wrong in her life. I’d never even sleep until she hit the 4am bed, even when I had an 8am job. I got nothing emotionally in return. But while she woke, I’d be listening to Music. To indie. Post-hardcore…and such. And writing a boatload of reviews.
“Call Me In The Morning” was our Taking Back Sunday jam. We said we’d dance to it at our wedding. “Book of Love” was another. Said we’d build an art studio for artsy kids and raise them good and well. Looking back now, this all seems like I tripped on acid and made stuff up.
A couple dead uncles a year into our romance and you know what I got? Her and her family telling me they didn’t attend ANYTHING with the bereaved because I never extended an invitation. I had Music though. I needed it to be my companion against these people. Why did I stay? Well, George Michael. Faith. Ironic, right?
So yeah, that was our relationship. And when August 2013 hit, that’s when I couldn’t write again. I dropped job after job. Delayed deadlines on personal graphic novels and charity work. And began dissembling bit by bit. I connected with nothing. No art, no music. Not a thing.
Seeing an image online with her and her boyfriend crushed me.
And when I hit rock bottom in September 2013, it wasn’t drugs, it wasn’t anything substance-related. It wasn’t even missing her. It was just about being lost. The one thing I believed in was a charade. That fundamental principle called Love was a lie. I based every fibre of myself on that principle that one day I’d find it, no matter how bad a person I was. And I tried to be a better man for her. But maybe I should have been for myself. Either way, no one deserves that cavity in the chest. Not even our worst enemies.
My videographer took me in and lent me a shoulder to cry on. So did another friend of mine. An artist. They took care of me because for the first time ever in Life, I was crumbling. I never experienced pain like this before. I shieded away from Music. And that’s when I knew things were near irreparable.
It took trips to Barbados, sport journalism with ESPN and a reluctant dive back into music reviews to get me kickin’. And slowly but surely I did. You know why?
Jeremy Bolm delivered a record. Touche Amore gave me Is Survived By. It was about leaving your legacy on the world. Changing it for the better and relying on no one but yourself. Every song hit me. Every song felt like a new breath. Every song was my lungs expanded again. It purged antidepressants and brought the colour and taste back. Every lyric was as powerful as one could imagine. It was a record that drove me. That nurtured me. It resuscitated me. It was a slow healing process and I would come back feeling energetic again in February 2014. That’s how long it took.
Even then, I’m sure no one who knows me would ever think I was suffering inside like that. I never spoke about it. Still don’t. But now, I know if and when I need to, I will. I can. I realized there’s always someone to talk to. A stranger. An artist. A record. Yourself. A friend. Family.
Sure, you’ll be angry to the bone, as well but still…do open up.
The world is too big. Too, too big. Yet…it’s never bigger than you. So find someone for a bit and pour into them. They’ll listen. Blog. Comment here. Paint graffiti.
Do whatever. Because, there’ll always be people like her. People like her family.
To tear substance down for style. To make the world superficial. To break beliefs and people.
But there’s sports. There’s games. There’s nature. There’s pen and paper.
There’s medicine. There’s therapy.
Mental health needs to be taken care of. Period.
Am I fully recovered? No.
I’m still scared. I don’t even think I endured the full or proper treatment. I bailed because I wanted to test myself and so far, so good. It was my biggest challenge.
I think I’m still a way off an appropriate diagnosis. But as someone who’s working on a teen suicide graphic novel, to have depression strike you mid-way through, and then you become one of the subjects you’re writing about, I can safely say, what you feel inside is unlike anything anyone can describe. I didn’t eat for days. I felt my body shrivel up inside.
But I managed to let Music back in. I kept the laptop running. And when Touche Amore released Just Exist…I felt a spark inside once more and I knew, there was Hope. Undying. I’d be more cynical but still, I was relieved to feel a fire again inside.
Then I remembered, Music was my first love.
It made me happy. So I decided to seek out other avenues of that happiness.
I needed as many as I could have gotten my hands on.
I found it with fellow creatives I plan to work with for many years to come.
I found it in an artist, whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in months, but whom I recall was brilliantly beautiful…and beautifully brilliant. Still is actually. That won’t ever change.
And I found something called Getting Sodas from Topshelf Records. It closes off nicely on anything you want it to. It reminds me that there are hands to hold, hugs to be had and kisses to offer.
The World Is A Beautiful Place. But We Have To Make It That Way.
Wherever You Find Home, We’ll Make It More Than Just A Shelter.
And If Everyone Belongs There, It’ll Hold Us All Together.
If You’re Afraid To Die, Then So Am I.
And that leads to me advise this.
Contradict me. Put more in than the other. Take the risk.
The reward’s that much sweeter. And never be afraid of anything.
I felt the pressures of the world on me – work-wise, family-wise and relationship-wise – and I understood at long last why Cobain and Elliott exited stage left…but I’ve finally found an ending to all this.
In Life, I always carry voices on my shoulder, helping me to write. One of them was Robin Williams’ character from Good Will Hunting. I watch it once a month. Since 2010. It’s one of my favourite performances. And it’s one that made me brave enough to share this with you.
It feels good saying once more, I am afraid to die.
And to know my heart beats like it did in the past, skipping and skipping, for a certain smile.
Music’s a big part of me. “Young and Happy” from Hop Along is my jam these days. And will probably be for some time.
At least with her, for that little bit of Life, I got to be young and happy.
So now, it’s onto Joyce Manor. “Heart Tattoo” says it all. It connects with folks like me.
And The Dawson.
As I type this, I recall Restless. Epic film. Starred Dennis Hopper’s kid and Mia Wasikowska.
I watched it and then sat in the dark listening to Sigur Ros. Plunging.
Remembering that I always wanted to meet my True Love, walking through a crowd at my favourite band’s show. I won’t get that chance I think. But the epilogue to Restless keeps reminding me…to always keep believing.
I’ll end with the words of a Kamikaze. He found what I thought I did.
No matter what, keep searching.
“As I write this letter, the ocean breeze feels cool on my skin. The very ocean is soon to be my grave. They tell me I will die a hero, that the safety and honour of my country will be the reward for my sacrifice. I pray they are right.
My only regret in life is never telling you how I feel. I wish I were back home. I wish I were holding your hand. I wish I were telling you that I have loved you and only you since I was a boy. But I am not. I see now that death is easy. It is love that is hard. As my plane dives, I will not see the face of my enemies. I will only, instead, see your eyes. Like black rocks frozen in rain water.
They tell us that we must scream, “Banzai” as we plunge into our target. I will instead whisper your name and in death, as in life, I will remain forever yours.”
– Hiroshi Takahashi