The Home in our Heads

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September 1, 2016:

The album I listened to when I left my childhood home was titled The Home Inside My Head.

Before I met my boyfriend, I hadn’t thought about pop punk twice since middle school. I wasn’t even one of those tween Blink-182 disciples. No, I was all about Motion City Soundtrack and Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco.

Of course, when you fall for someone, you explore their interests. There were some pop punk and post-emo bands that he showed me that I immediately took to (The Wonder Years, The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die, Sorority Noise, Modern Baseball).

He also always mentioned Real Friends because they were actually from the Chicago suburbs. I didn’t really listen to them until their new LP came out.

I listened to a song, “Empty Picture Frames”. Then another. Then another.

I liked it.

 

In August, my family moved out of my hometown home. We had lived there for over twenty years. We moved in from the city on Halloween when I was just a baby. It was supposed to be my parents’ “starter home.” They stayed a lot longer than that. But now, they were moving to Queens (my dad has already been living there for a few months for his new job). It was a happy coincidence – I finally get to see my parents more than three times a year. I just didn’t expect to get so emotional about my family leaving the suburbs.

So, I had a plane ticket to go home one last time before the move date. When I was waiting for my flight home, I had a little bit of access to wifi. I remembered that I liked that song. I’d give the album a try.

I didn’t listen to it on the flight going there – I actually watched The Sting for the first time.

The last time. I couldn’t believe that it was going to be the last time in that house. It hadn’t really hit me yet.

So I went home. I saw my sister for the first time in seven months. I saw my mom for the first time in four months. I saw my dog.

I was happy to see them, but I could see the weight of the situation in everyone’s face. This wasn’t just moving. This was uprooting our lives.

We were moving far. I had already been there for a few years. I was happy to be there, but I never expected my family to move there. I had already learned to accept the pain of distance.

There is a huge sense of disassociation that I still feel, and I have been here on the East Coast for awhile. And I love here. But while I’m at home, it isn’t the deepest sense of familiarity, the kind of familiarity that you knew from when you were a kid. That’s gone now. I still feel like I’m starting a life in the middle of an ocean.

It doesn’t feel like the blueberries that get smashed on the sidewalk when you’re walking in the summer. It doesn’t feel like taking the dog out in the snow as she spends fifteen minutes walking around in the white fluff. It doesn’t feel like the worn couch in the family room, my favorite couch to fall asleep on as a show is playing in the background. It doesn’t feel like waking up and looking at drawings on my ceiling. Most of them mine, but some of them from friends, from my brother and sister, my cousins. It doesn’t feel like putting up little strips of quotes from my favorite movies and television shows on my walls when I felt alone. It doesn’t feel like making chalk houses on the driveway, swinging on the swing set in the backyard.

It doesn’t feel like Halloween, when the air is perfectly chilly, just enough that when I come back from trick-or-treating, I get some warm apple cider. Charlie Brown is on in the background and I dump all of my precious candy onto the scraggly carpet. That good kind of scraggly, where you can run your fingers through it.

It doesn’t, most certainly, feel like Christmas. It doesn’t feel like going to the community pool up the road, making comfortable small talk with the Christmas tree salesmen as they bring the chosen tree to the car.

It doesn’t feel like being in the background as my dad and brother actually do all the heavy work setting up the tree back at the house. I shift back and forth behind them, pacing. Lucy fetches the water, or does something productive at least. I stand back and watch, looking up at the top of the branches. This is probably for the best, considering my trademark clumsiness.

It’s not like I’m nostalgic for being a kid again. I don’t wish it was “still the ’90s.” It’s not the memories that I miss. It’s the house. The house was the keeper of these memories. I had been there my whole life. Just looking at a dent in the wall would jog my memory about something. Something my family. The house defined us, made us who we are.

My walls and my ceiling in my room are now painted grey. For most if my life, they were yellow and purple walls with pink and white striped wallpaper. My loft bed was a sanctuary. It’s where I read, where I wrote in my diary every day. It’s where I watched hours (no… days) of Monty Python, Kids in the Hall. It’s where I watched The Graduate for the first time, where I watched Midnight Cowboy.

The walls surrounding my bed were filled with quotes. The Simpsons started it all, when I wanted to compile all of Sideshow Bob’s quotes. I’d print them out and tape them on. It became other shows, other movies, inside jokes. I was surrounded by words that made me laugh so that whenever I was sad, I knew where to look.

As a kid, I knew that I could always come home to be happy, which I know is incredibly lucky to say. I knew I could come home if I wasn’t invited to a party in my class but all the other girls at school were. I knew I could come home if I had been crying from schoolwork, or a test, or just a rough day. I knew I could come home because I didn’t feel like I belonged with a lot of people from that town. I knew I belonged at home.

For now, I still have my Illinois driver’s license.

 

I ended up listening to the album on my flight home. It filled in the gaps that felt like what I was missing about that house. The first song, “Stay in One Place,” hit me in my gut. It felt so relatable, so honest, that search for finally finding the place that makes you finally stop wandering. “Mess” felt like an ode to getting better but still realizing there was much to work on. “Colder Quicker” was the perfect closer, a song that felt transcendent. That first time that I listened to the album was just as the plane lifted into the sky. We were flying in the night sky, over the twinkling skyline of Chicago. It was a fitting goodbye, as this incredible, poignant album filled my heart and allowed me to let go, for the time being.

 

October 10, 2017:

I went to Riot Fest last month and it was the first time that I had been back to Chicago in over a year.

Through the move, the homesickness, the growth, the change, I made it back. I made it back to my house in the suburbs, only looking at it from the outside. I made it back to my favorite places in the city. I made it back to friends that I hadn’t seen in a year. I made it back to my brother and his new apartment in the city.

All of these nostalgic experiences I got to experience with my boyfriend. He was finally able to place a huge piece in the puzzle of my life.

For most of that trip, I had forgotten about the significance of The Home Inside My Head, to be honest. It was an album that became a regular in my music rotation. I got so used to the music being relevant “in the now” that the move from last year felt far away. What also helped was that my new roots in New Jersey are feeling more and more grounded. My boyfriend and I moved into a wonderful, vibrant area outside of the city. I get to see my parents at least every other week, if not more. This is a welcome change from the sparse meet-ups that we could manage when they lived in the Midwest. 

I see my future here, through and through.

We went to Riot Fest with my brother for one of the days. The next day, it was just my boyfriend and I. One of the bands we saw was Real Friends. Within the year since the move, I’d already seen them and loved their show. But I was excited to see them here, in Chicago. They’re from a town not too far from my hometown. And now they’ve travelled far. A shared experience.

Once they started playing, I remembered the significance.

The past seemed to be brimming in my mind. The memories of that flight last year rushed back to me. But I wasn’t sad or scared. I felt whole. I felt complete. I felt like I had completed a quest, a mission, by bringing my New Jersey boyfriend home and reconnecting with my Illinois life. I felt like a holistic version of me was represented in a single experience. Here was my home. Here is where my home is now. Here is them together.

I felt at peace, listening to the songs on stage that made me cry on that plane. I felt happiness knowing that I ended up growing and progressing. I felt happiness that I didn’t lose touch with where I came from.

I still feel homesick, from time to time. There truly is nothing that compares to the familiarity of childhood nostalgia. But it’s something that I don’t need all the time. When I moved away, I had already known that about myself. 

Real Friends launched into their last song. I looked across the field to the Chicago skyline. It felt as if I was just at a music fest like old times. When it was done, we would hop on the Metra back home. We’d walk the short walk through the tiny downtown. We’d walk up the hill to the house and open the side door, head downstairs and watch tv on the most comfortable sofa in the world. 

And that was enough. That feeling was enough. 

Because now, I have new, exciting, fun, heartwarming places to go. But I can always be happy that this was my life in the Midwest.

 

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Happy Miserable: Los Campesinos! Audio Deception

My favorite songs, albums, artists, are the ones that are clever, the ones that are able to trick the listener. For example, while Run the Jewels may have rough sounding vocals and gutters synths to back them up that evoke a sense of fear, their lyrics suggest us to take tolerance into greater account in our daily lives.

The band I am particularly thinking of and listening to currently is Los Campesinos! The song Miserbilia is an excellent example of this with just the name alone. You have an expectation of a song that is slow, morose, slogging.Instead, it is high-anxiety, high energy, even the notes from the guitars and xylophone seem to be on uppers. It even starts with “breathe easy” from the singer.

It’s such a fun song that you forget to actually listen. You’re bobbing your head on the subway and looking at the people in the car and you think about the diversity of the city or something else that you think is inspiring.

But the end, when you listen to it for the first time, is what makes you stop dancing. The polite smile you have on turns into a scowl and you listen to the song again.

You actually listen to the lyrics this time and this sense of washes over you. 

“No one matters.

(No one matters).

No one cares.”

The dialogue between the two lovers suggests a parting of ways, or a misunderstanding. 

But it’s not the interaction between them that matters. It’s how it makes them feel. How things like that make us all feel. 

How the worlds makes us feel.

“Shout at the world because the world doesn’t love you,

Lower yourself because you know that you’ll have to.”

It’s that – the end makes you stop in your tracks. You know that sort of scream they’re singing. It’s the same screaming you keep locked in your stomach when something bad happens at work or you’re arguing with a family member. You can’t let it go.

But you want to. God, you want to. And at least it feels good to hear what it feels like, even when you didn’t expect it.

Freedom Michael – “Freedom! ’90” by George Michael

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Today, the one and only George Michael died.

Today is Christmas.

Today, I did not want this to happen.

Was I the biggest George Michael fan? No. Did I have to Wikipedia search his life to make sure I wasn’t stirring the political pot by posting a heartbroken Facebook status about him? Yes. I’m a millennial, of course I did that.

The point is, though, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t the biggest fan. It doesn’t really matter with any sort of celebrity death how big of a “fan” you were. If you have a distinct or personal memory or connection with that figure, it’ll affect you in your own way.

The first time I heard “Freedom! ’90” was in a car on the way back from church after a church choir practice. For some reason, my sister was in the car, but she wasn’t old enough to be at that particular practice. Anyway, point is that she was with us. My dad had picked me up and for some reason, he really was in the mood for some George Michael.

My sister and I were speechless. This was the greatest song that we had ever heard in our entire lives. It’s six and a half minutes of soul-pop bliss. Its vocals came from that really gutsy part of your diaphragm – the best kind of singing if you’re brave enough to sing karaoke. Not to mention when I finally watched the music video, I had never thought the phrase, “I’m astounded, but I’m not surprised” before. God and that piano. Everything about that song makes you want to dance.

We made our dad replay that song until we got home.

When I entered high school, I joined the radio club with a few friends over the years. That song would be sprinkled across dozens of playlists, hoping that the three listeners who listened to our station would enjoy a blast from the past.

I liked listening to this song best when I was getting ready for a test. I liked listening to this song best if I had been rejected by (one of many) crushes that I had throughout high school (I was the opposite of a teenage heartthrob during my adolescent years). I liked listening to this song when I was done with finals. I liked listening to this song if I was in a bad mood. I liked listening to this song when I felt a little hopeless.

I liked listening to this song when I wasn’t really happy with who was and how people viewed me. I’m not saying that in the sense that I didn’t like who I was. I’m saying that in high school I didn’t really know how to portray the person that I wanted to be. When I was with my family and close friends, I was bouncing off the walls, opinionated, annoying, loud, interesting, dramatic, dynamic.

To everyone else… I was a misfit. I was someone that was brushed off. I was on the sidelines. I was boring.

I listened to this song thinking that one day, and hopefully one day soon, I could break out of my shell and be myself in front of everyone.

“There’s someone else I got to be.”

Sometimes not everyone is who they seem.

I went to college with this mantra and, despite some of the sloppy drunk nights that I had, it worked. I might have been annoying or restless or loud or silly, but at least people finally knew me. People finally knew what was in my heart.

The song popped up on my Spotify playlists every now and then. The best, the best, feeling that I ever had while I was listening to this song was after I finished my Stats final during my sophomore year of college. I always had a struggling relationship with math classes and once I was done with this one, I never had to take another math class again.

I was so happy when I finished that final that I jammed the headphone buds into my ears and as I blasted the song, I danced in the parking lot outside of the class. I was oblivious to other people. I didn’t care who saw me dance like an idiot. They had no knowledge of the freedom I felt. I was done.

In college I also started dating around a little more, and I think maybe like 2% of the experiences that I had were actually positive. Even if I was the one that was being rejected in that scenario, I normally knew it was coming. I would play the song and relief poured through me. “A blessing,” I’d say. “The fact that I’m not with him is a God damn blessing.”

I branched out with my George Michael knowledge in college as well, listening to Faith and Ladies & Gentlemen and some Wham! albums (it made the jokes in Arrested Development funnier, for sure).

But I always had “Freedom! ’90” as a support song. It was the song that I’d listen to once something or someone had passed through my life. I was done with that era. And no matter what, I could find a reason to celebrate the future with this song.

Maybe that’s why George Michael’s death is such a blow right now. In the wake of the election, it’s hard to find those moments of soul-lifting relief that “Freedom! ’90” gives. We’re all looking for it, but we haven’t found it yet.

Maybe for George, after all that he’s gone through, he can feel free, wherever he is. Maybe we can take advice from “Freedom! ’90” in these scary times. Maybe we can find our own freedom too.

“All we have to do now is take these lies and make them true somehow.

All we have to see is that I don’t belong to you and you don’t belong to me.”

Letting Go – “Let Go” by RAC feat. Kele & MNDR

The best feeling in the world is when I stop worrying.

 It’s a rare moment. I’m worried all of the time, even when I’m happy and things are great in my life. And, no shocker, things are great in my life and I am happy. So of course I worry. I worry about my narrative, as if I am a character in a novel. Characters always confront conflict and peaceful pages don’t really account for an interesting story. Where is the conflict going to come from next? It’s a bit of a skewed to look at things, I know, but I fortunately think this writing trick that I do can lead to a bit of magic from this harried mind. I can put it to use. Unfortunately, I haven’t been as motivated to put it to use lately (and I have been busy with balancing the elements of my life, as one does). So the thoughts fester more than I am used to. It’s like… I feel like I’m a wound-up spring, even when I go to bed. I can feel something in the back of my head buzzing, some scene or memory playing on repeat. Maybe it’s a thought. Maybe it’s a feeling. Something is always there. It’s heightened when I interact with people, even with people I am extremely comfortable with and know me very well. 

It eats at me. It eats at them. 

I had a great moment last week when I was walking home and I was in a good mood, yes, but then something miraculous happened when I was listening to this song. I just focused on the playful synths and bouncing vocals and I just felt elated at how happy the music was making me feel. I was looking forward to just relaxing that night and eating food and drinking some light beer (because I have been good about getting healthier). I didn’t feel uncomfortable in Jersey City like how I used to feel and I was feeling like our apartment was becoming my home, too.

The little biting thoughts disappeared, and a smile came across my face. I started to feel tears well up against the cold air, and it felt so refreshing. 

Then a cool wave washed over my head, a feeling of nothingness. As if I was cleansing my brain, massaging it from all of the anxiety and negative thoughts. I felt like I was in a blanket, like I had put on warm socks and it was my mind that was feeling these sensations. I had an image in my mind of a beautifully lit candle next to a rainy windowsill. Of a Christmas tree lit in the middle of the night next to the couch. 

I think I started crying silently, happily, to myself because this is how “normal” people feel. This is what people who don’t have reoccurring repetitions feel every day. And boy, now I can understand how they can be carefree, how they can let go of things and go on their day. And I started crying silently, happily, because I… I can feel that way too. I can do it.

I turned the corner and the memories of chores I needed to do (dishes, trash) crept back into a small corner of my mind and the fuzziness of my mind was reverting back to its normal prickliness. But I wasn’t sad or disappointed. I know who I am and I know it’s a struggle with those thoughts right now. 

I wasn’t sad or disappointed because it gave me hope. It gave me strength. It gave me a reason to believe I could feel like that, not just for two minutes, but for all the time. I could feel like that one day all day long.

Healed – Sunlit Youth by Local Natives


Local Native’s Hummingbird came at a personal crossroads in my life. I was getting ready to leave everything. (By that I mean study in other places for a year, I will always know I am lucky and privileged for that experience). I was tired of the places I had always known, the people that never reciprocated in the friendship I gave. I was tired of being looked at like a misfit. If you have a history of being different, no one will ever look at you differently if you start to change. 

Hummingbird got me through some tough shit. People have done some really shitty things to me, but I never wanted to think of myself as the “victim.” I do enough basic victimization just by berating society for inventing Cheez-Its that keeps me from being a size 2. 

But when I finally did leave, I also left Hummingbird. I left my wallowing. I found Gorilla Manor and that perfectly described my changes in my identity and also the hope I was feeling while starting a new path. I was able to get away from the crap that had hurt me.

My journey was a whirlwind that lasted for three years. I cycled through so many apartments, friend groups, classes and different types of transportation cards. I wasn’t really keeping up with my own life.

When I moved to the New York area over a year ago, I thought it wasn’t going to last. I was expecting the cycle to generate once more after four months. 

But New York was different than the rest. This is what all my work had been for. This is the place I strived to be.

I never wanted the cycle to happen so I had to learn to view things a little differently. In a way, I didn’t consciously think about it, but I had to learn to grow up. At least, a little bit more.

Thank God I decided to stay. (Says the agnostic, but you get my drift).

My mind hasn’t always been in tact these past few years. I gave in to temptation a few times and I still give into anxiety a lot. But it’s getting better because I feel strong, even when my bad thoughts tell me that I’m not.

And oh my god, I actually have a life, an existence, an identity again. I don’t feel like some recyclable friend anymore. I feel like I belong.

I have met people who are so deeply important to me I never thought I would even make an impact like that on another human. I also am so incredibly in love and I never, ever thought I would be so committed to someone.

I don’t feel lost anymore, and I am so happy for that. 

I have pride in describing my efforts, my achievements, my mistakes of the past year here in this area. I feel like I took charge of my life by coming here.

And by a fortuitous turn of events, my parents are here now! I can see them whenever I want! And my dog!! It’s been years since I have felt this element of normalcy.

I feel all of these feelings as I listen to the glistening, gliding tracks of Coins, Psycho Lovers, Sea Of Years. 

Hummingbird was full of such incredible sorrow, and Gorilla Manor was all about trying to make ends work in different elements of life. 

Sunlit Youth makes me think of healing through striving for the challenge of doing what you want. Sunlit Youth makes me think of having an argument with a loved one not because of something serious but of something that’s going to further develop the relationship.

Things aren’t always going to be easy, and maybe the most difficult hardships have yet to come. But I look up at the buildings and I feel in my gut I’ll get through it.

In this album, Local Natives sound like they’ve healed.

I have too.

Stars Will Fade, But You Don’t Have To

Spoilers ahead. Hopefully a cosmic television force will prompt you to watch this perfect show.

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I watched BoJack Horseman from nearly the beginning of its initial release. It was by accident, actually, despite the fact that I followed the show’s social media marketing for the premiere.

It was an accident because in that moment, I needed something to focus on. It was the worst hangover I had ever experienced – you know – the one where you actually do think that you’re going to die. My head had been spinning for about three hours and there was nothing left my body could give to the toilet. I just wanted 20 minutes of peace, I didn’t think that was too much to ask.

I didn’t really care for the first half of the season. I wasn’t until the episode about BoJack’s bender, “Downer Ending,” when I started to actually pay attention.

It hit a chord, hearing him ask Diane “I need you to tell me that I’m a good person” over and over again and getting only silence in response. It was the first time in the show that I felt a connection, a humanity about the story. The obsessive desperation of needing validation was something I knew all too well. And still do despite everything that I have in my life.

It also felt pretty poignant that I was watching an episode about excessive substance use after a night of heavy drinking. I didn’t foray into those particular bars for a long time after that morning.

BoJack, however, did his job and distracted me with a fantastic first season. I was hooked.

The show went further into this mindset of desperate gratification with the second season. Escape from L.A. is burned into my memory – the phrase “I think you’re the tar pit” etched especially. No matter where or what, whatever monster you have on your back, it’s going to follow you unless you appropriately address it.

A lot of people who have those monsters – no matter if they’re big or small – will take a long time to actually figure out how to deal with them, if they want to deal with them at all. It’s easy to get comfortable with a crutch. You think you have a scapegoat. “Oh, that just was me when I was really anxious, I don’t normally cry at bus stops in front of fifty people.”

How long can you keep that as a scapegoat when those moments of toxic release happen more frequently or more intensely? How many times are you going to get carried out of a bar crying? How many times do you have to wake up the next morning and mumble sorry to your friends and family? If you notice, they normally don’t care when you apologize. They just size up for the next time that you fall.

But there’s something that’s bothering you – maybe it’s in your mind or how you feel. And it doesn’t correlate to what you’re doing (it could, but sometimes it doesn’t). It doesn’t matter if you’re wealthy or successful or loved. It’s this… thing that’s always keeping you uneasy. Many people try to demolish that ambiguous negativity completely, be it alcohol, drugs, or other addicting things in life. Normally you’re burning the forest when you do that.

BoJack season 3 is that concept. It’s the ballad of BoJack’s depression and impulsive self-destruction. It’s the most destructive he’s ever been in the series. The pinnacle of this is the month-long bender that kills Sarah Lynn, the only person he confesses he knows how to love. Even before the bender, his friends are beginning to let their apathetic facade fade. Instead of saying “that’s just BoJack,” Diane and Todd tell BoJack that he’s the one that’s being bad. He’s the one that ruins things. And if he doesn’t own up to it, something serious will happen. Unfortunately, it does.

Obviously, I’m not BoJack, but this is the point of the show that, like the “Downer Ending” episode, I feel queasy about knowing how the situation feels. My friends and family in my life will stop me from crying or me repeating bad things about myself out of frustration. At what point, they say, will I finally be convinced that things are okay? That I’m a good person?

And after all of this in this season, after all of that, the finale ends with hope. He could’ve kept his hands off the wheel but he doesn’t. He stops. He looks at the healthy, running horses and sees what he’d love to really be.

I recently had a conversation that a lot of elements of society keep us from being our true selves. A lot of elements of ourselves do that too.

I think that it’s not just a matter of not being true to ourselves. I also think it’s a matter of not being healthy for ourselves. A little bit of vice is okay, but it becomes all too easy to swing on the scale of excessiveness when something feels off.

We need to be healthy to our minds. Not everything in life lasts forever – as Nina Simone sings in the finale’s closing song – but you can still rise up and sing. You can still do what you are meant to do, what you are meant to feel, if you push yourself to find a way.

How music saves us: a look at The National’s ‘High Violet’

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We all deal with our shades of pain and experiences. Our memories and thoughts of the future. Musings on where we are now.

It seems to me that a lot of people, such as myself, express their feelings of pain by listening to their favorite music. I certainly do that with The National’s High Violet.

I feel ashamed sometimes of my pain. A lot of people who deal with issues with mental health have this similar guilt, as if our problems aren’t real. However, when you look in the eyes of someone who cares about you as they witness you break down, it starts to become a little more real.

I am thinking about everything in my life all of the time and I can start to feel my mind fray a little bit. It’s refreshing to know I can go to people who care about me and talk to them about it, but back in college, I used some of those people as a crutch. It was a constant barrage of expressing my neurotic thoughts, and I shared this with people I had just met. It wasn’t fair – they also have their set of problems. But I was clawing for some sort of sanctuary.

I still go to my family and some select friends about my problems, but sometimes I get exhausted from being myself. I can tell when they are getting tired of hearing my obsessive mental patterns. Then I get tired of getting worried that they are getting tired of hearing about my worrying.

My last semester of college I went to yoga and it did hep a little bit, but it was so brief that I still fall into my normal thinking patterns. The cycle of negative self-thoughts didn’t cease. My shaking didn’t cease.

I am seeking to feel better about myself because I think I am the hardest on myself.

It’s nice to write and draw and explore, activities that draw me away from the obsessive social media checking, a vice that has me on lockdown. I seek people out to keep myself from self-isolation, but sometimes it’s hard to be alone for that reason.

I don’t like the days where I feel like I am carrying rocks on my back and every breath feels like I’m gulping for air. I don’t like the days where everything feels like needles and my mouth tastes like cotton. I don’t like the days where I feel my arm tingle and I think I’m going to have a heart attack when I should be celebrating my good health. I don’t like the days where I think I don’t deserve the love I have. I don’t like the days where I all can do is lay in bed and stare straight ahead at the wall. I don’t like this experience I have been in for a long, long time.

I am so grateful for everything in my wonderful life – I really do have amazing people and do amazing things. Instead of being boundlessly happy for this, I let guilt me draw me into my anxious tendencies.

In my moments where I feel like sludge, I’ll turn to this album and I’ll feel relaxed. This album for about a year was the album I would listen to as I fell asleep. While I don’t do that anymore, the lullaby qualities still affect me. I can feel the pace of my heartbeat slowing. Instead of thinking of my ineptitude, I think about how much I love the piano part in ‘England.’ My love for this song, this album, for music, pushes out the downward-spiral-thoughts that clot my mind.

It revitalizes me, refreshes me. After I feel better, I can meet my friend for coffee and laugh at something they say. Or I can look at a building that reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting and smile because, gee, do I love art.

And I love again. I care again. And for awhile, I am not afraid to do so. The music and the art brings me back to caring, and I allow myself to believe that I am good at that.

A love letter inspired by the body of works as produced by the band Passion Pit

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This is a love letter that can be seen addressed to a variety of forms. It is directed to one person and a collection of ideas. This is to the inner strength have to I tell myself that I have and to the friend that lets me sleep on their couch. It’s to those who give me mix playlists. It’s to the music and to the thoughts it gives me.

One of my favorite bands is Passion Pit not because I listen to them all the time or because I think they’re the best, but because their stories of emotional struggle and resilience are universal. It’s a story many people can relate to in their own perseverance. Passion Pit’s music largely deals with love, growth, and the mental health issues that the frontman, Michael Angelakos faces. An overwhelming amount of the songs are sonically upbeat and happy-sounding. Isn’t that true though? You have this inner sadness but you seem so happy to others.

Passion Pit has many loyal fans, fans that have been there from the beginning with Chunk of Change and the clangy, raw, powerful cut of “Sleepyhead.” The EP was actually a Valentine’s Day present that Angelakos made for his girlfriend at the time. The whole EP was him, tracks and vocals, but once the music gained traction, the band fell into place around him for the debut LP. Producing art, whatever form, is the greatest sense of happiness an artist, and especially one that has blue-tinted glasses on, can have. If an artist gives you part of their happiness, that is love.

The band came into themselves with Manners, a body of work like a book, an ode to the sweetness of the beginnings of things. A growing up version of love. It was an album that carried me into the last leg of my high school days. There was something else, however, besides the EP’s caring sentiment. There were songs like “Moth’s Wings” and “Swimming in the Flood.” These songs were boomy, base-driven. They were about how thoughts, like blocks, build and build to amount to our personalities. There wasn’t something wholly happy about the album, although the songs were mainly upbeat, dance-inducing. A little tug of intrigue that I didn’t think much about until their next album, Gossamer.

Gossamer came during the beginning of my sophomore year in college. Freshman year is a challenging time for everyone, I think. I don’t think there’s anyone in college that can say: “I dealt with no issues during the first year that I entered a new level of young adulthood.” There is a level of uncertainty that buzzes in your brain that whole first year. No wonder so many people turn to the party scene. I did and I was part of the culture solidly that second year.

I would listen to this album during my workouts at the gym the morning after the booming late-night rendezvous. I never turned down an evening, I liked the release.

Gossamer was a similar tone. Tracks that had a fast heartbeat and bubbly falsettos. If you listened closely to the words, there was doubt and self-defeatism embedded in the songs.

At these parties I told my friends my problems, my worries, the deep sludge of my thoughts about my self-image. The world was blurry at this point. It was a subconscious tactic to get away with saying what I felt. “Oh I was drunk, I didn’t mean it,” was my nasty little trick I played on myself and my friends. I wasn’t realizing the gravity of what I was doing since in the daylight I was happy and laughing with those same friends. So I carried on, living a normal college existence.

But listening to Gossamer was when I questioned myself. Gossamer was an album about a pain that I understood and I wasn’t really sure why.

A lot happened between Gossamer and Kindred. The albums are a contrast of each other. Gossamer is in the midst of struggling with denial and darkness whereas Kindred is looking up to the sky and wanting to be good to those you love and telling them you’re trying, you’re trying so hard. You didn’t used to have to work this hard.

I first listened to Kindred this year at the coffee shop I lived near in Syracuse. There were three weeks left of school. At this point in my life, I am learning to let go of denial about myself. I need to change how I act. The self-pity routine hurts people who love me and I can’t have that happen anymore. Thinking patterns are my nemesis. So is general anxiousness about everything.

I listened to this album when I was feeling peaceful, a low-glowing lamp that shone on my homework and a coffee by my side. I remember reading an article that day about how Angelakos made this album for his wife. It was about how much he loves her and how hard he is working on his issues with depression for her. It was about how she has helped him through so much.

When you listen to the album, Kindred is a love letter, as Chunk of Change is, but it is so much different. Chunk of Change is youth and learning what it’s like to express your beauty for someone. Kindred is commitment. Kindred is apologizing for the pain of the past to move forward. Kindred is looking at someone and letting them know where you’re at and how you are working hard for them. How you want to be healthy for them.

Sometimes I think of myself in this electrified cage. It’s a nasty electrical charge if you get too close. If you know me from afar, you can’t even see it. I laugh and I joke and I ask about how your day is. People smile and walk by and I’m relieved they don’t really know me. If they do get close, then they see the prison I have created for myself, and it puts them off. They don’t want to get electrocuted, who does? Not everyone leaves, though, and we learn to be friends with what I have.

Then there are the people that have known me for my whole life and they don’t notice the cage. They aren’t phased by my texts asking whether or not an indent on my skull means I have a fracture or texts about how because I said a weird joke, that must mean I’m a bad person. They tell me to knock it off and I do, and for a time I forget about my cage. For a time I remember drawing chalk cartoons on the driveway and smiling.

But then there’s that person that comes and looks at me with longing and happiness and rushes to me, not missing a beat, knowing to be close to me. They grab at the bars of my cage and are scared, hurt. This is the person where their stomach sinks when I say “I’m the worst.” They are hurt by my pain and when I look at them and I feel a fear, a real fear, one that isn’t part of the irrational cloth of nervousness. This fear is that I am hurting people vividly, and that I am hurting someone I care about so much about with words about myself.

This is when I know I need to get out of the cage.

Kiss your knuckles- “Twin Size Mattress” by the Front Bottoms

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I hope 2015 kissed its knuckles, because it punched me in the face. And I’m glad it did.

Let’s start when I first started listening to this song in the early months of the year, in winter, when shit was bleak. My friend Jess told me about this band, and bless her. I think this song came up on Soundcloud by accident. I needed it though, it was freezing. I mean, it was Antarctica weather, right?

Okay so there’s this fucking hill that I had to walk over every day going to class when I was in school five months ago (which feels like five years ago).

I was just heartsick all the time, and maybe because I didn’t really know and I was I was just numb to it, I didn’t really know why I was climbing the hill (since there’s this thing called buses). But maybe I needed the cold, wet snow seep through my boots so that my mind wouldn’t latch onto the words that someone told me two years ago.

I climbed this hill and I was so God damn angry for the past, I hated the way it made me feel, but I thought it would be better to climb it than just… Not. 

I thought walking would be better than closing the blinds and laying in my bed and being alone saying, “no, not today.” 

I climbed this hill and this song would scream in my ears and I felt like it was justified, here were my nightmares every night, but just on a daily basis walking over this hill.

Things in my life began to change. Old securities were evaporated, health updates shook me up when it wasn’t even about me (healthy as all can be, that’s my curse). I was away from the people that formed me and all I could think about was being with them. I needed to know what they were doing. How they were doing. 

Being remote from those you love in the tundra takes a toll, but you don’t let it get you down because it can’t. You can’t get down.

So I am listening to this song as lives are changing and I want to tell them that I will help them swim, but even to this day I don’t know how I can tell them.

But during those months, I know I have to do this thesis project on this punk venue that’s cold as balls when a band plays and I have to do well in my classes and I have to find a fucking job.

I go to New York in March to say good bye. I honestly thought it was good bye. I don’t remember feeling sadder as I departed from my visiting brother and friends who were of the world I was foaming at the mouth to join. I wanted to contribute to that glorious chaos.

It was a blow to the gut, like the punch I gave my high school boyfriend when a girl sat on his lap for forty five minutes as I watched them talk. Everything was pounding in my head, everything was becoming a breaking point. My arm was starting to get numb but I didn’t think too much about it.

I didn’t think, even when nurse practitioners asked “what have you done about your anxiety?” And I would shy away. I would be fine, even though I would go to the counsellors at the counseling center at school and tell them about the way people treated me and they’d look like they were about to cry. 

I was hurting by the end of the semester because I was trying to not be in my head, but I was so deep in there, coming to a head during graduating class picnic with all of my fellow senior friends. It made me cry because I didn’t belong anywhere. I was gone already. I talked to fellow floaters, but they, like me, were dust passing. It’s no big surprise it turned out this way. I felt cursed forever.

With tears in my eyes, I begged not to stay anymore. I wanted out. This song pounded in my face as started going on jogs and I ran by the cemetery, spring showing its head and reminding me to take care of my (to me) pathetic body again.

Three weeks were the buffer I had before adulthood after graduation. I was sure there was something I could find to do in the city, like shake a tambourine as I find a place to live.

Miraculously, I lived in my dream nostalgia for two months. I was back in East Village like before, and loving it. I was where was destined to be.

Until I looked at my bank account.

I was lucky I was on a full-sized mattresses, let alone a twin-sized mattress. But here I was! I wasn’t thinking of living longterm. I was living that life. I was here. Here I was. 

But every day was a trek, a journey, to get to work. The song faded as I walked and I was happy. 

The end of my sublet came faster than I expected and I was thrown into the ocean of unexpected living. I’d pretend it was casual at work, but I was drowning in fear and insecurity. It wasn’t a lake I was swimming with friends. Where was going to live? Where the fuck was I going to live? 

Pounding, dull sadness is a powerful terror on the soul. This happens when you can’t meet your needs. 

I had friends take care of me, comfort me, shelter me. This was good, but people were still worried when I found my temporary place in Hoboken. I exhaled a long sigh of exhaustion and sadness, and I poured that fear into rediscovering this song. It was nice to listen to it in a bed and not the air mattress that I was on.

I was dedicated to finding the longterm. And I found it. My dedication, my sleepless nights paid off. I didn’t ignore the warning signs, but I did expect more.

New York, hey man, I love you, but no fucking way.

I wanted stability, and Jersey felt like that to me. I knew it the first week I lived with my friend. 

There are people that fizzle and then there are people that keep that spark in your eye.

I found my longterm sublet and I waited for that to begin.

When it did, I was punched the face again, but this was the best wakeup call I could have ever gotten.

Here I am, living 2015, a fucking boxing match at this point, and then I meet someone that I actually want to care about and get to know.

My normal cycle of “Claire, you’re not worthy,” seeped into physical manifestations, to the point that I talked to nurses and they burst at me, “stop! Stop you’re not helping yourself looking up webmd.”

I was used to myself saying “no” to myself about any sort of person creating happiness in me and I put up every front I could think of and thankfully they just melted. It just melted and now I’m in this glistening pond of beauty and hope and happiness and positivity and care and there’s wonderful person I’m still getting to know here with me as well.

I always wanted to feel like I mattered and it’s something I have to work on, but when there’s people who look you in the eyes and tell you you’re worth it, it gets easier to believe.

This song came up again through conversation and concert and progress with my heart and my hope for myself.

I keep getting happier for myself and for the people I care about. I keep unwinding the twisted thoughts that are lies. I see the beautiful truth which is that I am so loved and that I am worthy of someone to find out who I am.

I like smiling with you – “Velvet Elvis” by Alex Winston

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And then it’s raining all of a sudden. I didn’t think that it would, but I can’t help smiling because I’m listening to this song and it’s boosting my mood. The rain is feeling so good and I am smiling because I’m thinking of you. I’ve slept on your couch, we’ve gone to a concert, we’ve watched baseball or we’ve drank one too many. I’ve hugged you and seen your eyes shine with the lights of the street illuminating the night. I’m so happy I came to the city because now I know you. I can’t help but raise in my hands in the air as I walk and let the song fill my heart. I’m so happy I leapt over here to the east because you’re now part of my story.