Sometimes I feel that words are an oft under-appreciated tool at our disposal. For some, words are just a daily means of communication. For others, they are a true vessel of expression; a way to intricately describe and retell the minutia of your mind. If you’re like me, putting pen to paper is genuinely one of the only times I feel like I can be honest with myself, and anyone who reads the words that come spilling out. There is a naked truth to writing; I love the exposing nature of baring my soul, and writing the words I am too afraid to say. A situation may pass you by, but the pen and paper, the keyboard and screen? You can sculpt your thoughts into words that will last a lifetime.
Where does music fit into this I hear you ask? Music has become a therapeutic tool for most of my life, and I think that the words of some of my favourite artists and bands have done more for me than I may ever realise. They have introduced me to situations that have opened my eyes, and taught me things about myself.
In 2014 I wasn’t in the best place, and that’s putting things lightly. I was diagnosed with severe depression, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (just to name a few). I felt like the person I was just six months earlier was a completely different person; replaced by a shy little hermit with no motivation, no direction, and no drive. Yet despite my uncertainty and self-doubt there always seemed to be a glimmer of hope, a means of escape when I sat down after a long day and popped on my headphones. Whether it was discovering new hip-hop, losing myself a new electronic beat, or feeling myself float away with some soothing folk and indie tunes, I almost felt like a completely different person when it was just me and the music. I coined this little routine as my “lounge room therapy”, where the worries of the day took a backseat for a while, a much needed and refreshing outlook.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of standing in a mosh pit, screaming the words of your favourite artist in unison with thousands of sweaty bodies. Music breeds communities. The words of your favourite bands and artists have forged connections, made friendships, mended relationships and shared common experiences. While lyricism thrives in some genres, and seemingly falters for the most part on a mainstream level, (at least in a modern context), I take great solace in some of the most influential lyricists of our time. I think sometimes we need to take a step back and witness the storytellers that we have in front of us. If we want to, we can take lessons and stories away from our music.
In early 2015 I had the words, “The sky is falling, the wind is calling. Stand for something, or die in the morning,” tattooed on my back. These words serve as a haunting introduction by Kendrick Lamar at the beginning of the J. Cole produced track Hiiipower. On the opposite side of my back I have the words “Still I Rise” – a tribute to the awe-inspiring poet Maya Angelou, and her stirring words that helped form the backbone of an impassioned civil rights movement in America. I have always been a self-proclaimed hiphophead, but there was a sudden realisation in my life that the words I have listened to hundreds upon thousands of times deserved a place to on my body; a permanent etching and reminder of their meaning to me.
Am I being horribly cliché? Perhaps. But I have learnt in the past year that passion is something very valuable, and I refuse to question someone’s passion or belief if it gives them the same sense of clarity and calmness that music grants me. I am thankful that I have found something that gives me this much happiness, which I can share with those around me. I have surrounded myself with people that share these passions; I have formed bonds and connections over something as simple as locking eyes with someone at a concert and screaming the same part of a song in each other’s face. I have made friends by spotting someone’s t-shirt from across a crowd and striking up a conversation. I am certain I am not alone in experiencing these stories.
Music, and the words within these songs have given me tools to re-establish myself as the confident and outgoing person I used to be. For that, I could not be happier. There are still shitty days, sure, but I am lucky to have my lounge room therapy.