Back in high school, I was hardcore and hellbent on playing the guitar every chance I got. I never thought about what exactly I was going to play, just the fact that I was going to play something.
I would sit down in my parents garage, the one my family lived in while my parents attempted to remodel their home (mostly by themselves) over the course of multiple years, spanning from about my junior year all the way up until the writing of this article and beyond. All of our beds were within 10 feet of each other, using tall shelves, dressers, and dividers to create some sort of “rooms” that had no doors. In my “room”, my guitar and amp sat 2 feet away from my bed side. That was my whole world during those 2-3 years.
I had this sort of ignorant creativity to me. I didn’t care if someone had already done something on the guitar that I was trying to attempt. I wasn’t concerned if someone had walked into the room to go to their bed or grab something or whatever. There I was, using the bed frame to stabilize the body of my guitar, as I pounded out riff after riff, song after song, all at the edge of my mattress. I was a machine. I didn’t care. I just did it. It wasn’t very good, but I was happy and intrigued, and that itself pushed me forward.
I remember hearing albums from bands like ERRA, Structures, Volumes, big influences for me at the apex of my guitar playing years. I remember how ground breaking I believed the albums to be, how emotionally connected I felt to them. If I turned on Pattern Interrupt by ERRA right now, I can literally feel and think of myself driving down 148th Ave in Bellevue when I was 18, all that same awe coming back to me, endlessly. Now I understand why older people hold so many biases towards the way music has changed. It’s not an artistic issue or “times are a-changing” issue. It’s an existential one, spiritual, and by definition cannot be perfectly described.
Nowadays I’ll lay in bed and stare at my guitar, nothing but carpet between us and not play it because I’m not sure of what I would prefer to play. I think about how good I used to be and how much work it would take just to pick up where I left off. I stare at Netflix because I’m not sure of what I would feel best watching. I stare at an open document because I’m not sure of the best way to say something, or if someone else has said it before me. I have a list a mile long of abstract ideals and thoughts, often with bullet points of things that I conjured up while driving, perfect points that a narrator in my head came up with that runs wild within an idea.
I’ll even sometimes get shivers as if I suddenly figured eevverryything out about why we adopt philosophies in the first place and why depressed people always seem to be the most “positive” and why people don’t solve their problems, and suddenly I go to write all these thoughts I had: and I have nothing to say.
Whats so ironic is the more I think about a final product, the more the fruition and reality of that final product is suppressed by invisible forces within myself. Instead of just saying, “where do I stand right now” and working from there, or really even a question at all, now I dream and imagine and try to conjure some kind of perfect picture in my head and then find my way to it, trying to look at the stars and walk in unison. These are the same reasons I gave up music completely about a year ago. I got so distracted by the dream itself that I forgot why I did it in the first place.
None of these feelings or even direction itself are things you can logically force out. It literally cannot be. Like love and friendship, interest and motivation cannot be fabricated because you desire that itself to be. It has to move open and freely. You can encourage it, you can influence it, but you cannot have it simply because you want it.
Yet as I begin to think forward, the more I worry about what I’m doing to get there, and the more I constrict and compress the exact fluidity that’s supposed to drift me there, like analysis paralysis in high gear.
And we do this everywhere. Brides and grooms making sure that their weddings are the perfect memory. Travelers making sure that their adventure is the next best of their life. Professionals making sure that their job or prospect is the exact right one that’s going to make them shine the brightest.
We often pay far more attention to the ideal outcome of our emotional wellbeing vs the present event of that emotional wellbeing itself. We do it with good intentions. We do it because we want the best for ourselves and those around us, today and tomorrow. And that’s exactly why we fail so often to experience just that.
And it sucks. Because when you look at motivational speakers, self-help and personal development, hell, even just “successful people” in general, 90% of them say the same thing. They all say they knew what they were doing, that they had a vision. That this is all exactly what they were working towards. I think that’s totally self-absorbed haiku bullshit. Do you believe in fortune tellers? Why would you believe them?
Its sort of like the adage about 20/20 hind sight. They’re trying to look at us with their own past in mind and force us to march forward. And as we look beaming back at them in confidence and inspiration, we seldomly do.
Because we all forgot.
We forgot the emotional experience of what it is to be human, what it is to create and expand, doesn’t begin a clear and concise one, but an obscure and wandering one.