The Songs That Made My 2019 A Little Bit Less Dreadful

This year has been pretty stink. Personally, I’ve spent it unemployed, depressed and on regular occasions paralysed for a reason that my doctors haven’t yet been able to determine. So yeah, the fact that 2019 is almost in the bin is something that I’m pretty damn cool with.

Another way it has been not great is one that has plagued me for a couple of years now: I’m not as good at stumbling across new music as I used to be. The reason for this is a little bit easier to work out, since the original live music scene where I am currently living is… well, “isn’t” is probably a quicker way of putting it; and since I realised that I am officially too old for triple j, I’ve not had a radio station that I connect with enough to listen to long enough to regularly be exposed to new stuff.

All that, plus the fact I’m really just struggling to care about much at all at the moment means I’m not really in a seeking-out-the-new-and-exciting kind of headspace.

These facts aside, I’ve still managed to have a few pieces of new music really stick out to me over the last 12 months, which is nice, and so I wanted to tell you about them.

However, there are a few factors that mean I have to put in a bit of effort to share them with you. I don’t really use Spotify, so I don’t have one of those fun little infographics to share, and since most of these tunes don’t have the seal of approval of Drum Central in Ultimo, I’m not going to bother putting them in as votes in the Hottest 100, and therefore won’t have the resulting auto-compiled image to share on the socials.

But since both of those things are fun and easy content – and I’ve only posted on this blog twice this year – I figured that I’ll just do it my own way.

So here you go: Noni’s Funnest Insert-Number-Here Songs That Were Released in 2019 Or At Least I Heard Them For The First Time This Year Oh Shit Now The Title’s Too Long Shit Fuck Shit (Oh Well At Least I’m Not The Fuckwit Who Decided To Go On Holiday In Hawaii Because I Forgot I Was Prime Minister And That My Country Was On Fire).

Yeah, needs some polish. I’m sure I’ll have thought of something better by the time I post this.

Either way, here’s the rundown, in no particular order.

THE SONGS

“Hamish” – Jude Perl

Let’s be painfully honest here: we’ve all known a Hamish. Some of us have even had the misfortune of having a misguided crush on or relationship with one.

Jude Perl manages to not only completely encapsulate this kind of dude, she’s also crafted a song that is just bloody brilliant.

The chorus is 100% banger (most notably the golden line, “I liked you because you were… there”), the way she captures the moment of realisation that Hamish is a total dickhead is so incredibly true to life, and the video is just perfection, with a stellar performance from Broden Kelly of Aunty Donna notoriety.

I spotted this one on the recommendation of Matt Okine on Instagram, and from the first time I heard the synth gorgeousness of that chorus, I was hooked. I regularly catch myself singing it to myself.

It’s easily my song of the year.

“Dinner & Diatribes” – Hozier

Well, where do I start when it comes to Hozier? He has been my musical crush for the last year and a bit and I’m pretty sure it’s easy to see why. Tall, handsome, offensively talented and super into social justice? Be still, my beating heart! (Don’t be surprised if he comes up again in this list.)

He released his second album, Wasteland, Baby! in April, and while the critic in me feels that it’s not quite as all-killer-no-filler as his debut, it’s still full of incredible tracks that were quickly given a place in my high rotation list. The riff in this track in particular makes it stand out from the rest, but I also feel I need to point out how incredibly horny it is. It’s kind of like “Fast Friends” by Paul Dempsey, if the Something For Kate frontman had been quietly been concealing a significant boner. The massive drum line hits right in the guts/nethers, making this the sexiest song I’ve heard all year, and it was easily one of the highlights of his set when I saw him at the Sydney Opera House back in April.

As for the video? I’m not really certain what it all means, but I know that it’s the kind of text that would make a high school English teacher faint with delight at all that juicy symbolism.

“The Piss, The Perfume” – Hayley Mary

I’ve loved Hayley Mary’s band The Jezabels for a good… holy shit, ten years? And to be honest, when I heard she was releasing solo tunes, I had no idea what to expect, since I associate her voice so strongly with the intense drum work of Nik Kaloper (who is a certified freak on the skins).

When I heard this track, I was delighted: an unashamedly Australian rock song that harks back to the alt pub rock golden age of the 90’s, with a bittersweet love story and a title that perfectly sums up the smell and feel of the venues where this sort of music gets played. It’s a little bit Pretenders, a little bit Divinyls, and 100% danceable. (I also love Mary’s Bowie meets Chrissie Amphlett look in the video more than I can say.)

“This Is On You” – Maisie Peters

I don’t know if this was relentlessly advertised to anyone else on Instagram as much as it was to me, but I’m really glad it was, because I kept going, “Oh, I really like that snippet of chorus; I’ll have to check out the song later,” and then not following through. When I finally did, I was so glad that the tune stood up to my expectations. I love the contrast of Peters’ sweet voice with the anger in the lyrics, and the little “ooo’s” in the chorus. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for songs by women telling their ex-partners to fuck off.

“Jungle Jungle” – Rufino & The Coconuts

I’ve been a fan of Rufino & The Coconuts for absolutely yonks, and have adored Rufino’s contributions to Mikelangelo & The Black Sea Gentlemen for even longer. This particular song was easily my favourite of all their tunes when I got to see them live, and I’d often been tempted to reference it in conversations when folks post photos of themselves in pith helmets among swathes of fake vines and other appropriately themed scenes, before realising that they likely had no idea what I was talking about.

Thankfully, Rufino and the Coconuts finally put out their debut album this year, and now I can link to this tune whenever I want. (Shaka-tooka-chaka.)

“Woman” – Clare Bowditch

Clare Bowditch is the kind of woman I wish I could be. To be an exquisite musician, broadcaster and now author: ah! What a wonder! (I think I’ve always had a bit of a crush on her too, to be frank, because she’s utterly gorgeous.)

The harmonies in this are divine, and the reflections on the (cis) female experience are poignant, uplifting and tragic at the same time. It took a little while for me to warm up to it, but now it feels like the loving hug I need most days.

“Tenderness” – Brendan Maclean

This track caught me by surprise one afternoon while I was writing. (Yes, I have been doing it on occasion, but you’re not going to see anything of it for some time yet.) While I’ve had this album on my computer for a while, I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and absorb it to the level I want to, however I have had the tracks on it in my shuffle playlist, and hearing this song properly for the first time was like a punch in the gut. The ache evident in Maclean’s vocal is heartbreaking, and the closing lines feel like something from a Joni Mitchell classic. There is no other word for it than “bittersweet”, but even that doesn’t seem to be strong enough for the feeling this song elicits. It feels like a cathartic cry, full of sorrow yet somehow tinged with relief. If there was any song in the world that seems like it just needs a gentle hug, it’s this one.

“Jackboot Jump” – Hozier

The only thing wrong with this song is its lack of a big chorus, because it really is a testament to our times that should be screamed from the rooftops at protests across the world. (Yes, Australia is no exception when it comes to the rise of authoritarianism, but I’m sure I’d just be preaching to the choir here.)

Once again, Hozier hits on a killer blues-rock riff, with the stripped back arrangement almost acting as a metaphor for how basic it should be to just stand up for what’s right. There’s anger in the drums and in the growl of the guitar, and almost a disdainful sneer in Hozier’s delivery directed at those in power, while somehow simultaneously communicating a sense of pleading and a call to arms to those who are both downtrodden, or just plain have a conscience. The intertwining of ire and optimism is really intriguing to me, just as much as the fact that Hozier managed to write, record and release this in the middle of an insane world tour supporting the album he’d released only a few months before. He’s already promised more new music in 2020, which blows my mind and delights me simultaneously. I hope he can tap into whatever it takes to write the next great protest song, because right now we need to raise as many voices and we can, and music is a unique way to do that.

It also contains the lyrics of the year: “It’s always corporate infrastructure over the structure of your face.”

“Pasta” – Angie McMahon

This is a very late addition to the list, because I literally found it hours before I started writing this entry, but I connected with it immediately. The opening line – “my bedroom is a disaster” – made me sit up and take notice straight away, because it perfectly described… well, me. Everything about this song (except the bit about the dog – ours is thankfully in very good health) feels like she’s taken my life right now and put it to music. I’ve had it on repeat for the few days it’s taken for me to get this baby out, and it still holds so much power for me, even though my bedroom isn’t quite as bad as it was when I first heard it. (It’s still not great, but I’m not afraid to let people in anymore.)

THE ALBUM THAT ISN’T EVEN OUT YET

[Unnamed and Unreleased Album] – The Burley Griffin

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Yeah, there’s nothing to embed here because, as you may have guessed from the subtitle, this album hasn’t hit the web yet. However, it turns out there are some perks to turning thirty, and one of them is that your incredibly talented friends send you their pre-release albums for you to listen to as a birthday present.

My mate Evan Buckley did just that, and oh my god, I’m so glad he did. I nearly wept the first time I listened to this album. It’s full of bittersweet folk tunes that are just divine. If you like Elliot Smith or Ryan Adams but are looking for someone who isn’t dead or accused of sexual misconduct, then bookmark The Burley Griffin Facebook page and gird your loins for a gorgeous collection of sweet, sorrowful ballads, with a little kick of an upbeat tune as a chaser.

YEAH, THESE WEREN’T RELEASED IN 2019 BUT I ONLY JUST FOUND THEM AND THEY’RE GREAT

“Good As Hell” – Lizzo

I was embarrassingly late to the Lizzo party, likely due to my aforementioned aversion to commercial radio at the moment. But as soon as I heard this tune, I knew I needed it in my life. I thought it was a recent release, but nope. Turns out there was at least good that came out of 2016, the year when it all started to fall apart: this song.

“Hungry & Horny” – Jude Perl

And this tune from Jude Perl was the other thing the 2016 gave us that was pretty damn good. A protest song against the beauty myth, it was featured in the body positive documentary Embrace, and came with a series of amazing videos critiquing the bullshit that is the marketing industry.

And yes, I used to work in marketing. I’m still allowed to call it bullshit.

Music From Saharan Cellphones – Various

I’ve flat out forgotten how I came across this 2011 release, but goddamn, it’s such a cool concept to start with; the sweet tunes are just a bonus.

Here’s an explanation of what it’s all about from the label’s bandcamp page, but the title is pretty self-explanatory:

In much of West Africa, cellphones are are used as all purpose multimedia devices. In lieu of personal computers and high speed internet, the knockoff cellphones house portable music collections, playback songs on tinny built in speakers, and swap files in a very literal peer to peer Bluetooth wireless transfer.

There’s a real mixture of sounds in here, mostly modern pop and electro, but there are RnB influences

And that’s the lot: the soundtrack to my 2019. I think I can safely say that a lot of us are starting the new decade from behind the eight ball, but I sincerely hope that the year ahead is one of significant improvement, and that we all end up in a far better place than when we started. (I mean, I’m not optimistic, but it could happen.)

So instead of Happy New Year, I’m saying Fuck Off 2019. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Resolutions Rejected: A Toast to Intentional Failure

Here is number three in the series about my 2018 resolutions/goals/things. Yes, I’m just as shocked as you are. You can find the full list of posts in this series here.

3. Go a year without buying alcohol for myself.

This seemed like a fantastic idea. I already had almost no alcohol in the house: just one bottle of wine, and some terrible gin, which I poured down the sink after the latest attempt to drink it. I had recently come around to soda water, which is something I can sip on slowly, unlike every other soft drink in existence, which I tend to gulp down with the kind of gusto that leaves me wondering if there was even in a drink in the glass to start with, I could have sworn it was there a minute ago. And due to my social life pretty much coming to a halt of late due to my epilepsy flare ups, I wasn’t drinking that much to begin with! How hard could it be?

The best thing about this idea was that it allowed for wiggle room. I could drink alcohol given to me, but I couldn’t go out and buy myself a bottle of wine any time just because I felt like it. I couldn’t ask for a drink, but if someone offered, I was allowed to accept if I wanted.

The reasoning behind the idea was simple. I would save money. I would get better at socialising without a chemical crutch. The chances of suffering a hangover would be lessened, and my sleep patterns would probably thank me for it, as it’s hard to stay out until 4am when your evening high is fueled only by carbonated water. The fact that there would be less calories in my life was just an added bonus.

But then I heard about the woes that one of my favourite watering holes in the whole world, The Phoenix, was facing. I’ve spoken about how much I love that little hole in the wall before, and though I’ve not been frequenting it as much of late, it still holds an incredibly massive part of my heart within its dark walls.

Immediately, I was struck with an ultimatum of sorts. Do I stick to my guns and my soda water on a Saturday night, or do I chuck in a few extra bucks via a few cheeky pints? The Phoenix needs its patrons to step up right now, and for me, that would likely mean breaking my little resolution.

I couldn’t make a choice. I wanted to have a bit of both.

So I made a compromise. A few times a week, after work, I will go in to The Phoenix and buy one drink of whatever I like. Whatever it is, I will nurse it while I read a book for a little while, and then I will go home. Any time outside that period, I will not be purchasing alcohol for myself.

I read somewhere once that allowing yourself to cheat a little bit on massive resolutions can help you keep them overall, so maybe this is for the best.

So should you find yourself in Civic on a weekday afternoon, pop into the friendly little Irish bar on East Row, pull up a pew and join me for a bevvie and a book. It’ll be nice to have the company.

EDIT 26/1/18: You can donate to the Phoenix’s GoFund Me Page here. They’re a little over $30,000 short of their goal, but more importantly, over $40,000 has already been raised to help keep their doors open.

Dear Mr Springsteen

born-to-run-front-cover-only12 May 2016

Dear Mr Springsteen,

I have epilepsy, and I have spent the last month and a half recovering from a bout of seizures I suffered in the middle of March. I used to work in radio, had a reasonably happy life in a city I love, living independently and working towards becoming a freelance writer. I’d recently joined my first band (!) and was starting to engage with some of the challenges I’d been dreaming about since I was a kid.

Now I’m living at my parents’ house, in a regional area five hours from where I want to be, with a stutter that has killed any chance of continuing work in radio and significantly effected my employability across the board. Even the most basic of tasks can be incredibly tiring due to my motor skills going AWOL, and holding a conversation is a struggle most days. I’m an avid lover of live music – oh, I’m sure you’d love some of the artists coming out of Canberra at the moment – but I won’t be going to any gigs anytime soon because now loud or unexpected noises put me on edge, further limiting my speech and greatly heightening my anxiety levels, leading to an further increased risk of seizure. My doctors and neurologists have no idea why this is happening (except that it’s not a tumour, stroke or blood clot, which is a blessing) so there’s no treatment plan for me, except waiting to see if it comes good.

Cripes, that was a bit of a downer to start with. Sorry about that.

But it’s important that I break it all down, because I am in a pretty dark place right now. I have nothing to hold onto. The rewards I would normally give myself to try and feel better – a trip away from home, a night out with friends, seeing a band – are all out of reach. All the little goals I’m setting for myself? I’m missing them by a mile.

In the days after the first in my cluster of seizures, I bought your Born To Run album off iTunes at the suggestion of my aunt. (I prefer concrete copies, but I haven’t been able to get to a record store since this all hit the fan.)

Since then, your album has been what I cling to. I was never really one for much mischief, but the youthful abandon and longing to throw off the shackles of life and be free described in “Thunder Road” and “Born To Run”? I was working towards living that, taking advantage of my youth (I’m 26) and being myself and how the system can go to hell. I had felt trapped in my last job, and I’d just broken out of it, putting in my resignation two weeks before I fell ill. I was starting to feel the wind in my hair, and I was looking forward to seeing where the road would take me.

And then came the contrast. Certainly not as violent or criminal or broadly devastating as the actions and consequences of your characters, but just as desperate. Locked in, and clawing to get out, to no avail. That’s me now, stuck in a brain that feels like it is short-circuiting almost constantly. I am writing this letter in one of the few moments of clarity I have been blessed with.

Your album has reminded me of two things. The first is that I am very lucky. I don’t have to resort to cross-river deals or run from guns and cops, because I am a white, middle-class woman, living in my parents’ house in a country town in Australia. The second is that I was so close to beating this condition – I’d been seizure free almost two years before my relapse – that I should be able to do it again; I need to fire up the engines and get going. (Ironic, since my condition eliminates me from being able to drive.)

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to Born To Run. It is the soundtrack to my days, my solace in the darkness, my motivator and my comfort. Though the story is different, the emotional ups and downs are calling me back to my own type of freedom. I listen to it every night as I go to sleep, willing it to imbibe me with its energy and the drive you used to make it happen, 40 years ago. (How was it that long ago? It still sounds fresh and vivid and alive.)

I’m yet to dive into your full back catalogue, although it does come highly recommended. I just don’t think I’m ready yet. If it’s alright with you, I’m just going to curl up with this album a little while longer, a little musical safety blanket to get me through the next few weeks, months, however long.

I honestly don’t know if I’m going to get through this, though. My speech was so precious to me, and now it’s barely there. I haven’t seen my friends in over a month, and the distance makes me ache. But even if I don’t, if I’m stuck in this shitty existence until I’m dead, I wanted to thank you for the little bit of peace you’ve brought to my soul and the little bit of fire you put in my belly. Born To Run is what my motor is running on right now, and I have needed every note of it.

Thank you. Thank you so much, for forever and a day.

Sincerely yours,

Noni Kuhner

*****

I initially didn’t want to post this here. I wanted to send it off into the world and never hear from it again. I wanted to send it to some vague record label address in the hope that it might one day get to the eyes I wrote it for. If it never did, that didn’t matter. It was the act of writing it, and of sending it that held meaning. It was an act of healing, where the process was more far more important than the result.

Two months later, I’m in a much better space than I was when I wrote this. I’m back in Canberra, starting to work again, and my speech has mostly recovered, though it does have the occasional hiccup. My brain still struggles a little when there’s too much sensory stimulation or I’m trying to think about more than one thing at a time, and I had another small seizure a few nights ago at band practice, but apart from that, I’m doing okay.

I’ve been taking some time off Born To Run over the last month or so, just to get back into the swing of listening to new things again. I’m loving Brendan Maclean’s funbang1, and some of the older gems in my collection from Inland Sea and Paul Dempsey. I made a mixed CD as a belated wedding present for a friend, and caught up on a whole bunch of podcasts. I finally got around to digging into some of Bruce Springsteen’s other works (Born In The USA is good, but inconsistent; Darkness on the Edge of Town is easily #2 on my list of favourite albums of his).

Right now, I’m listening to Born to Run again after a month or so’s break. I still love it. It still means so much to me. I still feel the need to say “Thank You” all over again.

It really is a great album.

You’ve Got Mail, My Dear

Email Logo

I have a lot of emails to read. I’ve committed to the idea that I’m going to read all of them. I’ll reply to those that require it, bookmark websites I’ve sent to myself, transfer the words in my drafts into documents and file them where I can find them later.

I’ve been stuck at my parents’ house in Dubbo for over a month now. My speech is still a mess, and loud noises still make me quite distressed. I’ve been spending all my time playing various iterations of The Sims because at least I can create a decent life in that universe. It’s my own quiet shame, but a remarkably effective coping mechanism, which is probably why I’ve used it every time I’ve been depressed and am trying to rebuild my life.

It doesn’t feel like depression this time, though. It’s frustration at the physical, not the emotional. I feel like I’m locked in my own head because my mouth can’t spit the words out. When I’m silent, it’s not because I have nothing to say, it’s that I literally can’t hold a conversation. I’m sitting at dinner with my family, desperately wanting to add something but knowing that the scratch of cutlery on crockery feels like it’s cracking my eardrums and now the moment has passed so even if I had been able to spit the words out, they’re too late to be counted. Contrary to what you might think, it hasn’t made me a better listener, just a bitterer one.

I spend most of my day in bed. When I try to do something on my laptop, I immediately lose all my focus and find myself on Facebook or Twitter or something else, searching for an indication that it’s going to be okay, but only finding myself in a puddle of muck full of envy and self-loathing that I can’t do any of the things that I love anymore. Gigs, plays, parties, going to the pub or a café with friends: they’re all too much for my sensitive little head. I can barely get through a quiet day of nothing without a meltdown, so doing something that would actually excite my senses just isn’t going to happen.

Ingress_logo_512pxHere’s an email about Ingress. They’ve given me some kind of code to get me back into the game. I haven’t updated the app in months. Maybe I could do that? Let’s see how I feel tomorrow. If I get up before noon and have a good start to the day, maybe I could go for a walk? Heck, maybe I could even go unaccompanied. Probably not. I’ll set a reminder to ask Justine or Dad to come with me, just in case.

Last weekend, my housemate came to visit. We sat on the back deck for at least an hour, my parents’ dog falling over herself at the arrival of a new human. We talked, or at least she did as I stumbled through stammered sentences, and it was the best little while I’ve had since I came back home. Afterwards, I was both invigorated and exhausted.

I’ve suspended my MEAA membership, so there’s an extra $50 or so back in the kitty each month, and I’ve whittled my way from forty emails to thirty. That’s a good start. Sure, most of them were weekly digests from Scum and HerCanberra and other blogs that I try to keep up with, and none of them were things I had to take action on, but it’s a start. Maybe, just maybe, I can do this.

I’m leaving so much undone, either because I can’t physically manage it (calling ActewAGL’s sub-contractor about our gas meter – it’s hard to be authoritative when you can barely get words out) or because I’m terrified of it and what it represents (emailing or writing or chatting to people because I don’t want to confess to them directly just how vulnerable and scared I am; much better to shout it to them all at once in a blog).

That said, the stagnation is driving me mental. I want to be applying for jobs, heading into agencies and doing some freelance work, just like I was planning to before it all went to shit. I was ready to be active and pursue some goals. I’d got so far as setting the wheels in motion, signing up for websites that would give me leads and options, even getting the fire up to apply for an ABN. All of that is so far out of reach right now, and now all I feel when I think about it is anger, resentment and despair.

born-to-run-front-cover-onlyThe one thing keeping me going is music. I’ve found solace in Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, an album which has grown on me with every listen, taking me to a strange film-like place where disenfranchised youth are struggling under their individual yokes, yet still finding time to stick a middle finger up at the world by getting up to the kind of romanticised shenanigans I never dabbled in. I regret not engaging in mischief as a teenager, and not getting up to more at university. I felt like I was starting to hit my stride before this mess, another frustration that keeps me awake at night and makes me hide beneath the covers during the day. If I ever get back to the real world, I hereby commit to focusing on having more magnificent times, creating more memories to both entertain and torment me should I end up here again.

I’m down to twenty unread emails now, although some of them I’ve just re-marked so that I remember to bookmark them once I’ve finished reading everything else. All that are left are the notifications of new releases from Canberran musicians that I need to at least sit down and properly listen to, at best use a little more of my savings to nab a copy. The digital variety is most likely; apparently nobody makes CDs anymore.

This is how life is today. My music and my correspondence is ethereal, floating through networks and wires in streams, downloads and inboxes, when all I want is to hold them in my hand. The only thing that seems physical right now is my anguish and illness, both things I would gladly change from concrete to conceptual.

Creative Bravery – Blog Carnival 2014

Click for source
“Creative Block” by Elize Vossgatter

Back in August, I was invited by the wonderful Alexandra Neill to take part in her Blog Carnival project, along with a bunch of other writers who are much cleverer and more consistent with the whole writing thing than I am. That project was meant to last the whole month, and reach across five topics. I fell off the wagon after one, and now we’re in the back half of October and I’m writing the second one. Good work, me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to write it. I think I took four goes at it, knowing exactly what I wanted to talk about, but with no idea how to go about it. The topic was “Something That Scares Me”, and this thing left me so scared (and more importantly, ashamed) that I couldn’t bring myself to confess it.

It was such a stupid thing that I feel like a moron not being able to share it. It’s something I really struggle with, and I’m trying really hard to get over it, but things keep getting in the way: working full time, stress, exhaustion, procrastination, laziness, a total failing in terms of willpower, fear of the fear itself…

I am afraid of doing things, making things, being creative, having adventures. It’s such a stupid thing to be afraid of, especially when I consider the joy that comes from actually doing it, but the elements of the fear seem endless, and the excuses come in equal number. Yet at the same time, I am terrified of being ordinary, being boring, sacrificing my life to a day job and not doing and making the things my heart wants to. It’s a particularly uncomfortable position to be in.

A little over a week ago, I turned 25. For a number of reasons, that milestone held a lot of dread for me, especially as it crept closer and I realised just how few of the things I’d wanted to achieve had actually come to fruition. As I write, I realise that I’m even afraid to confess that they are things I want to do, but here are some of them:

I’ve never been published by a publication that will pay me for my work. I’ve left four novels unfinished, and never finished editing the only one that I did finish. I’ve never played in a band. I’m yet to live overseas. I’ve never made a short film that was any more than a glorified slideshow. I’ve not made any wonderful pottery,made a sculpture or fixed something mechanical, or learned how to ride a bike, or how to drive a car. I never got to be a radio announcer or program producer. I can’t do a handstand or a cartwheel or rock climb. I’ve never tried stand-up comedy. I’ve never learned how to swing dance or any of the Latin ballroom styles. I never learned to juggle. I’ve never acted in a role beyond the chorus, and I haven’t even done that since I was in high school. I’ve never organised a successful public event or gig. I’m painfully aware of all the things I want to do I haven’t done yet, and I feel like I am running out of time to do them.

Writer's Block II
“Writer’s Block II” by Drew Coffman

That’s what scares me: all those things left undone. As I get older, I feel like my potential is ebbing away; any talent I may have is disintegrating like muscles atrophying, and every day that ticks by makes me more anxious about what I’m missing out on. I’m surrounded by wonderful, clever, driven, creative, fantastic, unbelievable people (some of whom I am lucky enough to call friends, some of whom have just been rad enough to let me hang in their presence) who inspire and intimidate me in equal measure. They are musicians, writers, filmmakers, event-organising magicians, public relations wizards, actors, models, photographers, poets, circus performers, artists and so much more. I could ask them for help, but I’m paralysed by the thought of revealing that I want to do what they can do because I know that I’m never going to be as good at it as they are. I feel that I’ve left it too late.

I’ve missed plenty of opportunities by not being brave enough to take them, and it’s only been in the last 12 months that I’ve actually started acting on some of them, like writing for BMA, getting stupidly obsessed about a movie and doing insane and wonderful things as a result, putting together a murder mystery party for my friends, sorting out my medication regime and preparing to get clearance to go and get my L’s. But there are so many more things that I’m shoving down and hiding, so many more things that I want to do. It’s not that I don’t have the time or the energy; it’s that I am just too lazy and too afraid of making the changes to my life that I need to in order to do them.

So I find excuses: I don’t have the equipment, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the brains or the creativity, I don’t have the energy. Excuses are easy, but they don’t bring me the rewards and peace I’m looking for.

Often I find the core reason for my apprehension is incredibly simple. I don’t know where to start. It’s hard to get the ball rolling at the best of times, and it’s even harder to ask people how to start. It feels like there’s this implication that starting is easy. You just do the thing! Simple! Make like Nike and just do it!

But it’s terrifying to start. I’m not brave. A friend of mine has a tendency to call people cowards in a comedic fashion during his shows, but every time I hear him say it, it hurts because in my case I know it to be absolutely true. And once you start, where do you go then? When you have no known end to the process, how do you go about stepping through it? I try to think about it and my brain struggles to comprehend it. Where is the reward when there is no set end?

Maybe I’m not cut out to be a creative after all. Perhaps I peaked at sixteen, when I finally finished that shitty novel that now sits on my external hard drive, taunting me with its blatantly uninformed, teenaged angst-filled nonsense. Perhaps there was a catalyst that beat all the boldness out of me and made me so scared of what people think of me. Maybe I just got older and my brain stopped being malleable and free and I forgot how to just go with the flow. Maybe my brain never had the ability to process it in the first place.

Whatever it is, I need to shake it off. It’s not useful in any way. It’s just making me feel bad, and in the last few years I’ve come to be fed up with feeling bad. I want to feel good.

And that means that somehow I have to work out how to start. It means I need to figure out how to keep going.

I need to get to work.

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Postscript: after I wrote this, I realised that my tagline for this blog is, “Let’s do the things that scare us.” I’m not sure if this is irony, or just completely appropriate. Either way, it’s worth noting, don’t you think?

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