WARNING: Some of this stuff might seem like "drama" and if you don't wanna read about life don't enter here. This will get dark-ish. I'm not asking for help or trying to start anything. It's meant to be an overall positive story but it draws from a lot of negatives. I've hestitated to write this for a long time but I've finally worked up the nerve.
I don't play an instrument or make music. I've considered many times trying but some aspects just don't click with me for some reason. I'm a very analytical person when it comes to some stuff and growing up I could never wrap my head around the concept of chords. Despite how I come off I have a fairly weak ego and sense of self worth. That being said, music has always been important to me. It's an escape, similar to video games. Unlike games I can enjoy music passively and I never need to worry about failure which makes it even better sometimes.
Growing up my mother was both a stripper, gogo dancer, and burlesque dancer (these are all similar but have important differences). She had to create mix tapes or give the actual LP/CD/Tape to the DJ at places she danced. Because of this music was always on in the house. On top of this my mom was a believer of "let him find what he likes on his own." All books, music, and (most) video tapes were left out and I was allowed to browse them and use them as I wanted on the condition I brought them back. No restrictions on content beyond a handful of films. I could watch Ralph Bakshi's Wizards but obviously not Fritz The Cat. Music was never an issue. NWA? Fine. Motorhead? No problem. Blowfly? Ok, she hid those. Around 8 years old I had a portable tape player and listened to TLC (Left Eye Waifu) a ton of times as well as some of her mix tapes. Pretty sure I broke a couple from over playing. I remember she had a mix tape with War - Low Rider and Gary Numan - Cars. My mom told me that unlike most parents who play Bach or Mozart in the womb there was two things she played: George Clinton and Billie Holiday.
She ended up buying me Fritz the Cat when I was 23.
Of course, there was an ironic problem, my Mom has never been one to be stuck in an era. She always has wanted to learn more. Even in my teens I COULDN'T rebel against her in my content. She never had the "this new generation sucks" attitude. She wanted to hear new music, watch new movies, and experience the younger culture too. I'm, sort of an only child(not important to this) with most of my life being in a single parent household. I'm definitely a mama's boy. I actually had a "sort of" step father for about 10 years. My Mom and him never married. I never got close to him. While my Mom said he had told her that he loves me, he had told me once that he never wanted me and I was simply a package deal with my Mom. He was not nearly as open as my Mom. He was a lot more strict, and frankly close minded. He and my Mom often got in arguments behind closed doors about her openness and some stuff got pulled. Of course, this led to our connection getting stronger. Some of my favorite memories was her sneaking content to me that he'd said I couldn't use. Mom ended up watching Snatch with me when he was out of the house even though he had forbid it. We freaked out when we heard him pull up and we ran to the VCR to hit "stop" and switch TV. We finished it later.
We even watched, and still watch, adultswim together. While we didn't have cable back then we caught it when we could at places like my grandmothers. Mom LOVED The Brak Show and Space Ghost. I bought her a Super Jail poster a long time ago. We are on tenterhooks now waiting for every episode of Samurai Jack.
Of course, who can know I'm listening to something if I've got a walkman cd player and headphones? You kids have no idea how much of a pain in the ass it was to try and hold a portable CD player as still as possible to keep from skipping on a bus ride.
I've got mental health problems. Recently I was diagnosed bipolar but I don't get much in the way of manic spikes. I find the only way to consistently bring them out is something I don't like to do, self medicate with booze or marijuana. I don't do it, I've had too many family members who got addicted to things. I'm basically always depressed it just varies how much. Living with this problem nearly all my life without even a proper diagnosis I've kind of learned hopelessness. Even on good days I lament on my failures constantly, I fear further failures. I also fear success to a lesser extent. That is part of why I keep not trying to go out and put myself in places to do things I want to try. I've got basically no in real life friends. I almost never leave my house unless it's an errand and the rare movie or play. I've pushed everyone away. I've had suicide scares where I've been admitted to the hospital involuntarily due to either threats or attempts. Honestly, my Mom and fear of pain are two of my only rocks that keep me stable.
Here is where things start to get more positive. After one of these things around age 11 I was forced to go to therapy by the state. Things didn't really get better, at first. I was given medication that swapped me from depressed to almost feeling drunk. I'd be talky all the time, antsy, and, oddly, my nose was cold to the touch. They took me off it. thought I was just depressed and put me on an SSR, helped for while but only a bit. The therapy only helped in that it kind of made me go out and converse. Just before turning 13 I had a series of hard times. My grandfather, who I was very close to, a family friend, and my current therapist all died with a year. It led to another break.
While I did listen to a lot of different stuff, especially growing up (Jim Croce Photographs & Memories was/is one of my favorite albums as a kid), when I was in early my teens I mostly veered to alt-rock for a few years. Primus, OK Go, Weezer, Greenday, that sort of stuff. I did, however, trade a friend Alient Ant Farm's "ANThology" for the Gorillaz album(no regrets). When I was about 16 my Mom gave me a CD, Johnny Cash's "American IV." I dunno what it was. The music? His death right after? 9/11? Something clicked. I listened to that album a ton of times. Suddenly my views on music blew up again, even more than as a young kid listening to the same funk/pop/rock/hip hop's over and over. I wanted to listen to EVERYTHING. I didn't care what genre, what artist, what style. I wanted to absorb it.
I got a new therapist. He was one of those "out of the box" thinkers. While I had group therapy I also had 1 on 1 with him. When we did 1 on 1 he'd kind of break the rules sometimes we'd leave the grounds and walk down to Jack in the Box, I'd order a bacon ultimate cheese burger (he'd pay) and we just talk. Not always about home life. One thing we often talk about was music. When I turned 17 and had to leave because it was a therapy for kids he gave me a gift, a cd. The album was George Harrison's "Brain Washed." I like to think that he realized the irony of his choice given his role as a therapist. It also could have simply been because it was Harrison's last album.
When I was in my mid 20s I worked at Target. A friend gave me his ooold iPod and I used to get in trouble from my boss for listening to it, even with just one ear bud even though I worked stock room so didn't need to deal with customers. I butted heads with him many times, yet was still bonded over music. We discussed Jimi Hendrix and many others. One day out of the blue he gifted me Nikki Costa's "Every Body Got Their Something" and told me to listen to it. No reason. Not my birthday, not a raise, not a "you've been doing a good job." Just a gift.
Listening to music is therapy for me. It's a connection. It's how I connect to my mother. It's how I connect to my childhood. It's how I connect to the world. It's also how I let the world connect to me. Music can't hurt me. It broadens me.
While I grew up listening to ALL sorts of stuff when I was really young thanks to my Mom. Unfortunately, her health began to decline as I got older. She had to stop dancing and eventually had to go on social security as we couldn't afford the costs for her to start to do something that she could do as a disabled person getting more and more disabled. She introduced me to so much of the world by books, movies, theater(my grandfather taught theater in UCLA, one of his students was Kareem Abdul Jabaar!), and of course, music. As you know, her health as gotten very bad lately and I am actually her caretaker and paid by the county. Now I get to introduce HER to music. Oh boy, she gets frustrated sometimes when I introduce her to something she REALLY likes and she goes "Oh, man, I'd have totally danced to that." I was the one who introduced her to Screamin' Jay Hawkins. She never knew that Creedence Clear Water Revivals's "I Put A Spell On You" was actually a cover.
So why do I do Artist of the Week on a gaming blog? A place that, frankly, it shouldn't be? It helps me connect to YOU. I've found a, sort of, for a lack of a better phrase, safe space here. Not the "nobody will confront me on my views" but rather a place where you can connect with new people and people, even people you have troubles with sometimes, care and will even still try to find a way to work together on something.
Many of us at destructoid have problems in life, hardships we are working through or mental problems. My own problems are why I've tried to help those here who also have problems, either through advice or humor. I've been told that having and keeping a schedule or project is good for depression, that is one reason I do these blogs. It also helps me learn new things, to try to keep out of bubbles of comfort by increasing my culture. My last reason is for you folks. My hope is that while a some of us use video games to escape or keep our minds busy, I'd like to believe that maybe you can have the therapy I have with listening to music. That it'll make your life just a little calmer. Maybe, just maybe, one of you will step out, even just poke a toe, into uncharted waters, listen to something new and find something that blows your mind open. Suddenly a landscape you never thought you'd walk on now calls you to climb the mountain top and see what else you can find.