When I was a teenager my father worked in the East Village. I remember days filled with the smell of record stores and used bookshops as he scoured to find something worthy to give me. Walking through the streets of Alphabet City, and taking in the street art and the history of the neighborhoods we walked through. He ignited that passion for the things that move me. The words that make me feel something in my core. He taught me just how beautiful art can be.
I wish he knew back then, that he was giving me the tools that I would use to help get myself through many of my trials.
Music, art, and writing have become so entwined in every part of my being.
Music, reading and writing have been core elements of my personal recovery.
In the words of others I found the escape from the pain in my own life for a little while.
And I learned how to channel that pain into poetry, and journaling, and sharing my story with others.
Music has been my medicine in so many ways.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been in love with music. I remember the songs wafting through my childhood home from my father’s record player. I remember the stories he shared, remembering the times of his own youth. Being transported by the words and the rhythms floating through the speakers. For him the music represents his heritage, his roots…the music is a reminder of a home left behind.
For me, music has been about finding my own safe space in a world that sometimes feels so cold and unwelcoming.
I was raised with an old soul.
Billie Holiday and Otis Redding were household names to me, and I still feel comfort when I put on those records to this day.
My father inspired much of my early taste in music. It wasn’t about what was popular, it was about finding music that made me feel something.
As a teenager I struggled to find my place in the world. I struggled to fit in, I knew I was different from the others. I didn’t have a name for it back then, all I knew was that it was difficult for me to be around people. The smallest interaction would take the utmost energy, and I could sense that others could feel my awkwardness. Social Anxiety.
Over time, I not only wanted to avoid people, but I didn’t enjoy many other things either. I preferred isolation. I was always struggling to fit in, always feeling like an outsider. And with the onset of Depression, those feelings only became worse. I had friends, yes. But I still didn’t feel “part of the group”.
I slowly started to pull away. Due to my internal feelings, and due in large part to the not so innocent teasing that was coming from my so called friends. As the years went on and we got older, they would make it clear that I was different. Not only because of my interactions, but judging my body as well. A dangerous place for someone who is already struggling with so many internal messages.
I wasn’t good enough. That was the message, and I got it loud and clear at the age of 15. Struggling with depression, and a newly formed eating disorder, and trying to cope with all of it with self harm. If I wasn’t an outsider before I surely was now.
So I withdrew.
And I found my comfort.
You could not find me anywhere without a Walkman, or CD player. The music was the only thing keeping out the judgement from the outside and quieting my own judgments of myself.
I wanted to drown out the world.
I wanted something that made me feel like I belonged..
I fell in Love at a Rock Show.
The first music I really identified with was Punk Rock because for the first time being an outsider didn’t really seem like a bad thing. Eventually I ventured out to harder music, and then Alternative Rock, and even Emo music. There was something special in the music and I just couldn’t place my finger on it, but it felt like I had discovered something just for myself. It wasn’t about drowning out the rest of the world anymore. It was about finding something that was my own, even if no one else around me understood it.
When I was 17 years old and admitted to the hospital for the first time, due to self injury and suicidal behaviors, my parents instantly blamed the music. As if rock music could have “made” me the way I was. They didn’t understand that the music was the only solace in a world that kept telling me I just did not belong.
It would be a few years before I would get to experience my first live show. I couldn’t describe the feeling of being at a rock show, pressed up against the barricade, screaming back the words that resounded with me. In those crowds I never faced judgment. It wasn’t about how skinny I was , or how I was dressed, or how I spoke..and no one ever judged me for the scars on my arms.
We were all there for the music.
I felt included. I felt safe.
A decade later and I am still in love with that feeling.
My taste in music has definitely broadened, but at the core of it I still look for music that means something to me. For the rawness and the realness that just moves something in my soul. Songs that may never get played on the radio but just strike such a chord in me, and so many others like me.
I have spent the greater part of the last 2 years on the road. Going to shows. Sharing music in a community that accepts me as I am. A community that supports me. It is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
There are many factors that have contributed to my recovery. Faith being at the forefront, of course. But, I cannot deny the impact that music has had on my life as well. There is so much strength and support and encouragement that I get from the music and the friends I have made at shows. In many ways I feel Music Saved my life.
My father used his music to connect him to a past life.
I wasn’t looking for a home long gone,
I was looking for my home now; my place in the world.
And I found it.
Music is a big part of the story. And the story is far from over.
I believe in the power of storytelling. and I believe in the power of Music.