Monthly Archives: December 2011

Music Is Not Your Life

If there’s one sentence I’d never like to hear again, it’s “Music is my life.”

I’ve heard it about a million times before, and every time I hear it it just aggravates me. Admittedly I haven’t heard it nearly as often ever since I graduated from high school, but I still hear it now and again, and it never ceases to annoy me. The only time I feel it’s appropriate is if you very actively play or create music, and even then it’s a stretch. If you make music for a living, that’s your job, not necessarily your life. I’ve never heard a programmer say that programming is his life.

I took orchestra courses in high school, and one day a guest speaker of roughly our age showed up who was already playing violin professionally. She was incredibly talented, and she said that she made a habit of practicing the violin for ten hours a day. If she said that music was her life, that would seem appropriate.

But most people who say that don’t actually play music; they just listen to it all the time. And in that regard, I feel that saying music is their life is demeaning to both themselves and the musicians they listen to. How invested are you in music if you don’t compose or play any yourself? And more importantly, if “music is your life,” and all you do is listen to music, then is that really such a good thing to tout about yourself? That your entire life is about consuming entertainment, rather than creating or contributing anything?

I mean, I play a lot of games, and I comment on them for the enjoyment of a modest audience, but I wouldn’t say that “video games are my life.” That would make me a pretty boring person, wouldn’t it? I also know how to play a variety of instruments, I’m a drummer in a band (more on that soon, probably), I’m a cashier and I’ll soon be learning to program. My life consists of more than one thing, and I hope yours does too.

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College

Trigger warning: depression, suicide

In the summer of 2010, right after I graduated high school, my two older brothers had a discussion with me about moving off to college and how much it changes your life. It basically changes everything. You live on your own, you figure things out independently, you plan your own schedule, you walk from place to place instead of driving (if you live on campus, which I already had signed up for), etc.

But one important thing they noted was that it gives you an opportunity to change your entire persona. All throughout grade school you’re basically tied to the same friends and the same family. Sure, you meet new people and make new friends throughout, but since you’re generally surrounded by at least a few people who know you as a certain kind of person, you’re sort of tied to that. But when you move off to college, leaving everyone you know behind, it gives you the chance to reevaluate yourself and ultimately identify what kind of person you are.

My brother Neil was fairly timid in high school. College gave him the chance to break out of his shell and become so extroverted that he became the president of a fraternity. My brother Josh had the plan of being a computer science nerd, but going off to college made him realize that his real passion was in writing. As such, I was really excited to go out and “find myself,” as they say, by putting myself in an entirely new environment with entirely new people.

So what happened? Well, I suppose I did reevaluate myself, and I did come to a conclusion about what kind of person I was. I concluded that I was a worthless, unlikable loser. And I also figured out what I should be: dead.

This was a gradual revelation for me, and I’m pretty sure the reasons are that classic triple tag-team of stress, isolation and loneliness that a lot of college freshmen are familiar with. It didn’t help that I’d basically leaped into the deep end — I was majoring in math, and somehow I hadn’t yet realized how much of a horrible mistake that would be, and since I already had credit for Calculus 1 because of an advanced course I took in high school, I was in Calculus 2, which is infamous for being egregiously hard, at least in the university I went to.

I tried to make friends. Some of them I got along with decently, and some people I ended up clashing with on a regular basis. But for the most part, things just felt off. I never felt like I was in the loop. Everybody seemed to adjust to independent college life fairly easily and I just couldn’t get a grip on it. I was having such a hard time keeping up with studying and coping with my feelings of isolation that it didn’t take long at all for me to simply lose all motivation to continue. I stopped going to classes, I stopped talking to people, I avoided human contact at all costs, and basically the only time I ever left my dorm was when I needed food.

The low point came when I spent a night holding a full pack of my A.D.D. medication (I’d read that overdosing can cause “instant death”) and arguing with myself about whether to swallow it all. It was my family that saved me from that demise; namely my mother, who called to check up on me, and my brother, who came to my dorm to take the pills away.

I took a year off from school to take a long breath and get the whole “I’m a worthless unlikable loser” mentality removed from my brain. It’s still there. I’ve been able to push it away with a constant stream of video games and chocolate, like a perpetual injection of morphine to help ignore the wound, but it’s still there, taking opportunities whenever it can to jump out at me and remind me of the fact that I’m going nowhere in life.

Why do I say all this? Well, partially for catharsis, but mostly to give context because I signed up for a few courses at a community college today. This spring I’ll finally be going back to school. This is good news, as it shows that my life will hopefully start moving in a direction again, but I’m extremely anxious about it. This time I’m not moving away from home, I’m not going full-time and I’m not taking ridiculously hard classes. Hopefully this means I won’t crash. But what if I do? What if I didn’t fail because of my situation? What if it was because of me? I can’t really say.

On the bright side, I’m not majoring in math anymore. This time I’m going to try out a programming course. I don’t know the first thing about programming, but I’ve heard it involves a lot of problem solving (which I enjoy), is sort of related to math (which I’ve been told I’m good at), and it could lead me into game design (or better yet, allow me to make my own little independent flash/freeware games). It wouldn’t hurt to try, and if I do end up liking it, it could lead to a promising future.

But what if it doesn’t?