Without a Plan: Turning down a career in music

See!! Told you it wouldn’t take another eight months to write the next one. Are you proud? Well, don’t be. It’s absolutely shameful that it takes me so long to sit and write things and I don’t deserve any praise for stepping over an incredibly low bar.

So, what next? You’ve read about my creative aspirations, and you’ve learned that a computer informed a major life philosophy that I keep with me to this day. So far it seems like my destiny was pretty mapped out, right?

Yeah. Wasn’t like that at the time.

I decided that I wanted to be a musician, for a while at least. I have always loved music. I grew up listening to music. When I was young, my mum would boogie in the kitchen to the modern late 80s and early 90s pop on BBC Radio 1. Later on she’d migrate to Radio 2, which would be playing slightly older hits. Our record collection was fabulous, and my sister and I would regularly hurl ourselves around the living room to the sublime guitar of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits, the fabulous, incredible eccentricity of Queen, the bombast and opera of Meat Loaf, and the silky 80s synths of Tears for Fears.

We were now living in ‘The North’ (depending on who you talk to) and I was finding my way in a new world. I made a few friends. The two I remember were Darryl and Matthew McQuaid ‘McQuaidy’ or just ‘Quaidy’. From my South Wales Primary School world of pop music, I entered my Northern Secondary School world of grunge and rock. I was already familiar with – and adored – electric guitars, and so I fell in quite naturally with this musical shift. Nirvana were all the rage with my group of friends, and I went along. I’ll admit now that, at the time, I wasn’t super into them. Darryl leant me a CD of Nirvana’s From the Muddy Banks of the Wishka which I listened to at home, told him I loved, but didn’t enjoy all that much at the time.

It probably scared the shit out of my mum.

Now I can appreciate the brilliance of Messrs Cobain, Grohl and Novoselic, but it wasn’t for me at the time. However I needed to keep some pals around, so I went with it, and Darryl and I decided to learn guitar at school. In our heads, we envisaged rocking out like Cobain. What actually happened was we were given these enormous acoustic guitars by the school (we hadn’t hit our growth spurts at this point) and forced to trudge back and forth to school looking like major band geeks on the bus.
Darryl and I both got an electric guitar that Christmas, and our “band” practiced exactly once, with a drummer that had no drums and two kids with guitars who couldn’t play a song.

Despite all this, I still have one takeaway that I’ll treasure forever. My favorite band in the world is a band called Mansun. In my mind, they were Alt-Pop, a modern day 1990s Pink Floyd with a wilder lyrical imagination. I fell in love with this band, and getting a 20 Year vinyl and book set of their mind-blowing album Six is what set me onto the road of collecting vinyl just a couple of years ago.

I don’t remember the timeline too well anymore, but after three and a half years with these new friends, my parents decided to move once more – back to where we’d been three and a half years ago. By this point I’d already said goodbye to the guitar, but had to say goodbye to my friends too – including my very best friend in the world.

Leaving was incredibly hard, and tempered only by the knowledge that I’d be going back to a place where I knew some people. Still, it was a very difficult period and I relied on music a lot to get me through it. In particular, Mansun’s Six spoke to my troubled, anguished adolescent brain in ways I couldn’t even comprehend. The music just hooked into my soul and clung on, whispering “I understand you”.

In the school I was at, there was a contingent of Emo’s. I have no idea what kids call other kids these days, if Emo is still used, if it’s now a protected class, a pejorative or a badge of pride. But Emo’s were the kids who all dressed in black, dyed their hair black (where possible), and were as visibly depressed as possible. I could quite easily have drifted over to them and become one of them. It would have made my wardrobe far easier to manage.
Unfortunately my school in South Wales had another term for them – Sweaties. I have to assume it’s down to their insistence on wearing black and showing as little flesh as possible, meaning for half the year they were perspiring in the un-air-conditioned (and very glass-heavy) school rooms.

There are moments in my past that sometimes I think about, and wonder what the parallel universe looks like where I did make a certain decision instead of passing (or vice versa). I have a personal hate of body odor, so I wonder if I’d have become even more self loathing, or had to quit as a Sweaty because I couldn’t stand the smell of myself in the summer months.

Happily almost everyone from my Primary School had chosen to go to the same Secondary School, so I was going back into a school where I knew a good ~20 people. Rekindling friendships that I thought might have been gone forever was a wonderful experience, though of course I had to go through all the turmoil in the first place, which was less than ideal.

At this point in the story, I’m 13 years old, and getting back into writing. English class was a blast, and I threw myself into my work. Throughout Secondary School English was one of my strongest subjects and certainly one of my favorites. I really enjoyed having a creative outlet for my many ideas and fantasies (not those sort of fantasies … yet), and this would go on to express itself in a medium neither I nor my parents would necessarily have expected.

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