Nov 27, 2013

What's the Rush ?

dear AAP-
I'm trapped in a nuthouse. My dad is one of those people who watches Fox News and then screams about how America is turning to shit and how it is liberal's fault and it just gets worse every week. I'm a junior in high school and I think pretty smart, but any time I object or disagree he just calls me an idiot "like all the rest of them." and calls me brainwashed AND braindead. When I point out that it is impossible to be both, he doesn't think that is funny. So he won't listen to anyone who disagrees with him, no matter what the facts are, and he thinks I'm stupid. But I don't take it personally because he thinks everyone is stupid, and he's a genius, which believe me, he isn't. That's what I don't get. We sure as hell aren't rich, but as far as I can tell, aren't Republicans all about being rich? I can't understand why he is on their side.  I guess my question is, what can I do to make my point or at least keep things from getting even worse -- Politically Confused.

Dear PC -
As regular readers know, I go to pretty great lengths to avoid political partisanship here on AAP, but this isn't really a political question as much as it is a family survival question.

Some families are great, nurturing places where everyone is encouraged to participate, learn and grow, where opinions are respected and spirited debate is embraced. Other families are more like a penal colony, run by one (or two) power-crazed dipshits who think their words and opinions carry the weight of holy law.

Guess which one you're living in.

Yes, it sucks. In the short term, you can forget about making your points or changing your dad's mind. Your best course is to keep your head down, try not to engage him in debates or incur any more wrath than is necessary. I'm not saying you have to back down, or (worse yet) agree with him. I'm saying: Live your life as best as you can. Try to keep a cool head, and the facts on your side. Say as little as possible to him at all times. ...and, like inmates everywhere, start counting down the days to freedom. I know that might be a long way off if you're planning on college etc, but try to keep the long game in mind.

How long a game? ... depends on how patient (and angry) you might be. Once you're no longer a minor and also no longer financially dependent on him, you will be better able to set your own terms of engagement. It might seem like a long way off, but believe me when I tell you that time does fly. You'll be on your own and free to decide how you spend your time, which relatives you want to visit, and who you'll allow under your roof. 

And hey, sooner or later there might be grand-kids he'll want to see, or even beyond that, there will likely come a day when he suddenly finds himself dependent on you, financially and even physically. It always stuns me how bad parents never think that far ahead. So on those especially dark days, just (quietly) remember this: It is likely that you'll be deciding what old age home to shove him in...

When time is on your side like that, you (eventually) have more power than you might imagine. In the meantime remember that punk, at it's best, is also capable of making political statements. Pick up a guitar and start writing songs about the things that (and people who) piss you off. You'll feel better and you'll probably find more than a few fans.

Good Luck.

Nov 20, 2013

Write back again in ten years, or maybe five.

Dear ask a punk-
ot whatever. I just reead yhour story about molly and you are so totally wrong. I hate when ppeople talka bout things they don't know about especially old people who don't know what i going on. Molly is safe if youu respect it and stay hydrates and take care of eachother like humans are supoosed to anyway. People don't get that. We shouud all care more about aeach other and dance togethera nd be together and tue people like you who say bad things apbut it don't know what their taling about and are just tryin to scare people. You don't knw anything abpnut it and shou'dnt talk about things ypou don't know about. I bet if you went to an EDM show you wourd have ana mazing time and not stop talking about it to your rfriends. and the peo9ple ther would except you even if you are old and stuff. you pdon't know about it. (unsigned) 

Dear (unsigned) -
Please tell me that you wrote that message on your phone, in the dark, without your glasses and while wearing mittens. If not, I hope to god you didn't have to drive anywhere any time soon after you hit "send." I'm not sure why I'm even answering this - it isn't really a question. OK, maybe I do know: The mailbag has been slow lately. 

If you (ever) sober up and decide to actually READ my earlier post about EDM and molly that you referred to, I think you will see that my response wasn't chock-full of draconian anti-drug language. I pretty much said that anything chemical that a person decides to put into his or her body is going to come with trade-offs. Only a misinformed fool, or an "immortal" teenager would argue otherwise. 

I hope you do stay safe and that nothing terrible happens to you, or your brain in the coming years. That is your choice to make... just don't say that no one warned you there could be consequences. 

Good luck. Seriously.

Nov 13, 2013

Imaginary Fiend

Dear AAP
I had a rough childhood and didn't make things any easier on myself by being the only punk girl in my fairly small town. That was years ago and I know all the psychology behind it now. I was protecting myself and my feelings by preemptively rejecting "them" whoever "them" might be at any given time; my parents, teachers, the kids at school, the lady at the donut shop, whoever. It was a classic case of "acting out" and I know that any kid doing the same way today, some counselor at school, or someone would notice the "cry for help" and would maybe do something constructive to help. 

I'm not angry about that. I know we live in different and better times when it comes to identifying troubled kids. The thing that bothers me is that this understanding doesn't appear to be retroactive. When I go back home, the same new parents - people my age - who are so clued into this stuff NOW, still look at me and see see the angry weirdo bitch I was in middle school and high school. There is no understanding of what things might have been like for me then, even though they're now so understanding about "troubled kids." I know I was a jerk and maybe even a little bit scary, but I wasn't a criminal or a druggie, I was just an angry, mixed-up kid who dyed her hair too many different colors, made a spectacle of herself and then yelled at people when they dared to notice or comment on my attire, behaviors or attitude. 

But it was a long time ago. I didn't make peace with my family, but I did declare a truce. I went off to school. I have a decent enough job and, although I still don't dress in wal-mart clothes, my personal style would probably be considered just a little modern and edgy, not crazy or scary. But every time I go home and run into people I know, I mean KNEW, they still have that same image of me. And yes, it does bother me that their opinions of me DO seem to still matter. How can I convince them I'm different or do I just let this stuff go? - Former Pariah.

Dear FP-
If you've read even just a few of my previous posts, you'll know that my answer is: yeah, you have to let this stuff go. Unless you become nationally famous for rescuing babies from a burning orphanage, or discover the final cure for cancer, people who knew you as a kid aren't going to change their general opinion of you.

The good news is this: They don't spend much time thinking about you one way or another. Seriously. What is that old quote? from Ben Franklin or someone: "You would worry much less about what people think of you, if you realized how rarely they thought of you at all." ...maybe it was Oscar Wilde. I'm not sure, but you get the idea. Trust me, your old high school classmates and the people in your home town do not regularly gather to discuss what a weird bitch you once were. They're too busy driving their kids to soccer practice. On those rare occasions when you do "go home" you're the only one experiencing waves of nostalgia (good or bad.) To the rest of them, it is just another Tuesday. When they happen to run into you, unexpectedly, at the local big box department store, they have nothing else to orient themselves to you but your shared past, the past where you were the weirdo and maybe even were mean to them. Yes, they might have good reason to still be angry with you, don't forget that. Then, 15 minutes later, as they are loading their purchases into the mini-van, they're probably already thinking about something else. I'm not being a jerk here, this is a good thing.

If their opinions are that important to you, I guess you would have to move back to your town and go through the long, slow process of proving you're now different by being different, day-in and day-out where they can actually see it. ...and I'm guessing this issue isn't nearly important enough to you to bother doing that. It seems like you have the opposite of "survivor's guilt." You've survived a difficult start in life and now you have some "survivor's pride" about how far you've come, and you just wish these other yahoos would freakin' notice. Which, if you only make rare appearances on the home front, isn't going to happen.

So yeah, let it go. All of it. When you do go home, smile at people, and maybe even decide if a few apologies are in order - that could go a long way toward changing their opinions of you. You said yourself that you "acted out" a lot back then, you probably stepped on a lot of toes and wounded a lot of people's feelings. You have to take some responsibility for that too, even if they were the coping mechanisms of a wounded and damaged child. And then, heck, in 50 years (or less) none of it will really matter because, well, it never really did.

Nov 6, 2013

Stark Trek

Dear AAP -
I just turned 33 and just finished up another Summer and Fall driving around the country and playing with my band. In the wintertime we usually stick close to home, try to hold down steady jobs and just practice and play around town. The thing is, I'm not sure that the summer of 2014 will be, or should be, spent the same way. We've been doing this, with this configuration of the band, or over six years. Do we have "a following"? I guess so, in a few towns. If we post a new track on our website, it'll get maybe 2000 listens fairly quickly, then not much more. This is the problem. We might be getting better as a band, but we're not getting any bigger. We are no closer to really supporting ourselves with our music now than we were in 2009, and really, any band that plays together for as long as we have has to get a little better, even accidentally. I am wondering when or if it is time to stop all this. - JJx

Dear JJx -
It is time to stop when the hassles and indignities start to outweigh, in your mind, the payoffs you're receiving. ...and by payoffs, I don't mean the elusive "big break" or whatever it is called now. I mean the only payoff that really matters: the FEELING you get when you're playing your music for an appreciative audience, even if it is the same size as it was 2 or 4 years ago. 

There are a million rational reasons to stop any creative endeavor, most of them financial, especially when the ticking clock starts turning into entire calendar pages flying by. But when we're talking about creative endeavors we are almost always talking about something irrational - passion. I'm sure that, six years ago, you had a vision, or at least a hope, that you and your band would become more "successful" somehow... even though everyone told you what a long shot really "making it" as a band really is. Even though your own head told you the same thing... you pushed on in spite of the odds against you. Yes, you do get karmic points for that. Seriously, you do. ...but that might be all you ever get. Can you be happy with that?

You have to sit quietly and re-examine (or perhaps examine or the first time) exactly why you started down this path in the first place. Was the singular goal to sell a million records? Or was it to just see how far you could take it? Maybe this is as far as it could be taken. 

Ask yourself this: Are you talking about quitting this band, or are you talking about hanging up the whole attempt to be "a musician" first and foremost? There are a zillion great musicians in the world who've never made their living playing... just as there are a zillion writers, painters, sculptors, chefs, app designers etc etc etc who are great at what they do, but might never make that big score. Heck, I've been writing this blog every week for five years... and my audience is pretty much the same size as was 2 years ago, and the last time I checked, my "income" from google adsense is up to a whopping $8.00. total. for five years. clearly, I'm not doing this for the money or fame. I'm doing it because I like to do it which is pretty much the reason I do all of my other writing too. Do I hope for some pay-off from some of it, eventually? Yes, of course, but I also know that none of that is a given. The odds are long when it comes to solid financial success for any creative endeavor. ...but you can tell a 20 year old that fact until you're blue in the face, and all they'll be thinking is: "Well, I'm more talented than that old hack anyway" all you can do is shrug and wish them luck. 

The cliche is true: You had better enjoy the process because that alone might be your only payoff. But yeah, I get it - being in a real band requires a 100% commitment. You can't just do it "on the side" etc. You have to decide if you're "in" or "out" ...and it sounds like you haven't quite decided you're "out" yet, for the simple reason that you asked. Trust me on this: When you're really ready to quit, you'll know it and - no one will be able to talk you out of it.