I used to ignore human beings in favour of music as a child. If there was an instrument in the room, I would instinctively gravitate toward it and start playing; ignoring the adults or other kids.
I wasn't playing to sound good or to find success in the industry (come on, I was only 6), I played because I wanted to.
And if you knew me today, this makes sense. Once a musician, always a musician. Right?
But something a lot of my friends didn't know about me is that there was a long stretch of time where I wasn't doing anything musical at all, starting from a deep depression at age 17.
I decided my passion for music was irresponsible.
Depression made me think that feelings were illogical
I don't know why I thought feelings were a sign of weakness, but during my depression, I was vulnerable to this dangerous idea. I didn't let myself be upset, I didn't let myself care.
But how do you make decisions when you don't care what you do?
When it came time to make important life decisions, I would weigh the pros and cons, and pick whatever seemed most logical.
So, when music landed on the chopping block, it got cut. Not because I didn't love it... but because love didn't matter to me anymore.
I quit the band. I left music school. I played very little and felt embarrassed and weak when I did.
How a song brought me back to my feelings
On my morning commute, I remember walking by the Cameron House, a Toronto music venue, countless times and seeing names of artists up in the light box.
After a year or two, I started to see familiar names. Old friends, people I studied music with. People like me. People who I could once relate to, but couldn't see myself in anymore. And whatever I could have felt, I pushed it down.
Near the end of this spell of self-denial, I was in rough shape. Neglected feelings became fatigue. Fatigue became migraines. By the end of it, I was too tired to even cry. I couldn't carry on.
And it then struck me: To deny emotions is to deny the energy of life. A person without feelings is like a car without gasoline. And then, one night, sitting in my room under the soft glow of my computer, with almost no life force left in me, I mindlessly gravitated toward my instrument and began softly singing the words:
"I fear I need to feel, to be a part of this."
There was no way I could have spoken those words. But I could sing them.
Through music, I finally learned that it's okay to not be okay
Music doesn't need to be logical. It doesn't even need to be happy. It just needs to resonate.
I remember how deeply I resonated with those words. I sang them over and over again, and by the end, I was able to cry again. My depression became a mental health journey. Music was a safe way for me to finally access my emotions.
Making up for lost time, lost music
I recently formed a musical duo with Toronto artist, Jordo Arnott. A couple weeks ago, Jordo and I were playing and he showed me a riff on the guitar. Without logic, without thinking, I began to sing the same line:
I fear I need to feel, to be a part of this.
But this time, I could feel it all. Everything about this music we're making taps into some aspect of this period in my life. And so without thinking, the words flowed again.
Gave up music when you left
Never played guitar again
Broke the strings and cut my hand
Been denying where I been
Who I really am
Who I really am is a singer, songwriter, and musician. Depression briefly had me convinced that maybe I wasn't. On Oct. 13, Jordo and I are playing a party folk set of original songs at (of all places) the Cameron House, as we open for Dan Kosub.
Our band is called Cleanse It With Fire, and that's exactly what we intend to do. If you're in Toronto, I would be honoured if you join us.