Hey there 🙂 Remember me?
I know, I know. I should have written this a while ago…. I do have good reasons (honest).
Right as the US portion of the tour ended and during my only 2 complete days off in Austin before starting the UK / Europe tour – I got sick.
Yes, it was bloody annoying.
Right now we’re a week or so into the UK tour and thankfully I’m feeling WAY better. I’m still getting over the tail end of it….but other than the occasional coughing fit that makes me sound like I’ve contracted the plague, I’m doing ok.
That’s Reason No.1.
Reason No.2…..well, if I’m being honest….I’ve been avoiding you. It’s nothing you’ve said or done, there’s a specific blog post I’ve been wanting to write – and I kinda knew it would be difficult. But for what ever reason it’s important for me to get these words out of me and onto the screen.
So here goes……from the top.
Touring is fun. Crazy, but fun. Getting paid to travel around and play music night after night is such a privilege and I never take it for granted. Not only is it a wonderful way to see the world, it also really helps you grow enormously as a musician. After every show I feel as though I’ve learnt something new – especially as this is a genre of music I’ve not played a huge amount of (plus there is the small matter of playing an instrument I’d barely touched before this tour 😉 ).
But in between the music side of things, there is an awful lot of free time to do one thing I already do way too much of.
One situation in particular sparked a tidal wave of thoughts and emotions that I had zero control over. I kept on trying to shut the flood gates, but once they were open I was forced to take a long hard look at what was going on. I honestly thought I had my shit together. I really believed I’d worked through so many demons and my soul was clear of negative experiences from the past.
Apparently I was sooooooo wrong.
On the outskirts of New York, in a tiny little place called Hamilton we had a show at Colgate University.
Ahead of our show we got to check out the grounds and see all the facilities the place had to offer.
Again, not a big deal….in fact pretty cool by most people’s standards.
I found out very, very quickly that this was like hell on earth for me.
Within about 10mins of walking around the University grounds it was as if I had stepped into some kind of weird time warp where I was back being 14 again.
Awkward, angry, emotional, zitty, uncomfortable 14.
As 37 year old me walking around the grounds of Colgate University, I went past countless gaggles of super confident kids, all in their little groups of friends. Smiling and laughing. Making conversation. Connected.
I can’t tell you how many times at school I sat totally alone watching all these groups of people interact with each other.
It was like watching everyone through a window. I was present but not.
I’d sit there day after day trying my best to blend in and failing miserably.
I wasn’t cool. I didn’t have anything in common with anyone. I wanted to be a musician. Everyone else wanted to be something far more conventional. I had no idea what it felt like to fancy that boy who works in the local shop or that guy on that crappy TV show everyone’s into or the good looking one from that boy band. I didn’t want to go out and be with the cool people because most of them were actually pretty uninteresting and the places they wanted to go were as lame and boring as they were.
But as inane as they were, they had something I didn’t. Friends. They were the cool kids. Everyone liked them. And at 14 being liked by the appropriate people is the ONLY thing that matters.
Then there were the teachers. I was picked on by them too. According to them I was lazy, stupid and didn’t care. These days they call it dyslexia.
So all in all, there was absolutely nothing enjoyable for me about a school environment. Every day was just a matter of survival. Each morning I’d head straight for the gym changing rooms to sit quietly and brace myself for the day ahead. A couple of mornings I stayed there longer than I should and was late for the first class. One of my class mates told the teacher I was late because they’d seen me smoking round the back of the building (which clearly was a lie). I got a detention. No questions asked. It happened all the time. I honestly couldn’t do anything right and no-one gave a crap about how difficult it was for me just to set foot inside the school never mind get any work done. If they didn’t know how I felt on the inside it was pretty obvious on the outside because I was self harming on a fairly regular basis. It was ignored.
The thing is, as an adult if you don’t like something or someone – you have options. You can walk away. As a child / teenager if you don’t like school it’s tough shit. And if you do walk away, they’ll hunt you down and take you straight back there whether you like it or not.
Since moving to the US I have had a few judgemental comments / dirty looks when I admit that I left school at 15 and I actually have no qualifications at all.
‘What? You’re a high school drop out? Why would you do that? Don’t you care??’ and so on and so forth.
It may also surprise some of you to know that Colgate was the first University campus in my 37 year existence to walk around.
I had no idea it would make me feel like bursting into tears, but when I stop and think about it – it’s kind of obvious that I wouldn’t feel that comfortable.
So what happened after I left school?
I started learning. Strange but true.
At 15 I was playing various solo shows at a few rather seedy pubs around town. By 17 I had taut myself to play bass guitar and drums, had recorded 2 albums and was playing music full time in 4 different bands as well as continuing my solo shizzle. I learnt how to read and write considerably better than my school days – mainly because I had to write to venues and create posters for events. I was also rehearsing (A LOT)…..7 hours a day to be exact. I created my own schedule for practise and stuck to it religiously.
I also developed an even deeper understanding of nature and animals. I regularly hand reared and rehabilitated sick and injured birds. My wife’s favourite story she loves to tell people is that I helped a chicken recover from a serious stroke that left her not able to walk or feed herself properly – and within a short space of time I managed to get her almost totally back to normal. It was pretty awesome.
Through all of these ups and downs in my life there have been a few things that have kept me sane.
Music being the major one.
And my amazing and patient parents being the other.
They have forever supported me wanting to do music and have never once tried to sway me from my path. In fact they have always been so encouraging. Over the years I subjected them to me learning various instruments (which must have been like some form of torture at times) along with being incredibly moody and unkind 90% of the time because I was so frustrated with life and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
But despite all this, there’s always been unconditional love by the bucket load thrown in my direction. All they have ever expected of me is that I get up every day and do the best I can.
No expectation of good grades. No desire for me to be some specialist doctor or high flying lawyer. Just a good person who is being their true authentic self….something at times I took for granted.
I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for kids to not only have to contend with what I did in school but to also have parents who expected them to achieve.
I am incredibly lucky.
So I guess the conclusion that I’ve come to is that no matter how crappy things might be, thank God I don’t have to go to school every day.
And you know what? I’m totally fine being a high school drop-out musician.
It’s actually pretty amazing 🙂
Thanks as always for reading this far ❤ ❤