Music has always been something special for me. Before I knew how to hold a guitar, or carry a tune, it was just an unknown fascination that caught my attention from time to time. Whether I was riding in the car with my parents, or playing one of the many video games that occupied my childhood, I can recall music being at the forefront of my attention. But it was when I got my first guitar at the age of 13 that music finally started to turn into something a little more… vital.
I had decided a few years earlier that I wanted a guitar, when my brother got one for Christmas and proceeded to let it sit in the corner not too long after. I can remember loosing focus on whatever was on the computer screen and turning my attention to that block of wood. I’d sneak a few strums on the strings, even though I didn’t know a chord to play. My grasp on music was almost non-existent, but there was something about that instrument that could just grab my attention for longer than it had any right to.
When I finally got my first guitar, I was ecstatic. I lived out the cliche of playing until my fingers were raw and bleeding. But it felt good to work myself to such an extreme…
I still bleed on my guitars once in a while, rubbing my skin thin until it can’t hold back the fluid anymore. Honestly, I can say I haven’t owned a guitar that, at one time or another, I haven’t bled on. To some extent, I think this means that from a legal standpoint I shouldn’t be selling them to other people.
But I know I’m not alone in this.
Any serious musician I know has bled for their craft. Whether it was just practicing so much that your body couldn’t take anymore, or it was just a mistake on their part (from a technical standpoint), we’ve all done it. Some might go as far as to call it a right of passage in the musical world.
For months now, like so many times before, I’ve been dipping in and out of a depression for reasons I still can’t quite figure out. Nothing has seemed to be able to really pull me out of my own head. It’s something I’ve lived with my entire life, but there are times where it can get a little worse than I’m ever happy to admit. And during all of this, I feel like I had almost forgotten music.
What it could do for me
Music, since that first guitar at 13, has been my release. It has been a way for me to express what I’m feeling without having to worry about how to phrase it. I don’t have to be concerned if I’m choosing the right words or not. I don’t have to worry if someone else is going to really understand what I’m trying to say. Even if they don’t, they can find their own meaning in the music that I’ve written over the years.
Whether I offend somebody or not is never a concern when I let the emotion flow through the six metal wires I smash my fingers down on, over and over and over and over. Why? Because it’s me. It’s what would otherwise bubble up inside until it bursts, probably taking my sanity with it in the process.
Without it, I tend to get lost in my head with no way out. Every turn I take just seems to lead down a darker hallway. Without the music to guide me down the right path, I might as well be blind trying to navigate a maze.
But recently, when I felt like all of the small things were beginning to build up inside again. When they had accumulated into a mass of negativity and despair, and I felt like I was just going to break down and start crying, I sat down and picked up my guitar…
It was different than the many times before, lately
It wasn’t a matter of practicing or trying to get better. Furthest from my mind was the thought of making progress in my technical ability as a musician. As important as that is to me, it can sometimes get in the way of why music has been so important to me. It can cloud why I even play music to begin with. Why it has stuck with me for so many years - longer than it take someone to finish medical school at this point.
I love it, dearly
Music had almost become a chore these past few months. I felt like I had to become better, now that I was trying to make a new start in this new music scene. I felt like I didn’t stand a chance in this new environment. Like everyone around me was making leaps and bounds and I was left to wallow in my little puddle of musicality. I had lost my way…
What dawned on me in those moments was that I was fine. The worries that I had no longer seemed insurmountable. Everything was within my grasp again, and it all made sense for the first time in a long time. If I had to call it anything outside of a eureka moment, I would have to go with the word enlightening. I was having fun again.
I was playing songs I had written, some of them years ago, and I was enjoying every second of it. There was no one to readily hear me, I wasn’t worried about trying to record something for everyone. I wasn’t worried about trying to be perfect in what I was doing. I wasn’t thinking about all the ways that I felt like I’d failed. I was just… playing.
If we are our own worst critics, then I finally have a bit of confidence in myself again as a musician. For the first time, in so long, I was proud of the way that I sounded. I am, by no means, the best at anything that I do in the realm of music. But I finally knew where I stood once again.
I may not be the best, but I know that I’m not the worst. And even if I was, at this point, I can at least smile when I pick up my guitar and sing. I can enjoy writing music again, and I’m finally able to let the ideas flow a bit more readily. I’m not concerned about the standards that others before me have set. I am no Bach…
I am Shane Livingston. Which is a lot more than what a lot of people can say…