Smells like Teen Spirit
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Are the young happy? I don't remember feeling particularly happy or joyful in the midst of my youth or my teen years, but I like to think that other kids, other teens, had better stories, happier stories.
I just know my story was not one of the happy ones. Part of it may have been growing up in the midst of the cold war where the existential threat of life being wiped out always lingered in the back of our minds. Certainly, part of it was growing up in a dysfunctional household with a narcissistic parent.
I do remember the music of my youth: the Ramones, the Violent Femmes, Nirvana. The music expressed how I felt in terms that I did not yet have the perspective or the vocabulary to express.
Looking back I can see the uneasiness of my every day life: never knowing when I would be yelled at or punished for the thing I was doing that was fine the day before. I learned not to trust my emotions or my responses because the ground under my feet was always trembling. The earthquake that was my father could destroy the peace at any moment.
Finding punk music, and later thrash, gave me the emotional release I couldn't put into words. The discordant music and often out of tune lyrics expressed my emotions in ways that I never could.
While I never braved the mosh pits, I sat on the edge of my seat at local clubs that catered to the punk crowd. The power of the emotions, the heedless way that they threw themselves into the throng, echoed how I felt inside. I felt that burning edge, that pure desire to unmake a world that had given me so much misery. Punk vocalized what I could not.
In the decades since, I've found distance from that pain and I've started to make peace with my own past. My Inner Artist Child struggles to express what is still so hard to vocalize. Happiness is a destination that wavers hazily in the distance. Learning to love myself is the journey.