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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Flames Of My Wasted Life.

I was sixteen years old, and everyone was saying "You've got to do A Levels. If you don't do A Levels, you won't get anywhere with your life." And even then, I knew it was strange, because people who had done A Levels were being told, "You have to do a degree. If you don't do a degree, you won't get anywhere with your life." Which is weird, because now they say to people "If you don't have a Masters Degree, you won't get anywhere with your life." Of course, I never knew where it was I was meant to be getting with my life. Certainly, nobody took seriously the notion that I wanted to be a Film Director. But then, that's fine, because at the time - I didn't take it seriously either. In our school systems, there is no support for creativity. I say that without hesitation. I was actively talked out of my writing interest in school. Nobody had ever sat me down and said "create something; it's brilliant when people create things." It was always, "Your Science homework is due tomorrow. Get it done."

I wasn't good at science. I wasn't much good at anything. But I did stay on to do 'A Levels.' But don't get excited-- I only stayed for two weeks. I don't even remember the subjects I chose. One of them was Media Studies, that thing where you sit there making stuff up like "The green coloring of Buzz Lightyear is a metaphor for the decay of society and is symbolic of aubergines." So, I knew deep inside that A Levels were not for me. And then everyone was saying, "well, you gotta get a job, you gotta earn some money, you gotta make a living." So I got a job as an office junior for a Quantity Surveying company. I didn't know what Quantity Surveying was (I still don't), but I forged ahead with my little job and the most depressing period of my life. Don't get me wrong, I've had years that were much tougher, where life really threw curve balls - but being 17 was tough because I had a terrible job, no goals, and nothing seemed to be on the horizon. And there were no girls. Well, I'm sure there were, just not in my life.

I remember in a very exact way that I went to a lot of gigs when I was 17. I guess it was a survival thing. Depressing, awful job by day, but gigs by night. I would love to pretend I was some cool rock kid, but I was seeing acts like Vonda Shepard, John Mayer, Ryan Adams, etc-- it was all Americana-ish, alt-rock blandity. But I don't mean to put it down - this is something I am learning to stand up for more, it's the music I love. I make no apologies. Anyways, the music became this incredibly important thing to me. It offered an alternative world to the one of moving boxes from storage space to storage space, and talking boring office talk to colleagues. I guess day by day it would build up and build up - my deep interest in music. I think I'm only realising the relevance of music to my life then, as I think about it now, many years later.

Somewhere inside of me, this feeling was bubbling up. The feeling that I wanted to do something with my life. I wanted to be a writer. A film director. Even then, I was aware that you don't make great films by moving boxes around storage units, but I didn't seem to possess the power or will to make the change. It was like a trigger was missing, some little thing that would put my life into gear, to give me perspective.

And then two things happened. One is because of Bruce Springsteen, and one is because of Counting Crows. But somewhere within those two events; the thing that was bubbling up finally came to fruition, the alchemy of my situation, my dreams, and my love for music. Here's how I remember it.

Bruce Springsteen announced a one off gig at Wembley Arena. And I guess I should tell you, I absolutely loved Bruce Springsteen. 'Thunder Road' was fast becoming my favorite song, and 'Born To Run' felt just like the bubbling, bubbling that'd been firing up inside of me. And 'Dancing In The Dark' was gaining in relevance.

I get up in the evening
and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired
Man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help
- Bruce Springsteen - Dancing In The Dark

So, I really wanted to go see The Boss live. But no-one would come with me. I asked all my friends. The collective response was, "the Born in the USA guy? No thanks." I made a very important decision. I decided to go by myself. Which shouldn't be a big deal, but for the lonely, worried little me, it was a big deal. It was confirmation that I was pathetic. This was supported by the build up to the event - culminating on me getting the train to the concert and feeling like a complete outsider. I didn't relate to my friends and I didn't really know why I was listening to Springsteen rather than, I dunno, whatever was popular at the time. So I was really miserable. I remember sitting in my seat, alone, at Wembley Arena. And I just felt--- so separated from everything, from everyone I knew. These things are so painful when you're 17.

And then Springsteen came on stage. And the music started.

What proceeded to happen was as near to a religious experience as I've ever had. I realized that I wasn't alone, I was with 12,000 of my closest friends. This wasn't just music, it a man who sang my dreams. His views on the world were the same as mine. There was a dream to be had and he was singin' it and chasin' it. I was truly transformed. I realized the reason I was there, at that gig, was because THAT WAS WHO I WAS. It is who I am. It is me. If everybody I knew who was going see Bruce Springsteen alone, and obsessing over his setlists and having this outrageously great experience, then I'd be just like everybody else. And being like everyone else wouldn't make me a very interesting writer. And it was like I GOT IT, right there, in that crap old tin of an arena.

I don't give a damn
For the same old played out scenes
I don't give a damn
For just the in betweens
Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul
I want control right now

Talk about a dream
Try to make it real
you wake up in the night
With a fear so real

Spend your life waiting
for a moment that just don't come
Well, don't waste your time waiting

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you've gotta pay
We'll keep pushin' till it's understood
and these badlands start treating us good

- Bruce Springsteen - Badlands

A week later; I was trying to figure out what that experience meant in relation to my career as a guy who re-alphabetizes an archiving system on a weekly basis. I remember very specifically being downstairs in the basement of the company I was working in. I was having a particularly hard time remembering the alphabet properly. Not because I'm dumb, but because I truly didn't give a shit.

Aside from Springsteen, my other obsession were Counting Crows. And this memory seems really cheesy now. But it happens to be true. I was down in the basement doing the archiving nonsense, moving 'N' nearer to 'B' and hiding 'L' just because I was a rebel. And the song 'A Murder Of One' by the Crows came into my head. And it really got a hold of me. I really began feeling the message of the song. I was enjoying it, it really felt alive. The words were really hitting me hard.

All your life is such a shame, shame, shame.
All your love is just a dream, dream, dream.
Open up your eyes.

You can see the flames, flames, flames of your wasted life.
You should be ashamed.
Yeah, you don't want to waste your life, baby.
You don't wanna waste your life, now darlin.
You don't wanna waste your life, baby.

You don't wanna waste your life, now darlin.
Oh, you don't wanna waste your life, now baby.

I said you don't wanna waste your life, now darlin.
Oh, you don't wanna waste your life, now baby.
Oh, you don't wanna, you don't wanna waste your life, now darlin.

Change, change, change.


- Counting Crows - A Murder Of One

It was the second of my transformations. It was so sudden. Shit, I really wish I had these epiphanies every day. It hit me that I am NOT an office junior, I am not someone who moves boxes around for a living. I had a burning desire in me to CHANGE. To be something. I fucking loved films; my obsessive watching them and thinking about them was for a reason. I couldn't deny it anymore, it was time to come out of the closet and declare, "I am a Writer! I am a Director!" - I didn't outwardly declare it like that, but I did tell myself, it was time to be confident in who I really was and to make it my life.

I handed in my resignation on a Tuesday. By the Friday, I was gone. And now I'm the Kid In The Front Row.

It takes a leap of faith to get things going
It takes a leap of faith you gotta show some guts
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
In your heart you must trust

Bruce Springsteen - Leap Of Faith

Care to share?


  1. Sorry I should go to bed long ago, but I enjoyed the reading of this post so much I think I should say that.

  2. Fantastic. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. what can i say - you are awesome :D

  4. Thank you all for your kind words. Most annoyingly, this has been a very important and personal post for me - but the formatting is terrible, blogspot just seems to be making things up that I didn't code, changing font sizes randomly and whatnot. Most annoying!

    Anyway, more importantly, Scarlett, Hunter, Martin, thank you.

  5. wow this was definitely very inspiring and for some reason i feel a sense of vindication that i was not the only 17 yr old that felt that way :)

  6. It's the moments like these when people share the truest thoughts they've ever had that really brings about a change in others around them, as well. Well done, Kid. When I'm putting files away today I'll know there's more to this and that if Kid can do it, so can we - the writers living in hiding in little office cubicles around the world.