Between starting to look forward and still sorting through the life luggage, I’ve been thinking a lot in the past couple of weeks about how relevant it is who we once were or who we’ve always been, when considering who we might be in the future. When it feels like something is missing in life, is the right approach to go back and see what we might have lost along the way, or is the answer much more likely to be a puzzle piece we never had?
Writing has always been a big part of my life, but I’ve not written regularly for myself since 2013. As I was starting to build my career I felt less comfortable sharing the inner monologue. I think I’d also become unsure of the purpose of it. In hindsight, and reading back through what I wrote from the mid 2000’s onward, I can see now that it was my own way of figuring things out. Perhaps not too dissimilar to trying to spell a word or solve a sum without writing it down. I’m feeling good again about being able to show my working out. At the same time I also feel like I could change my mind any day now.
This feels like reclaiming a part of me. The key, I think, is to focus on what the writing achieves, rather than attempting to emulate a particular style that feels in keeping with how I approached this years ago. When a band makes a new record after a seven year gap, do you want it to sound like a direct follow up to what preceded it, or would you prefer they threw out the rule book and wrote from the same place of honesty that they did for their first album?
That’s the tension I’m interested in at the mo, the fine line that separates learning from the past and dictating how things should be done.
On music, I’ve been enjoying Jim Adkins from Jimmy Eat World’s YouTube show ‘Pass Through Frequencies‘ where he talks to other musicians about songwriting. Almost every episode has gone off on brilliant philosophical tangents and offered gems of perspective and inspiration. On a recent episode with Frank Turner, talking about exactly this issue of the old versus the new, Jim shared a response to listeners wanting a band’s latest output to sound like their earlier material – “That’s on you”.
He’s painfully right. None of us have any obligation to be who anyone else wants us to be based on who we once were. It’s not a valid criticism of who we are now, more an indicator of what they feel they need, or what they might think they’re missing. In some cases, what might have worked for them about who we were, could have been detrimental to us.
At 33 (Ok, 32 and 11 months), I’ve rotated around the sun enough times to have collected a reasonably broad collection of phases in my life. My home has become a museum of artefacts from each of these eras that I’ve knowingly curated. I love this. I’m not one for burning bridges, the nostalgia junkie at the heart of me loves to be able to step back in time, whether it’s a visual tribute to a snapshot in time or reconnecting with the people who I have joint custody with over a particular set of memories.
We all want to be the best version of ourselves – That feels like a fairly base level mission statement and maybe verges on redundant, why would we want the opposite? Do we really want to reach our Greatest Hits moment though? Is it better to run the risk of making all new mistakes or enter a repeat cycle of our finest moments?
I think this moment in history offers us all a chance to be a different version of ourselves. Not intentionally better, or necessarily worse. Just something other than the same.