SpineOut : December 2014
‘I was struggling with my own issues – with happiness a lot of the time – and I remember it being hard. I had a fever one night, and a night terror. I woke up and started screaming, waking everyone. I’ve always sleepwalked, but I was jumping around like a monkey and banging my head on the floor, pointing at my best friend and screaming, ‘You don’t understand! It’s coming! It’s coming for her!’ I could see this black heaviness descending on her, and it was consuming everything in its path. It was my fault somehow, and she didn’t know, only I knew, and no one understood. That’s a reflection of how intense things were. Now it feels like a metaphor for depression. This is when I discovered songwriting ... There was a comfort in music that I wasn’t finding anywhere else, because it was non-judgemental. I’d get a warm feeling, that I was in a place where I was meant to be, where I was accepted. And it was an incredible way to be understood. I could express myself in a way that I couldn’t through conversation, the way that normal people did. I ended up performing at every assembly, school concert, any opportunity; singing this heartfelt stuff to a bunch of kids I’d never the guts to say in real life. Obviously I still struggle with depression occasionally, but I know how to exorcise my demons. And in a way that turns the ugly stuff into something beautiful. That’s a great thing. Who knows what would have become of my life if I hadn’t gone through all of that and found the necessity of writing it down and turning it into music? I reckon that those who struggle in high school are often sensitive, and deep thinkers. And that’s a hard thing to be amid a heap of kids who have a more confident personality and thicker skin. You’re gonna get crucified. But it seems you have to struggle and have a complicated brain to come up with these colourful ways of presenting your inner world outwards. It’s how artists are made. It’s a shame, almost, that it has to be that way, but at least it’s turning struggle into something beautiful that the world needs. Whenever I meet a kid who’s in Year 11 or 12, I want to say, ‘Don’t worry. It really doesn’t matter that much.’ Unless you want to be a doctor, or a lawyer, and you need really high grades, in the end it’s not the be-all and end-all to get 99 percent in your VCE exam. It’s too much to put on a kid, way too much. The kids who really want it can cope, but if you don’t, it’s a ridiculous pressure. Once you leave school it’s like it was all a dream. When you’re there it feels like it’s your life, and the school system is built that way too: it’s your universe. You think, if you don’t fit in here, well, you’ll never fit in, and everyone will always be mean to you because you deserve it. You don’t have enough life experience yet to realise that it’s their problem. But, looking back, school is just a holding pen. It’s to keep you occupied until you get into the real world – and be free to be whoever you want, and do whatever you want.’ Bullyforthem Bully for Them Outstanding Australians on hard lessons learned at school is published by Affirm Press, rrp $24.99.
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