Hard Times and Happy Days

Enter, Paramore.

Music is a beautiful thing. There’ll be long, bad, difficult days sometimes. Days you don’t have a clue what’s going on in your head. Days you feel down. You feel pissed off. You’re fed up. You’re feeling alone.

Yet. By magic. Plug in your headphones and alas, you’re whisked away some place better.

We all have our songs. The ones that resonate and make sense. The ones that just ‘get’ us. The ones that make us smile. That make us brave. Honestly, I can’t tell you how listening to Imperial March when walking home in the dark has helped me stand taller and feel stronger (I’m a nerd. I know.).

And there’s others. The songs that make you realise, yeah. It’s okay not to be okay.

Paramore did all that for me and more. It all started with Misery Business, having swept my way through the music channels. I quickly got hooked. I got Riot. I got All We Know Is Falling. And, during my bad, difficult days, Paramore quickly became my band.

I’ve always been a bit of a theatrical little shit and I go through “soundtracks for my life” here and there. There’s two from Riot that were a sign of the times. When It Rains encapsulated exactly what I was feeling:

And when it rains,
Will you always find an escape?
Just running away,
From all of the ones who love you,
From everything.
You made yourself a bed
At the bottom of the blackest hole
And you’ll sleep ’til May
And you’ll say that you don’t want to see the sun anymore

Miracle, meanwhile, was my anthem. That was what I was hoping for. “I’ve gone for too long, living like I’m not alive…” “When this memory fades, I’m gonna make sure it’s replaced, with chances taken, hope embraced.”

But it wasn’t just songs, Paramore did more for me. They helped me go a step further. Through Paramore, I was actually able to forge what would turn out to be two pretty important friendships.

My class knew I was struggling with social anxiety and depression by now. That had definitely alleviated some of the pressure. I was no longer worried they were judging me – well, at the very least I wasn’t as worried.

Regardless though, it was merely part of the problem. I still had to make things easier for myself.

Through Paramore, I was actually able to forge what would turn out to be two pretty important friendships.

There were two girls in the class, both new if memory serves me correctly and both lovely. But anyway, if I’m remembering this right I think I overheard the pair of them talking Paramore and something inside me just thought, I have an in!

We all liked the band. There was a common ground. I had something I could talk about to people. Just a shared interest. I could be ‘normal’. I was just someone talking music.

In the process, though, I found two people who really looked out for me from there. If I was straying towards darker places, they’d help steer me back to shore. If I needed a hug or someone to talk to, they were there to help me out. Genuinely, the pair of them saved me. Plenty of times. And having people you could connect with like that made school all the more easier. Going in was easier. I had some good.

If I’m perfectly honest, I had a reason to get my butt there.

And hell, elsewhere Paramore was helping me with even the littlest things. Public transport was my worst nightmare. I’d ran off a tram just because the mass of people had grown too much for me. Yet, upon discovering the magic of headphones, I was introduced to a new world altogether.

It was Paramore keeping me company and I think that’s the beauty of “your band”. They’re not just a band. They’re a friend. And in Paramore, not just then but now, there’s a so many lyrics which just hit home and know you’re not alone. People get it. It’s okay to feel how you’re feeling.

And all of this was capped by going to see them for the first time in a little club in Zurich named abart.

Looking up

My friends went too. We were separate but I still took it upon myself to go and say hello to them – it was outside as they were leaving, once Paramore were done and New Found Glory took to the stage but still.

Although that concert wasn’t my first, it probably means more to me than I actually realised. You see, it was a good day. A really good day. Amongst all the shit I’d been fighting – including my worst day ever a little less than a month later – it was a day I could just be normal. I was one of the crowd. I went out and saw my friends. Okay, sure. I didn’t quite know what to say but we had that little chat and it was great.

As well as that, I also got to share it with my cousin – who I’ve been with for the following two trips to see Paramore and probably more. Definitely more.

Paramore had got me out of my comfort zone. I had a memory. Not of depression. Not of social anxiety. Just a happy, normal memory of a good night.

But anyway, for someone who struggles with stepping out of his shell and taking chances, the good memories are all the more meaningful. There was a lot of good I did that night. I saw my band. I saw my friends.

It was a big deal. Yeah, I’d be lying if I was dancing and singing but that’d involve stepping out of my box and god knows I’m still learning how to do that today. Almost ten years on. But it was a step some place else. Paramore had got me out of my comfort zone. I had a memory. Not of depression. Not of social anxiety. Just a happy, normal memory of a good night.

All I wanted

One of my biggest regrets is that I don’t feel I pushed on during my final two years in Switzerland. Not like I should have. I got what I suppose can best be described as ‘solid’. I was comfortable in my glass box. Happy to take a step outside it here and there, but that was it.

To this day, I’ve lost touch with a lot of people from my Swiss days – including those two I mentioned. That’s life though, really. It’s the reality of being at an international school where people converge from all backgrounds. When you leave, things change. You take your paths.

I guess really, I just wish I had more memories to take away from my time there. Although I achieved a lot, I beat depression and worked my balls off fighting social anxiety, I didn’t break through those thick glass walls.

I knew I was moving back to England in 2010 though and I feel I’d convinced myself that was the answer. I wouldn’t say I gave up but really, I was waiting for that.

I thought, I’d go home and I’d get completely better.

Well, I was wrong.

Hard Times

I really overestimated how in control of my social anxiety I was. I also underestimated just what a task going into a sixth form where the bulk of people knew each other already was. Stepping into that place, where there’s already large friendship groups, would have been tricky for a pretty confident person.

For me? I was buggered!

It was lonely, at first and my old problems came surging back. I clambered back in my glass box, locked it up and wallowed in my misery. The advantage was I was 17 now. I knew what was happening. But nonetheless, the thing I thought would make everything better – hadn’t. That hurt.

Again, I had issues going to class, something I got a handle on far faster than I had in Basel but at first, I’d go hide in the bathroom. I’d lock myself in a toilet cubicle and wait until it was time to go. I hardly felt great hiding myself away, listening to people pee and whatever. So I resorted listened to music.

There’s a fantastic book I’m gradually peeling my way through – The Chimp Paradox. We all have a chimp and it’s the irrational part of ourselves. Before those classes, he took full control of my mind, backed by past experiences. Everything was blown out of proportion but it didn’t matter to me. I believed it. I gave into it. I let it rule me.

Paramore became a happy place.

I’d focus on the music. I’d focus on the lyrics. I’d focus on the lyrics.

I had to escape. Once escaped, I had to calm down. To do that, I had to separate myself from the situation. I could have sat there and stewed in an increasingly vicious brew of frustration and anger, or I could try and gain the upper hand. I’d plug in my headphones, turn up Paramore and listen to why ignorance is my new best friend or whatever. I’d focus on the music. I’d focus on the lyrics. I’d focus on the fact that someone gets it.

The advantage of doing this was that the episodes were never as full blown as they had been in Basel. Obviously I was older and knew what was happening but still, that’s where I was at.

Things came to a head. Again. Ironically there were two people in my first year who were commendable in giving me a hand, and potentially revolutionising the picnic table industry one Business Studies class. My cousin too was an absolute superhero. As was my new therapist.

But again, I rounded up somewhere solid. In the box. Unable to push all the way out. Unable to break free. Unable to be all the things I wanted. Again, I’ve lost touch with lots of people there – again it’s understandable but it’s the memories I surrendered which frustrate me.

So, the answer again was… the grass will be greener.

It wasn’t.

Que Sera, Sera

I got my A-Levels. I also sat my three classes down and explained my issues during my time at that Sixth Form as I had done in Basel – though I couldn’t quite make a breakthrough like I did before. Regardless, I got those A-Levels and I wanted to go to university.

This was progress. Having struggled to get to class four years earlier, I wasn’t doing too badly!

It surprised me and my parents (I think) that I wanted to go to uni. What perhaps surprised me more was the lump that popped in my neck.

Cancer. Hooray.

The summer of my first year at Sixth Form had been blighted by a pilonidal sinus I’d had to have removed. You’ll have to google that if you want to know what it is or where it was…

During that time, Paramore had been a hospital/recovery buddy. And the Saw franchise, bizarrely.

Cancer was a bit different though. While I could bounce back from that pilonidal sinus, cancer left both physical and psychological scars. I had to defer my first year at university. It was simply impossibly to be able to juggle the pair of them – especially as university was a 2.5 bus journey away each day.

Paramore remained my happy place. Keeping me company. Allowing me to lose myself, appreciate the greenery of deepest Norfolk and feel a million miles away from everything I was up against.

I had to focus on beating my lump! I’ve discussed my cancer story on another blog (blog whore, I know), so if you want to read about how I kicked cancer’s arse – here you go.

As I waited for my second bout of surgery, with next to nothing to do each day and no people to see, I went for increasingly long walks just listening to music. Paramore remained my happy place. Keeping me company. Allowing me to lose myself, appreciate the greenery of deepest Norfolk and feel a million miles away from everything I was up against.

And then came another happy day.

As I said, I’d deferred my first semester and the result of this was having to do my degree backwards. I’d do the second semester of a year, then go back and do the first. This involved splitting between two groups.

The second group, I really clambered back into my glass box again. They’d gone through induction without me and due to cancer I wasn’t living locally. It was a difficult combination shall we say.

Again, wasted opportunities galore. Thanks social anxiety. But that’s for another part – honestly I’d keep you here all day if I condensed the entirety of this series into one blog.

I was just a few days into that new semester when I was off to see Paramore again. This time, at Wembley.

Brand New Eyes had been and gone, band drama followed. Now, it was the self-titled era. Wembley Arena was a smidge bigger than little abart. I’d beaten cancer by now. I’d been given the all clear. I’d toppled depression too. The social anxiety was still there and there was still an upward struggle ahead of me going forwards. I had to get my degree. Pick up driving. Eventually I’d need a job.

But for that night? I was free of everything else. I even sung. It was a blast.

So thank you Paramore for giving me some Happy Days amongst the Hard Times.


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