Punk rock is a force, an attitude, a fighting spirit that aims at those who abuse and feed off the meek. It is powered through lyrics, felt through raw riffs, hard beats, and expressed through unstoppable energy. Often an outlet for the broken and real. Like me, and I love it.
I found punk rock at an early age before I faced the world. Before I saw firsthand what people in power can do. How a toxic environment can affect you. I skateboarded and listened to punk rock, unsure and unaware of the message screaming in my ear. It was more of me presenting an image rather than understanding the message.
Then, the world came knocking. Those glaring eyes of my peers forced conformity, and conform I did. I went to college, got a degree, and started working until I landed a job in a toxic environment that helped bring out the worst in me. It was a terrible experience, and I was there for over five years.
Do I regret conforming, especially knowing I landed where I did? No. It had to happen. I know that now. I had to transform into what they wanted me to be to realize how terrible it made me feel. Plus, I was a kid looking for guidance, and while I thought people had their best intentions, not a single soul stopped to ask what I might want. Not even myself. There’s no wonder I ended up where I did.
By my mid-twenties, I woke up every day listening to a voice telling me I wasn’t good enough, and wasn’t worth it. Created by my insecurities and fueled by the toxic environment, I followed the voice to a dark place until I broke into pieces left to pick each one up and examine how I got here.
It was at this point in my life I read Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain which brought punk rock back to me. I couldn’t put it down. I was hooked on reading stories that I could relate to, people who wanted to create art and had passion. Most importantly, I found the rebellion of being yourself inspiring. The beauty of a person standing on a stage presenting themselves and not caring about judgment was unreal to me. It was grungy, hardcore, raw, and deep down – to me – beautiful.
I didn’t stop with Please Kill Me, oh no. Just Kids by Patti Smith, The Hard Stuff by Wayne Kramer, Richard Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones by Dee Dee Ramone, Face It: A Memoir by Debbie Harry, Everything is Combustible by Richard Lloyd and on and on and on. If there was a book by an artist during that early punk scene I sought it out and read it. And then something happened.
This sad, lonely, insecure person who was desperately doing his best to form a human connection with anyone found comfort in the words of like-minded individuals seeking the same thing years before. It was liberating to know I wasn’t different and other people felt the same as me. Upon this realization, I started to breathe again and stopped feeling lost. Most importantly, the tiny voice I dealt with daily that ate at my soul stopped having power over me. With this new mindset, it became easy to listen to my heart and move in the right direction.
There are plenty of people out there, just like me, wanting to express themselves and looking for a community to join. To embrace the world and live their life the way they believe is right whether it means being in a punk rock band or giving up a “career” to practice yoga. And anyone who might feel that’s silly or dumb or “not how you do things” can fuck off (like Nazi Punks).
Throughout this process, I hate to use the old phrase “rose from the ashes like a phoenix.” Let’s go with I became born again like Frankenstein’s monster. Put together with separate parts of myself eager to seek love in a world telling me I’m a monster, the bad guy, and one to blame. And that process couldn’t have started without punk rock, the lightning strike that gave life to my heart.