Posts Tagged ‘emotional’

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ave maria.

September 21, 2010

Above is my cover of Beyoncé’s “Ave Maria”, which I made for Toby as a 6-month anniversary gift.  The lyrics speak for themselves. After originally keeping it special for him, I thought that nearly 3 months later it’s time to let y’all hear it. I hope you enjoy it; I don’t think my microphone did it justice and I think that Beyoncé’s version is untouchable, but I am nevertheless pleased with how it turned out.  And Toby really liked it, which is the most important thing.

However, my other reason for posting it up here is to say that I have opened a Soundcloud account! It can be found under http://soundcloud.com/onyxparadise and I am currently in the process of uploading the entirety of Quiet Storm, as well as some other tracks. In the future, I will be uploading my new tracks there! 😀 I am starting to get excited about creating new music, and the concepts and themes of my new material will be quite different from before, I anticipate, and reflect my various life-changing experiences over the past year. In many respects, the past 12 months have been eye-opening, soul-shattering, emotional and have inspired a lot of growth.  It’s been without a doubt the best year of my life. I’ll share more on the concept of my new material as I create it and feel confident enough to expose it to the world. But the idea of it is forming in my head and has been for a while, and I am very excited. To this end, on Friday when I get paid, I will be paying off my credit card and buying a brand new microphone so that the quality of my recordings is much improved. Watch this space!

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Quiet Storm Inspirations II. (download)

August 1, 2010

As promised, here is the “sonic mood board” that inspired my album Quiet Storm (which you can download here).  Where the last “Inspirations” album was comprised of songs that inspired particular facets of songs on Quiet Storm, this one is more indicative of what music I was listening to when I was inspired to create the concept of the album: nocturnal, sexy, emotional, romantic, soft and tough, vulnerable and strong in one go. As you will see from the tracklist before, it’s an R&B compilation through and through; I’d go as far as to say that these are some of the best contemporary R&B songs over the last 15 years (interestingly, quite a few of them are early Missy Elliott / Timbaland productions… I miss those days!).  Of course, the list is not exhaustive and I had to cut down from over 50 songs to the 19 that you see here; anyway, I hope that you will enjoy downloading the album, listening to the songs and perhaps discover some artists or some songs that you didn’t know, or hadn’t heard in ages.  Download link is at the bottom underneath the tracklisting.  Enjoy!!!

1. Aaliyah – We Need A Resolution (f/ Timbaland)
2. Ginuwine – Pony
3. Mariah Carey – The Roof
4. Ryan Leslie – Addiction (f/ Cassie & Fabolous)
5. Kelly Rowland – Flashback
6. Omarion – Ice Box
7. Janet Jackson – Empty
8. Toni Braxton – Rock Me, Roll Me
9. Shola Ama – (I Don’t Know) Interlude
10. LeToya – I Need A U
11. Dru Hill – Beauty
12. Nicole Scherzinger – Whatever You Like (f/ T.I.)
13. Nicole Wray – Make It Hot (f/ Missy Elliott & Mocha)
14. Brandy – Come As You Are
15. Total – Rain
16. Mýa – For The First Time
17. R. Kelly – Feelin’ On Your Booty
18. Rihanna – Question Existing
19. Sugababes – Maya

DOWNLOAD

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Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite. (album review)

June 27, 2010

Aphrodite marks Kylie Minogue’s 11th studio album, and the general attitude is that this is the Australian star’s comeback album following her battle with breast cancer, after the scattershot effort of previous project X. Not only did X not allude to her personal life and struggles (to many fans’ dismay), it seemed determined to overlook them; however, the genre-hopping and quality rollercoaster displeased many listeners.  This is not to take away from the album’s strongpoints; for the gigantic misses of glam-rock lead single “2 Hearts” and the tepid, forgettable “No More Rain”, there were hits such as the excellently addictive “In My Arms” and the sensuous “Sensitized”, not to mention the beautiful closing lightweight ballad “Cosmic”.  X was a frustrating listen not because it ignored Kylie’s personal foibles but because it didn’t know where its head was at, and fired off moments of sheer brilliance and then of complete twaddle seemingly at will.  It’s true that in contrast to that album, Aphrodite is cohesive, focused and honed to target the fibrillating emotional dance-pop that so pleases the radio and Kylie’s gay fanbase.

Aphrodite bears much in common with that other Kylie comeback record, Fever.  Both are love letters to the dance floor, where the tempo and beats are relentless, while Kylie purrs over the top at once calculated and lascivious.  Both are pure pop, and neither of them take enough risks to stand with Kylie’s best albums: the daring, creative zenith of Impossible Princess or the seductive Body Language that was comprised of songs that were so off-kilter and curious that it was a pleasant surprise just how well the songs worked both individually and as a whole.  Nevertheless, Aphrodite aims to please, and on lead single “All The Lovers”, Kylie does just that with a lyric that pleads simultaneously for love and for the dancefloor.  Primed for the radio and for the gays with its pop-dance leanings, Kylie seems to have struck a home run.  However, this song epitomises much of one of my criticisms of Aphrodite as a whole: the sentiments of the lyrics (which are well-written) and the beauty in the melodies (which are often evocative and well-structured) get swallowed up by the uniform pop production of the album.  It at once unifies the record and smooths out most of its interesting quirks: if X was too schizophrenic, Kylie has gone too far the other way with Aphrodite to create a record that is too homogenous.  Like Madonna’s Confessions On A Dance Floor, Stuart Price oversees production duties here to melt the songs together into one continuous blur, making the decent songs fight to announce themselves as individuals to the listener’s ear.

With songs such as “All The Lovers”, “Closer” and “Everything Is Beautiful”, this is a problem: for example, “Closer” is structurally and melodically a ballad, fighting against production that wants to make it a bitter dance song.  “Everything Is Beautiful” should be a gentle, sweet ode to the joys of love, but the insistent drum beat transforms the song into an anthemic but ill-fitting upbeat pop song. These identity crises give much of Aphrodite the sense that it is trying too hard to be something it’s not, or that the tracks are not allowed to be themselves.  There are a couple of plain weak tracks: “Better Than Today” sounds entirely like a Scissor Sisters track and Kylie Minogue (who is not credited enough for her vocal and interpretative abilities) sings it in just that way; “Looking For An Angel” is listless filler which once again seems to have earned its spot on the record because it fits in with the overarching feel of the album as a whole.  It’s a shame that unlike on the quirky Body Language where the album’s moments of strangeness worked, a large part of Aphrodite feels like it is a square peg forced into a round hole.

This is especially highlighted when one listens to the songs that do work.  “Get Outta My Way” is a focused, upstanding anthem that takes its 4-to-the-floor beat and runs, creating an exhilarating standout; “Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)” bears the essence of Fever‘s infectious “Love At First Sight” and is similarly lovely; the title track “Aphrodite” is a statement of self-worth and determination to triumph that totally suits its marching-band beat and lyrics that declare “Did you think I wasn’t real?… I’m fierce and I’m feeling mighty / I’m a golden girl, I’m an Aphrodite / Alright?” Its confidence and zest spearhead Aphrodite’s most successful moments.  However, “Cupid Boy” is the antithesis of this and still shines; a moody guitar-driven mid-tempo that proves that (unlike the aforementioned “Closer”) it certainly is possible to successfully deliver an emotionally-charged ballad-esque track while still keeping the overarching dance feel of the album intact.  Closer “Can’t Beat The Feeling” is one of the album’s poppiest moments, but its embrace of its own cheesiness is almost delightful, with Kylie’s vocal delivery transforming throwaway candy-floss lyrics such as “Feel the force of the reaction / Let it take you on a ride /… I can’t beat the feeling that I get when I’m with you” into a delirious proclamation of love.

Overall, Aphrodite caters to its target group, but a little too efficiently.  Some songs feel like they’ve been forced to be what they’re not, a couple seem to be present only by dint of the fact that they musically sound like Kylie Minogue tracks – facsimiles of songs rather than songs in their own right.  But at least half of the album works, and when the individual elements of Aphrodite react successfully and the songs stand up with the help of the production rather than being strapped down by it, the results are impressive.  I enjoyed this album more than I expected to, and it marks one step closer to a return to form for Minogue… even if she’s not quite at her peak.

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Christina Aguilera – Bionic. (album review)

June 14, 2010

As you can tell from my current blog layout, I am very much feeling the imagery of Christina Aguilera’s current Bionic era.  It’s fierce, severe and pushes the envelope.  Artwork such as the front cover (above) and other graffiti-inspired cyborg manipulations handled by D*Face push the envelope and also serve to symbolise Christina as human machine which creates fine music hence “Bionic”.  Various analyses of this robotic imagery could be and have been made: on the one hand, Christina Aguilera in her superhuman form triumphs over all her competitors and makes superior , near-perfect music because she has this bionic element to her; on the other hand, as part-robot, Christina can only ever produce a facsimile of what music is supposed to be, while never quite getting close enough to the organic, human qualities in music that elevate it beyond the calculable – qualities which cannot be quantified or mechanised.  In Bionic, as in life, the truth lies somewhere between these two opinions.

Bionic the album is a long listen – 18 tracks in its standard version, 23 in its deluxe (with iTunes bonus track “Little Dreamer”, a likeable but throwaway confection, making a grand total of 24).  I’ll dispense with the additional 5 bonus tracks first: they are, by and large, bonus tracks for a reason: either they are not strong enough to be considered for the main album (“Monday Morning” is pleasant but lackadaisical; “Birds Of Prey” is lyrically mysterious and interesting, but musically and vocally it’s too much mainstream dance that Kelis would do a lot better with on her current Flesh Tone project), or they don’t fit thematically with the empowering / sexual / carefree / mature feel of the album.  “Bobblehead” is a thrilling production that stutters and races to its climax with the wonderful lyric: “I never play dumb to get what I want / and always come out the one that’s on top”; however, its main hook is a nonsensical mumble that may be the point of the lyrics, dissing idiot girls who dumb themselves down and preferring to deploy her own intelligence, but it’s still a nonsensical mumble which fails to use Christina’s vocals to much effect.  “Stronger Than Ever” is a ballad that is lyrically strong (and embodies my current struggle with my parents) and vocally able, but it just lacks that something.  “I Am (Stripped)” is a lovely album closer but is a more acoustic version of one of the main album tracks, and so it’s understandable why it’s relegated to bonus status.

So, to the main event. To my ear, Bionic moves in three arcs.  In its first, it goes for the jugular with relentless, futuristic uptempos; it then cools down into a sensuous, emotionally vulnerable, mature ballad section; finally, it picks up again for a closing triad of uptempo songs that epitomise fun.  While it’s possible that the album could be trimmed down to make a more concise, compelling listen, it flows very nicely throughout and only has a couple of stumbling points.  Christina Aguilera said that she wanted something which sounded futuristic, but with elements of the organic; something which integrated her new emotional maturity as a mother with her desire to remain playful and sexy.  On this point, she has succeeded: Bionic has elements of all of this.  Tracks such as “Bionic” and “Elastic Love” incorporate computerised effects to distort Christina’s voice, along with buzzing, whirring productions that sonically embody the bionic cyborg face of her album cover. However, on tracks such as standout “You Lost Me” and “All I Need”, Christina is stripped of the musical gloss of the faster tracks to be backed by little more than a piano.  “All I Need” is also a touching, mature tribute to her son, which nicely avoids being mawkish or saccharine like Britney Spears’ unlistenable “My Baby” from Circus.  Finally, sex is all over this album, and from the enticing “Woohoo” to the seductive “Sex For Breakfast” (which I have yet to play for my boyfriend, but when I next see him in July, I am using this song on him!), it’s explicit without being pornographic, edgy without crossing that line.  In this respect, the Christina Aguilera of “Dirrty” is still present, knowing how to be provocative while still being musically relevant.

However, in the video for “Not Myself Tonight”, Xtina makes her return and perhaps pushes the envelope a little too far.  S&M get-ups, Madonna tributes aplenty, and bisexual flirtations are almost par for the course at this point, and Christina Aguilera is more than entitled to use them considering her influence on current female artists in the mainstream over the past 10 years.*  However, although “Not Myself Tonight” is an understandable choice as Bionic‘s lead single considering its radio-friendly sound, it’s not futuristic and it’s not exciting enough to merit the edgy, sex-fuelled imagery.  Rather than hookless, it sounds like a bunch of hooks jostling together for attention over a dance beat (which has a couple of exciting tribal flourishes), the result of which means that sometimes the song sticks, on other listens it doesn’t quite get there.  A better first single might have been the thrilling, soaring title track, or uptempo album standout and follow-up single “Woohoo”, on which Xtina extols the virtues of good oral sex, recruits Nicki Minaj for a fine rap segment, uses her vagina (the titular “Woohoo!”) for a cowbell, and tops it off with a throbbing, buzzing dance break coda for good measure.  Along with “You Lost Me”, “Lift Me Up” and album closer “Vanity”, “Woohoo” is an album standout where all of Christina’s chemical ambitions for Bionic come together perfectly to produce some exemplary pop.

Bionic itself has no bad songs, but there is some filler: “Prima Donna” comes at the end of the first album arc of jugular-ripping uptempos, and is the weakest of them, with little lyrical know-how or production excitement to give it its own identity after the tracks preceding it.  “My Girls” is a ‘riding in the car with your top down’ sort of song, but comes off as fluffy compared to the album’s meatier offerings: although Christina proves (responding to criticisms that she oversings) that she can vocally restrain herself on songs such as “Elastic Love” with its amusing and witty stationery metaphors, and the tender “All I Need”, “My Girls” needs the vocal melisma to give it some spark; as it stands, it’s a little too laid back.  Nevertheless, 2 out of 18 songs (or 15, excluding interludes) is not bad and perhaps a better result than I was expecting.  Sure, several songs on the album are not immediate: “Glam” takes a few listens to hit its stride with its subtle, fibrillating beats and “Vogue”-esque spoken-word verses, while “Vanity” initially startles the listener with its unbridled use of the word “bitch”, references to Christina making herself “wetter” before marrying herself as her “lawfully wedded bitch” and effectively giving the finger to everyone who doesn’t have such bravado.  Only by the song’s end (and possibly a couple of repeat listens) does it sink in that the track is a storming highlight, a perfect album closer, utterly hilarious and ridiculous (and knowingly so), with a vocal flourish that knocks all competition to the floor before her son’s voice confirms all suspicions: his mother really is the shit.

At the end of the day, it’s this kind of confidence that makes Bionic a great success – Christina Aguilera believes that she rules the world, and this kind of ambition almost single-handedly propels her music to heady heights.  It’s a new page for Christina, and she’s secure enough in her ability to try different things: the mélange of styles is a little disorientating until repeated listens expose the subtleties and intricacies in her vocals, lyrics and the songs themselves.  “Lift Me Up” is another beautiful, soaring track that was slightly superior in its stripped down live version performed on the Haiti telethon, but still thrills within the album.  “I Am” is a declaration of humanity, imperfection and adulthood that lends substance to the polished sheen of Bionic‘s robotic side, deployed confidently, efficiently and effectively for example on clubsong “Desnúdate” (which neatly remembers and includes Christina’s Spanish-speaking audience and heritage).  If Christina experiments with textures in her voice, sometimes preferring subdued rumbles to soaring melismas, she still shows that she can do both better than most other female artists.  At the end of the day, Christina Aguilera is an musical artist with a personal and professional vision that she fulfils 85% of the time.  Her misfires are excusable and never in poor taste so much as merely a little bland or inconsistent – in time, Christina will learn to totally excise these from her projects.  Most importantly, while some of Bionic indeed caters to current mainstream tastes and is hardly an obscure sonic revelation, the majority of it is interesting and thrilling, and rings true as Christina Aguilera’s own personality and intention which doesn’t give a fuck about current radio trends (in my opinion, less than half of Bionic would get spins on mainstream radio).  For this, her sales might suffer, but her artistic integrity remains intact and hopefully the mainstream radio audiences and buying public one day will catch up.

* I’ll address this once and only once: anyone who thinks that Christina Aguilera is copying Lady GaGa is a) suffering from memory loss and should go back to Christina Aguilera’s last two album eras which were mired with controversy and blazed with exciting fashions and imagery, b) suffering from hearing loss as Christina can sing GaGa – and pretty much anyone else – under the table, c) has no respect for what Aguilera has achieved over the past 10 years – while GaGa has had a fantastic 2-year run and displays much potential (her music and videos are definitely getting more intriguing), she’s still only been around 2 years and more respect should be shown to anyone who successfully completes a decade in the music industry, and d) completely overlooking Gwen Stefani, whose hairstyle Christina mimics in her “Not Myself Tonight” video, and whose image, sound and career Lady GaGa has borrowed liberally from, mixed with a bunch of fashion designers, and passed off as her own to those too young, too unaware or too amnesiac to know any better.

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don’t take it personal.

December 15, 2009

I apologise for not having blogged in a little bit.  Real life has kinda taken over, and if you follow me on twitter (please do!!! – I have my latest tweets on the right —> ) then you’ll have an idea why.  Basically, although I’ve been open that I’m slightly envious of the fact that Mike likes someone other than me, and that other person seems to like him back (although there are marriages, children and mixed signals thrown into the mix), I’ve been handling it pretty well.  Yep, that’s right, you spotted the past tense.  Well, I’m handling it well again now.  But we had our Christmas meal on Friday night, and I might have got a little bit paranoid and possessive.  Allow me to elaborate.

Mike & me are HBICs on our course.  We do more or less everything together, we are friendly with everyone and everyone knows us as the smokers / naughty guys talking dirty at the back of the class / dedicated and working in the library on the sly / fun and easy to talk to / the ones who organise the social events on the course.  The third person in our equation is someone Mike noticed early on, but has only been included in our circle the last few weeks.  I knew that Mike was developing feelings before he admitted it to me, but it is still hard to accept.  I know he’s a straight married man, but what does a not-stunning 33-yo woman with 2 kids, an overly-possessive husband and an average wardrobe have on me?  Ok, she is a lovely lovely person, and admittedly has sparkling blue eyes and a shapely butt. But I’m 24, I apparently “look immaculate” (Julie), am “very pretty / beautiful” (Mike!!! and others), I can sing, dance, write and produce my own music, I smoke, play piano and guitar, I’m quite intelligent and “articulate” (Leanne) and “really good to talk to and understanding” (Penny, Emma, Mike).  What the fuck more can I do?  How many more hoops do I have to jump through?  I’m missing the point.  Sexuality is sexuality, although I firmly believe that although you can definitely be instantly attracted to physical traits, ultimately the body is the wrapping and the gift is the person inside (I mean that not in a sexual way, but in an emotional / spiritual / personal way).  Somewhere along the line, he’s my best friend but he doesn’t see all of who I am – otherwise if he has feelings for the woman, he certainly would have feelings for me as we share a good heart and a love of innuendo.  I’m going over old territory here, but although he’s my best friend at university and I utterly cherish that, sometimes it’s maddening that I can’t have more.

Anyway, I admit I’ve been a bit envious.  But I’ve also been more than there for him as much as I can, despite my own feelings for him (which he knows about).  The day of our Christmas meal, I was feeling extremely nervous and on edge, despite telling myself that they are adults, they can do whatever they like and it’s not my job nor my place to keep them apart.  I felt that I didn’t want Mike to be regretting anything the next day, that I might be a bad friend if I let him down by not keeping him rational, and that I would have my heart hurt in the process.  I played “Russian Roulette” multiple times, since that song, those lyrics and the whole Rated R album seem to be the story of my life right now, and nervously arrived at Mike’s house.  For a while I felt fine – we got to the restaurant, Mike said that after we went for late-night drinks and conversation the night before he was feeling more balanced about it all, I was confident and happy.  But then she eventually arrived, I felt the focus slipping away from me, I ended up having a lot to drink (note: 5 sambuca shots in one go is never a good idea), and then my hitherto good handle on the whole situation (which admittedly I had been managing pretty well, considering it’s a lot to bear) flew out the window.  I had to corral our whole group (who were splitting off in various directions, somewhat annoyingly – again I blame the alcohol!) into BSB on Corn Street, and then no matter how much I danced, smoke or drank, I couldn’t help but keep looking back at the two of them chatting in the corner.  In short, I was driving myself crazy, and Mike knew that I was really tense.  Apparently I said a couple of not-so-nice things about how little I trusted her (the drink talking, not that that’s an excuse), and I was dashing on and off the dancefloor and in and out of the club like a crazy person trying to keep my emotions and sanity in check, and then failing miserably.  I didn’t offend anyone, I didn’t do anything stupid or say anything revealing – I even managed to cover for the two of them when an observant Jenny remarked “how close they are… I wonder if they like each other?” (my reply – “Nah, we’re all just close friends” before linking my arm through Mike’s).  I am a good friend and my heart was and is in the right place.  But that night, my head was not.  More than my own envy or my own feelings, I wanted to be a good friend to Mike and stop him from doing anything he would regret in the long term.

At the end of the night me and Mike were walking back from dropping Jenny and her at the car park, and we had a little talk.  I was in a very bad mood, and it took me a while to work out why.  I called Mike to apologise for my mood, and he said it was ok, and I offered to explain what it was tomorrow.  First thing next morning, he texted me to ask how I was and why I had been feeling down.  I explained, he said I didn’t have anything to apologise for and not to worry or think so much. (For the record, “don’t think so much” is an astute but lousy piece of advice!!!)  I felt silly all weekend, but I thought that things were going to be ok and I was looking forward to seeing him on Monday.  Since I had his house key, I had arranged to give him that back.  Fast forward to Saturday night – Mike isn’t replying to my texts (this is unusual behaviour!), I was feeling fed up, caged at home, and decided to go out with Nick to a party and get drunk.  I had a fantastic time, and although I still had Mike at the back of my mind (or midway, maybe), it was whatever.  Life goes on.

Sunday I was in Starbucks working on my essay, when I get a call from Mike (after not replying to another text of mine telling him I had a crazy dream where we were both mercenaries undercover at an underground Nazi gathering led by Daniel Craig, except Mike was being hunted by the police for drug trafficking… yeah) to ask me if I was at home, and if I could give him his house key.  I had his key in my bag so I met him and his nephew Jack outside Harvey Nichols, handed it over (along with some tobacco, since I had run out of cigarettes on Friday night and smoked several of his rollies… it was also a little bit of an “apology offering”) and we had brief conversation.  Once again, everything seemed fine.  But then in the evening, we had texts which went unanswered, others which were answered and I just didn’t know where I stood.  Obviously I was overreacting, but nevertheless I couldn’t stop my own guilty feelings from colouring my judgement and thinking that I might have ruined our friendship.

Monday comes, I’m talking with Henna outside university when Mike rolls up.  He’s fine, but melancholy.  I apologised, we talked a lot about Friday, but things just weren’t the same.  He seemed glum, I was sad, and although we were talking and spending time together it just wasn’t the same. No innuendos, no physical contact, and at one point he thought I was in a piss with him (when I wasn’t!) and I explained what I was feeling and he said that “although I promised I’d never hit you, if you keep worrying then I will!”  Despite that, it was like our friendship was a shadow of its former self.  I texted him in the evening, but no reply once again.  I felt like I was being punished when I had apologised, been told there was nothing to apologise for and not to worry about it!  I felt like I really was a product of my mother’s emotional fuckery and my father’s control freakishness, and yet I couldn’t stop my brain from over-analysing every little thing (I apologise to Nick, Adam, Nana and everyone else I stressed out to over the past few days – y’all are so understanding and I really appreciate it.  Thankyou. 🙂 ).  I felt so down, that after everything our close friendship had been somehow ruined, that despite my ability to be truly honest with Mike about my deepest darkest secrets and tell him things I can’t remember telling anyone, he couldn’t come correct to me and tell me what the matter was.

This morning I waited for him at our usual block, on edge and feeling sorta upset.  We met up and went to the library, he apologised for not replying to my text (I pretended it was nothing) and the black cloud persisted for a while.  But I soon realised that it wasn’t to do with me – in fact, I was the only person he could spend time with but still be honest about his moods.  I didn’t press him, but I realised that his home situation was really getting him down.  I offered him reassurance, friendship and a hug where appropriate, and tried to give him space.  As the day went on, we perked up (despite the fact we were writing an essay!) and I felt finally reassured that I still had his friendship, and that I can’t be responsible for him always being in a good mood, or for him being down.  His being sad makes me feel sad for him, but however much I might drink on a night out or however much guilt I feel, I can’t hold myself responsible for his moods, no matter how good friends we end up being.  I learned that I really do take things too personally, that I can’t turn my brain or heart off however much it might be convenient sometimes, and that I can be someone’s best friend but I can’t stop them from making a mistake – all I can do is be there for them, give them space to breathe and a shoulder to lean on when they need it.  This weekend was an emotional rollercoaster for me, but it wasn’t without its lessons and I try to take that away from it.  Drinking and love doesn’t mix, and you can only hide your heart under a façade for so long before it nevertheless starts to chip. Now I’m repairing myself and we’re all taking a deep breath and gradually going back to normal, and that’s a relief.  But I promise not to forget what I’ve learned this weekend, and I appreciate (once again) my friendships so much.

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edgier.

December 10, 2009

Having been on my new university course for 3 months now, and having made some really close friends who are generally a few years older than me (my closest friends on the course are 33 and 35), I’ve really been able to see how far I’ve come as a person.

Looking back at myself even 4 months ago when I had only started writing this blog, I knew myself, but myself was unsure and nervous.  I felt as if I was in a rut professionally after graduating with a good degree from a prestigious university, personally I had had “friends” who turned out not to be friends at all slander me and accuse me of things (theft, bullying) that I had and have never done, and would never do in a million years.  I took it all on the chin and just had faith that things would get better, but I knew in my heart that I didn’t know what would happen.  Would this careers guidance course be the right decision for me?  What was going to happen to me?  Had I peaked already in my life?

The answer to that last question, now I see, is an emphatic NO! Obviously I was only 23 (now 24) and to paint myself as an underdog who had it all and then lost it was more than a little unfair to myself.  I now know that I have so much going for me, so much to offer, and I am not an ugly or stupid person no matter how much certain people may endeavour to make me feel that about myself.  I deserve the best, and with this new qualification, new friends who seem to value me for me from the jump, and new confidence, I feel that I can get the best.  Once again, I’m back on track, and more than anything I’m so relieved.  I may paint myself as confident and assertive – and I am those things – but underneath I still get nervous and insecure.  Now, I finally see that I really am worth more.

I guess it’s a part of natural evolution.  I’ve grown up a lot, and although it took pointing out, I am older than my years.  I don’t feel out of place hanging out with 30-year-olds, because we have the same mentality and experiences.  People generally have trouble guessing my age (I still get ID’d for buying cigarettes on the one hand – which makes Mike LOL and envious at the same time!; on the other hand, a couple of people on my course originally thought I was late 20s because of the fact I can articulate myself and hold my own in discussions), but although I may tease my colleagues at university about receding hairlines, wrinkles and old age, I don’t feel any difference between us.  Aaliyah really had it right – age ain’t nothin’ but a number.  Usually it correlates to maturity, but not always.  At the end of the day, people are people, and we are all human.

These are things that I already knew to be true, but having them held up in front of me has forced me to accept these things as positives about myself.  It’s finally really sinking in.  And the truth of who I am as a man, as a human being, is finally coming out.  This is what I wanted to write about really, but it took the backstory above to get there! (Sorry… but I always give you the main course – no snacks here!)  I thought that I was an adult after university (by which I mean my undergraduate degree at Oxford), but it took me a bit longer.  Working at the Perfume Shop gave me a taste of the hard grind, working for not enough money and being treated like I didn’t have a brain (the saving grace was superficially decent friendships and getting to work with fragrance and deepen my knowledge of it).  My newer job at the hospital has made me see how people can be valued in their work, both monetarily and in terms of being treated like an intelligent human being.  My new course at university has helped me see what I really want to do, and now having that thrust forward has completed me and erased some of my doubts (not all, but some is certainly a step forward) about my future and my life’s purpose.

As things around me have been moving in the right direction, so I’ve been able to spread my wings and become more of who I am.  I love smoking – I’m not a moron and I know it’s not good for my health nor my voice, but I enjoy the feeling from it, the fact it kills time, and the socialising aspect of it – I think it goes hand in hand with being confident and conversational, as you often get approached by people who want a light / spare fag, and you end up conversing with strangers because you share an appreciation of nicotine!  In turn, smoking has reduced my hunger (allowing me to stick to my no-evening-snacking policy) and I’ve dropped a waist size – people at uni have christened me “good looking”, “pretty boy” and lots of other complimentary things referencing both my physical looks and my fashion style. I feel more confident in and out of my clothes – although I’m such a perfectionist that I’ll never be satisfied!  But looking at my vanity and my past issues with my own body and self-esteem, I’ve come a long way.  I feel happier in my skin physically as well as emotionally – and I’m feeling more confident to express the edgier, darker sides of myself which set me apart from others.

After years of deliberation, changing my mind and refining my ideas, I’m finally set on getting tattoos!  One is a stylised A, which you can see here; the other will be above my left collarbone mirroring it, and will be a gun.  I’ve been inspired by Rihanna‘s gun tattoo, but I want it because to me a gun is a symbol of strength and power, of aggression and conflict, of edginess and darkness.  These are all things that I embody – I am tougher than some people initially assume, and I want an emblem of that grit and fire.  I feel it’s applicable to me, and also quite exciting and sexy.  And whereas before I might have balked at the permanence of a tattoo like that, now I feel mature and comfortable enough in myself to be able to wear it and pull it off.  This is me – maybe I’m a good boy gone bad, but I still have a good heart; I have just spent too long in my life pleasing others, and now I’ve finally lunged for myself with this course and am reaping the rewards much more than I ever did listening to other people’s opinions on what was best for me, I believe in my own capacity to make decisions.  I’m not an angel, I’m not a good boy, and I’m tired of portraying that.  I am me and I have a good heart and an intelligent mind, but sometimes I enjoy being provocative or sexy or pushing the boundaries.  That is just as valid a part of me, and my new friendships embrace that part of me too and love me for it.  My infatuation with a married man who has become my best friend and is actively ok with my affection and flirting and actively returns it has been a revelation to me.  We understand each other, we can control our affections (he feels the same way about someone else) and be mature adults, but we also have fun with it – we accept each other and I never felt so comfortable to be able to be so emotionally honest with someone I knew would accept me for who I am. From him I learned what it is to be a good father, a good husband, a good man, and also that whatever I’m feeling, I am a rational person and I should never feel guilty for my feelings.  I should never feel stupid, and the sign of a good friendship is being able to admit how you’re feeling and that other person accepting you for it and not telling you it’s wrong or silly.  Again, these are things I superficially knew, but feeling and living them is a whole other revelation.  I hope that my friends can one day think of me in the same way.

So my embracing my dark side instead of being afraid of it; my becoming edgier is a natural emancipation, a natural evolution of me.  I am free to be who I am, and I am proud of who I am.  I’ve felt ashamed, even in small doses, for too long.  It took a long time to get here, and I’m sure in the future I will still make mistakes and waver, but hopefully I can come back and read this post and remember my feelings right now, and that’ll keep me going.  Once a good boy goes bad, we’re gone forever – but I wish I’d gone sooner and I look forward to where I’m going and whom I’m going with.