Social Anxiety In Punk: Social Serenity Outside Punk
Posted on September 30, 2015
September 30, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey
This is part of a recurring series of essays on social anxiety in punk. For more, click here.
It was a pretty rough summer. A pretty rough year, really. I’ll spare you the gory details, because for crissake, you don’t need to know them any more than I need to relive them, and anyway, this is (loosely) a “music publication” and not my journal or my gournal. Most of you probably know that The Runout went away this summer, and now it’s fall and we’re back, sort of, not entirely, but we’re posting good stuff when we have the time to write and research it. I’ve said this before (sorry) but this dumb little website is the most creatively fulfilling thing I’ve ever been a part of, and I appreciate everyone reading, sharing, tweeting, et cetera. I wish we had enough content to post something new every day, perhaps someday we will again, but for now, this is a part-time, pet project. We don’t force bullshit here in the name of fresh clicks every day. Seems like most of you get that. Thank you for getting that.
We’ve written a lot here about social anxiety and mental health through the lens of how the punk scene can help, and sometime hinder, our own neuroses. Hopefully our shining a light on that has been as rewarding for you as a reader as it has for us as writers. It’s something I hope we’ll do more of in the future so if you have an idea by all means, please get in touch. For now, though, it seems prudent to touch on a mostly unexplored (for us anyway) part of that: The idea that this isn’t the only thing out there for us.
It’s a weird feeling when someone or something that made you unspeakably happy for so long, no matter the circumstance, stops making you happy. You feel confused and lost. You feel like you’re flailing in quicksand, screaming for help in the middle of a barren desert with no other soul for miles. There’s probably a band or bands or an album or albums that can instantly rehabilitate your mood, rebuild your confidence, or at least temporarily get your mind off whatever’s bothering you. But what do you do when it stops working? It’s a shitty feeling, compounded by whatever’s going on in your life that caused you to reach in the first place. It’s compounded, compacted shit. How do you escape when the door on your old, reliable escape is painted shut and deadbolted?
You find another door. Or a window. Or a secret hatch. Maybe not immediately, though. Maybe you scratch at the walls for weeks or months hoping your fingers find a crease. Maybe you find a brick and throw it through the nearest window and as the fresh air pours in, you breathe deeply, inhaling through your nose and exhaling out your mouth as if you’re really breathing for the first time ever. Once you do escape, how do you reconcile your current feelings with your past feelings? You still love this thing that provided you with so many wonderful memories, but it’s not the only thing anymore and it’s certainly not the cure-all it used to be. Putting yourself out there for new experiences, new people, new bands, it can be a scary thing. Punks fear change. For all the inherent energy in the music and in the community, it’s a very contained, hyperspecific type of energy, and even the most minute change in the air can set off the entire community. It’s a little maddening, to be honest, because the punk scene has been continuously evolving since its inception, even as many members of the community have done their best to rail against it (because punks have to rail against everything, you see, no matter how much they alienate themselves and their peers in the process) but for whatever reason the punk scene is very heavily policed. I thought we didn’t like cops. I still don’t understand the rules.
Punk rock has ceased to be an escape for me. Hopefully not forever. I still love it, don’t get me wrong, I will always love it, but more and more, where in past years I would reach for a Lawrence Arms record or a memory of a show I attended, I’m now reaching for other stuff. I’m reaching for Black Sabbath’s first four albums, for marijuana, for exercise, for long bike rides, for even more meditation, for pop music (lest this turn into another thing about a white dude suddenly being into pop music, but Carly Rae Jepsen’s E•MO•TION is 100%, wall-to-wall bangers and you should listen to it, seriously), for hard, menial, tedious labor like lifting full beer kegs and glass racks and ice buckets and it’s all making me feel (and look) pretty great. When punk rock consumed every waking moment of my life, I was a sad-all-the-time schlub who drank too much and slept too little. I saw punk rock as my escape but really, it’s what was trapping me. Passion is important, it is the thing that makes humans human, but life balance is paramount. My brain feels pretty whole for the first time in a long time and punk rock has had very, very little to do with it. That itself is a weird feeling, but I’ve come to terms with it. It’s not so much a “I guess this is growing up” moment so much as it’s a “I guess punk rock isn’t the only thing” moment.
By all means, continue to enjoy this. Go to shows and shout until you’re hoarse, dance with your friends and with consenting strangers, buy albums and read liner notes and discover new bands and blabber to your friends about how great they are. I certainly will continue to do that. But it’s not the only thing I’m going to do anymore and it shouldn’t be the only thing you’re doing either. It’s a weird thing to say to someone reading this, but like, get off the internet. Go. Right now. Go make or see or discover something else if you can. Your brain will appreciate it.