One of my best friends has written a ton of my favorite songs. Since we first became friends years ago, he’s known how much I liked his bands but – now that I have a website where I write about a lot of this stuff all the time – I guess the full extent of it sort of dawned on him. He called me recently to ask about our friendship. “Like, is it pretty much the same as if Dr. Frank or Ben Weasel were calling me to tell me about their problems?” My answer: “Yeah, pretty much.” He asked what that was like and I told him it had been good for me. That I had learned a lot from the experience.
You know that feeling when you’re hanging out with people in your favorite bands and you’re pretending that you’re as cool as they are (or – put another way – that you don’t secretly think they’re, like, THE COOLEST EVER [just ’cause they happen to be in a band you really like])? And you pull it off successfully?
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re a liar. (Because we bothknow YOU’RE NOT COOL). You are exactly as much of a faker as I am.
I wrote that a few minutes ago (for nothing in particular) but then decided to use it in my entry tonight. It’s not totally on point for this painting (and what it means to me today) but it’s related. You could call that little blurb a prequel of sorts to what follows…
Believe it or not, there are people who think that I’m cool (and/or accomplished). And the experience of becoming so close with one of my “heroes” has given me some insight into that. We’re all nerds, none of us have a handle on our lives, and we all feel like we’re faking it to some degree. And the things that we’ve each achieved: they don’t always seem like much because they’re all we know. My “measure for success” changes constantly. At one point, if I posted a picture of something I made on Facebook and it got a dozen or so “likes,” I wanted to throw a fucking parade. That kind of stuff can still mean a lot to me (especially when I’m down) but it’s not quite the big deal that it used to be.
One afternoon in January, I was sitting on the side of the road trying not to lose my mind… I found a few crayons and some scrap paper in my backpack and scribbled out some nonsense. Today, somebody gave me sixty-five dollars for that piece of scrap paper. When I take the time to stop and think about that, it’s pretty incredible (and I’m very grateful). But that’s sort of where the bar is at now. When that sort of thing doesn’t happen, I feel like a failure. Recently though, I’ve been able to examine that along with my experiences with friends in more “successful” bands (who do the kinds of shit that a lot of us have only dreamt about (and write the kinds of songs most of us will never even get close to)) and I get it; I can understand why they don’t feel like the “success stories” that others might see them as. And I can see why I am the success story that I don’t always think I am.
That’s not all either. At times, the experience has given me self-esteem. Not because “somebody cool is my friend,” but because of the tough spots that it’s put me in. It’s hard to tell anyone that you care about something you think they might not wanna hear (or that they might be insulted by). And it’s even harder when that person is a “hero” of sorts. I found myself in that position recently and it wasn’t easy. I reallywanted to keep my mouth shut, but I also didn’t wanna be a coward. I swallowed the lump in my throat, said everything I wanted to say (with as much sincerity as I could), and… it couldn’t have gone better. Not only that but – when I asked, “What’ve your other friends said?” – the response I got was, “You’re the only one that’s said anything to me about this.” I think that’s a testament to just how easy it is to keep one’s mouth shut and not say the hard thing to a friend. Which (of course) isn’t being a friend at all. I was pretty shocked when I heard that but I also felt good about it – about overcoming my fear and finding the courage to say these things. No one else had.
This stuff’s all super awkward. Who wants to talk about friendship or admit to having “heroes” in the first place? (Not me!) So – seein’ as I’ve been brave enough to do that – I’m gonna cut myself a little slack and allow myself to “cut it short” right here. Cool? Cool.