Find Your Own Way: an Essay

Words by Andrew Sanyshyn of Psychic Wave

“For me, music has always felt like one of the only clubs where everyone is allowed in, and I didn’t understand why the legends of rock (and a good majority of their fans) thought I was a poser.”

In our digital age, music lovers from all over the world have the power to share their thoughts on new and emerging bands. The most loved and timeless music is often tied to a culture that reflects an important time in history, but is still accessible to new fans. In 2007, I became a teenager, and the musical fire inside of me was ignited- I started looking up bands like The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin on YouTube, and as you probably guessed, I was blown away. Something that I noticed early on was that people who were teenagers at the time those bands were just starting out, had a clear distaste for younger kids (a.k.a. me) latching on to bands of their youth. I thought to myself, how could this be? For me, music has always felt like one of the only clubs where everyone is allowed in, and I didn’t understand why the legends of rock (and a good majority of their fans) thought I was a poser.

The first thing I wanted to know was why these people didn’t seem to want my attention. I’m sure it didn’t help that I was an annoying skateboard punk who thought he was hot shit. I thought long and hard about it, and what I came up with was this: In times of great change, like the 1960’s, music becomes more than just background noise. It becomes part of many young adults’ identities. Ages 18 – 25 are characterized by most as a state of panic. It’s a time where the majority of “adults” are unsure where their lives are going. In this hectic stage of life, it’s common for groups of like-minded people to gravitate towards one another.

After figuring this out and looking back at all the iconic moments of the 1960’s, I understood why I was not in good graces with the veterans of classic rock. The 1960’s were a time where young people were rallying together to ensure civil rights for all Americans, regardless of race or gender. It was a time in which three separate preachers of peace and progress were assassinated. America was also involved in Vietnam, a war that many believed was an unethical death-sentence for all involved. As for the 1970’s, the same issues were still being fought against, and no matter where you were, you couldn’t avoid them.

“Perhaps all of the chaos and confusion was the kick in the ass to the artists of this time period to create work that resonated so deeply with me and many others.”

No wonder I wasn’t accepted into that generation’s group. From their perspective, I was a poser. I had not taken place in any peace marches, riots, or sit-in’s. The looming fear of the draft has never touched me and I’ve never lost family members or friends to war. Throughout the daily battles being fought during those times, some my favorite music was written. Perhaps all of the chaos and confusion was the kick in the ass to the artists of this time period to create work that resonated so deeply with me and many others.

There were songs like Fortunate Son” by Credence Clearwater Revival  that spoke about the small majority of young men who were politically  well-connected to be exempt from the war. The song also described the anguish felt by many young peace keepers who had no desire to kill for their country. “Some folks are born made to wave the flag, they’re red, white and blue. And when the band plays, ‘hail to the chief’, they point the cannon at you. It’s ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son. It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one.”

Songs like these struck a chord with a great majority of the youth in America. In times of great distress, it can be comforting to relate to someone. It makes you feel as if you’re not alone, and that if you work together, things might even be good someday. So there I was, alienated from a group I had so much respect for. In my mind, I knew I didn’t belong. I decided to start paying attention to my own life and the things that brought me joy outside of this music, because focusing too hard on the past was bringing me down.

As I grew up, I became more and more interested in what was happening around the world, both culturally and politically. There was a growing desire to talk to new people and trade our hopes, dreams, and ideas. Music became a bigger part of my life, and my focus turned to new bands with ideals who I felt best represented my way of life. By going to shows and meeting other musicians, I found out quite rapidly that there was a great number of people with my same vision. This was a striking blow to my ego because I realized that my “progressive” thoughts were not as unique as I once believed they were, but I felt like I finally found a community I belonged to.

With the help of my newfound community, I began focusing harder on what I could do to change my world for the better. The sad reality thought by many of my friends was that the leaders of the world might not have our best interests in mind. We began to talk about the war in Iraq, the effects of terrorism, and America’s long history of colonialism. I was never pulled into huge conspiracy theories, but I did feel a growing distrust of the government.

Now, at twenty-two years old, I spend my free time making art, music, or going to shows, and I’ve noticed something. The things going on in my youth seemed quite similar to the things going on in the 60’s and 70’s. We have marches and public rallies protesting police brutality and prejudices against people of color, people in our government deciding the rights that women have to their own bodies, and a war in another country that many believe is just a chance for America to flex its muscles.

“If we put our ear to the ground and listen closely for the heartbeat of America, it can be found in the souls of the youth.”

Another thing I noticed was that the music and art of my time was starting to take the shape of much of what was popular about half a century ago. It seemed to me that my fascination with the 60’s and 70’s wasn’t just a small curiosity brought on by chance. If we put our ear to the ground and listen closely for the heartbeat of America, it can be found in the souls of the youth. Throughout my life I’ve turned to music and art as an outlet to reflect where I am. That taste of love for the 60’s and 70’s must have been because I felt part of that time in my heart.

I realized maybe we haven’t made as much progress as we would like to believe. The same issues are still being protested and there always seems to be a war. We are not in a time of peace, and there’s no hiding it. Through this reflection, I’m still able to find hope for this world. The reason for my optimism is because I see that we, the youth in America, are not fighting these battles alone. I don’t feel that same disconnect with my predecessors that I used to- we all seem to have similar ideals imbedded inside of us, and more often than not, we even own the same records.

My collection is filled with iconic albums from their youth and their collection is filled with some of mine. I feel accepted into the group I was once alienated from. There isn’t a test for entry, but you know when you’re treated as an equal. Sure, I may be more naive and full of tragic optimism, but that doesn’t matter. My predecessors and mentors know the power of hope and how heavy the hand of disappointment can be. We’re finally able to gather by the fire and talk about our experiences in a positive and comfortable manner because we can relate to each other. Credit for this unifying feat can be given to artists, musicians, poets, and authors.

“Music has the power to alienate or unify groups of people, and if we work together, it has the power to incite positive change in the world.”

We have a full range of media at our fingertips, and we no longer have to guess what our parents are thinking. There’s this ocean of sharing going on both above and below the ground. There’s a public service announcement that aired on the television during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s that always seemed comical to me. On the screen would be the words, “Do you know where your children are?” followed by a man’s voice saying, “it’s 10 PM, do you know where your children are?”. This fear mongering ploy has always cracked me up, but now more than ever. When I’m rocking out on a Friday night to a great local band and I look up and see someone in their 50’s or 60’s rocking out right beside me, I realize that music has the power to alienate or unify groups of people, and if we work together, it has the power to incite positive change in the world. Today I’m proud to say, I no longer feel like a poser. ✿

Advertisements