The Treasure Trove of Memories I’ve Tried to Forget
While on vacation in Seattle, my mother uncovered an enormous box of old tapes, mostly mine. Some of them date back to my first days as a sentient human being, but most of them are early recordings of stuff I wrote or performed in my teenage years. She seemed only too happy to cue them up and listen to the lot of them, even suggesting a few old songs I could re-work and re-release as an adult.
The truth is that most of that stuff is painful for me to listen to. It’s not the quality of my singing- which was terrible -or my songwriting ability- which was abysmal. I mean, I wasn’t even old enough to shave when some of these tapes were made, so I’m not expecting the seasoned performer that I’ve become to shine through something I taped in 1996. But my mother didn’t seem to understand my refusal to start listening until I explained myself.
These tapes are a time capsule from the most awkward, uncertain, insecure period of my life that I have literally spent the last twenty years trying to overcome. Are the songs about that insecurity? Of course not. Most of it’s upbeat Christian pop that I wrote because I thought that’s what other people wanted to hear. You won’t find a trace of my awkwardness in the lyrics, but when I listen to those old songs it’s all I can hear.
They’re a portrait of a kid too chicken-shit to take risks with self-expression and so desperate for the approval of others that his words were largely empty. The kid who was never popular, so he copied the actions of his peers and hoped he’d find success mirroring the successful. Lyrics of confidence sung by a phenomenally gifted liar.
I’ve always been a good liar. Hell, I’ll bet you think I’m making enough money to pay rent next month. Maybe I haven’t grown up that much after all.
I understand the importance of hanging on to these old recordings, if only for archival purposes. I may even browse through them someday when I’m on an emotional high and can withstand the hit. But until then, Mom can keep the treasure trove of her happy memories. She remembers the kid that sung all those tunes rather fondly, but I’ve been trying like hell not to be him for far too long.
One of these days, I might remember that kid more fondly too.