Shining eyes, flushed cheeks, enthusiastic hand gestures, words tumbling out earnestly—this is me when I’m talking about The xx. Or James Blake. Or maybe it’s Vampire Weekend, or Autre Ne Veut’s Arthur Ashin. Today, actually, it would probably be Disclosure. A year ago it was most likely The National. Even though I am in fact just an eighteen-year-old college student who is currently sitting on the floor and eating salt and vinegar chips, anyone who knows me has probably witnessed me talking about a musician, band, album, or performance as though I’m Kanye West talking about Kanye West.
Even though there are few things more genuine than the love between a teenager and his or her favorite artist, I can’t even begin to fathom the number of times someone has disregarded my feelings toward my most recent musical fixation as nothing more than shallow admiration. Teenagers are often made out to be irrationally obsessive creatures who will blindly follow and adore anything holding a microphone, a viewpoint that has allowed us to become subject to mockery and ridicule. Even my family and closest friends share knowing glances every time I mention yet another artist or masterpiece that has made it physically impossible for me to talk or think about anything else.
However, what very few people know is that I began to struggle with depression when I was sixteen years old, even though at the time I didn’t realize what it was that made every day feel like an obstacle course. Consequently, this was also the year that I realized that musicians are actual people beyond their recordings and live shows. As I found myself feeling lonely or uncertain of myself in my everyday life, I delved further into a musician or band’s history and was able to connect with them on a personal level. I started to understand not only the source of their inspiration and motivation to create, but also the fact that these people aren’t anywhere even close to being perfect which, somehow, made them even more perfect in my eyes. This notion was revolutionary for me; I never realized how much I could value a person’s imperfections, and it made me feel like maybe I could even find worth in my own. This idea comforted me immensely and above all, it eased my loneliness. The concept of juxtaposing these artists’ work with other aspects of their lives was extremely powerful to me, and has since been an amazing source of positivity throughout my battle with depression.
Many other teenagers have this same feeling of deep connection to artists, albums, movies, authors and more. But too often, we are compelled to hide The Thing we love for fear of being misunderstood when more than anything, all we want to do is talk about The Thing and make everyone understand how amazing The Thing is and even tell The Thing itself how much we cherish it. Loving an artist is contagious, positive, and powerful. But what it comes down to is feeling something when you’re empty and the hole inside of you can only be filled by art. No one should ever have this feeling invalidated by those who might say you’re “overreacting” or “just going through a phase.”
It’s taken me a few years, but I’ve learned to ignore these voices and own what I’m into with pride and without apology. It seems to me that the people who are most critical of the shit you like are probably the people who are most uncomfortable with the shit they like.