I remember vividly how, one day, I wasriding the escalators up to a subway station in Amsterdam South-East,a part of the city that gives depressing a new meaning. It wasintended as a futuristic yuppie paradise, what it became was a dismalplace with concrete highrises and sickly patches of green litteredwith garbage and dieing and dead cars. Unemployment was the norm.Overcrowding a simple fact and graffiti the only bit of color thatstood out. I was talking with my brother about 'the future' and how Ireally couldn't see my life past 30. Those were some insanely longescalators but still we didn't get to be very deep or philosophicalor anything. I just remember it because it was so true; I couldn't. Iknow it scared the crap out of me to become anything other than Iwas; a know-it-all rebelling teenage punk in a pair of red tiger-printstretch jeans and angry at anything and everything.
I listened to loud, angry, music and Ihad loud, angry, friends. They were good kids, each and every one ofthem. I had my standards. But they were like me; feeling trapped.Some felt trapped in a life of poverty and conflict; theJehovah's-witness kid who could play the guitar like it was on fireand who adored he guitar-greats. He would get kicked out of the houseat fairly regular intervals, and be let back in after a few weekssleeping on couches. He would get nose bleeds and blackouts frommalnutrition, and he never talked about how the voices in his headtold him to love Satan. Only once. To me. And he really could play.And it was all he did. I don't think I ever saw him without hisguitar and as soon as he sat down his hands were on the strings.
Or the kid who always talked aboutwomen, always was looking at women, always was trying to 'score' withwomen. We all knew he was gay. He felt comfortable at my place, withthe lesbian mother and the mixed black-and white family. Comfortableenough to kinda, sorta, make advances, but not comfortable enough tonot stress at every opportunity how much he liked him some pussy. AndI hear he came out ten years later.
Some felt trapped in suburbia. Going toan average school, living in an average house, with averagemiddle-class parents.
To quote Christian Slater in 'Pump upthe Volume': "sometimes being young is less fun than beingdead." And it felt like we were going to be young forever. Boxedin and trapped. Forever. So we pretended really hard that we lovedit.
And it would be that way forever. Andthen we'd be dead, or something. And some were. But anything beyondour twenties was a sort of foggy black hole we couldn't see through.It was scary as hell. Because it was nothing.
As a photographer, I meet models.Models tend to be young. I was also dragged into a Facebook group I'malways contemplating leaving while simultaneously enjoying it.Because the people there are young. And they are me. Twenty yearsago. And some of them suck. Some are batshit crazy. And the othersdon't see it that way because life hasn't given them a yardstick tomeasure 'suck' and 'crazy' by yet. Some get dragged down by the suckand crazy. So desperate for 'fun' and 'friendship' that they see onlythe smiles and not the daggers. And I really don't want to see that.They have to learn on their own, as I did, because I went through thefoggy black hole and out the other side. They can't see where I am,because they can't project themselves there. It makes me think. I getannoying when I think. And then I write.
So; if anyone of the type I'm talkingabout here is reading this; here's what I would say to you, if itwould do any good at all.
Yes, I know. You are different. You arenot your parents, and your parents were never cool anyway. But here'sthe thing; yes you will change. Maybe you'll be dead, addicted or injail. Despite what Hollywood tells you; your youthful hijinks are notconsequence free. I realized that the first time someone told me 'Ohby the way, you know so-and-so? Yeah, he's dead.' Kids die too.There's no karmic judge that spares the 'good ones' and you don't getoff with a slap on the wrist because you are young, not from life.Certainly not from death.
You want a happy ending? Go visit amassage parlor.
I know that to you, right now, everybad episode seems like something you laugh off in the bar with yourbuddies the following weekend. But that shit accrues, and there's noriding off into the sunset. Just another week, and another one.
Those weeks will turn into years, andat some point you'll cut your hair because you need a job, or like mebecause you get sick of waking up with your own hair in your mouthevery morning. You'll become the 'old ones' at your dive and lookdown on the kiddies. And then you'll outgrow that, too.
Everything that seems so massivelyimportant to you now... you'll start to measure against increasinglife experience and by comparison it will become smaller and smalleruntil one day you really can't imagine you were ever so shortsighted,arrogant and cocky that you really thought you were better thananyone else because you had the coolest outfit and the wildesthairdo.
And you will seriously wonder why youlet so many good things, so many good people, slip away because theyweren't as cool as you.
You will seriously, and I meanseriously, regret your warped priorities because your faded SlayerT-shirt isn't doing much for you by then, and you've got to deal withall the crap you pulled one way or another. And the tattoos. And thelost opportunities.
You are having so much fun now that youwant to, and effectively are, freezing your life. And the fun willstop being fun.
If you are still measuring 'cool' bytats, hair and beer-limit, you are shallow. I know; that's just someold fart talking down on your generation. Your 'scene' is so greatbecause it accepts you for who you are... but everybody in it is'you'.
And it's really easy to be 'you'. Allit takes is some copy-paste looks, liking the right bands and hatingthe right people. So easy, in fact, that such 'scenes' attract adisproportionate amount of people you really need to avoid. Like theones who are clearly in need of real help but who avoid getting anyby surrounding themselves by people who think conspiracy theories,hearing voices, really-real Satan-worshipping because he talks to youin your head, is cool. Because it's what Slayer sings about, right?Or the ones who desperately adhere to anything that is NOTmainstream, and therefore embarrass any real pagans, any realyounameit by being over the top zealous. The abused women who pretendit's a life-style choice. The hateful and the addicted.
It's so 'us versus them' that 'us' hasadopted some pretty broad admission criteria. Just as long as thething looks good on the outside.
Real friends are people who likecompletely different music, have completely different outlooks onlife, dress completely differently, and still like you.
Change the threads, stop going to thatparticular bar, hell, get the wrong boyfriend, and the same peoplewho are 'always there for you', who laugh with you, who cry with you,who 'really GET you' will drop you like a stone.
They do not like you around because youare such a great person. They like you around because your tearsjustify more drinking. Your laughter justifies more drinking. Yourtrouble with your parents reinforces their own choices, and moredrinking.
Am I saying they are bad people? No.Not any worse than you. Because you do it to them.
You know what; if you haven't sufferedgreatly by now, you are the exception. Over all, us humans are prettygood at being really shitty to each other.
If your parents were mean to you; well,I've met girls who were put on the street as prostitutes, by theirparents, at age 11. One of my classmates in school was pimping outhis 14 year old girlfriend. Who was also in my class. I knew a girlwho died, as in really, really dead, after horrific suffering becauseher crazy mother didn't believe in modern medicine. And now, letstalk about warzones, famine, drug-cartels running entire countries...
So yourboyfriend/parents/teachers/etc. are mean to you... maybe you're evenin a really genuine shitty place right now, or you came out of one. Isympathize, I really do. No suffering is too little to be noteworthy,and no suffering is too great to survive.
If there's ANYTHING no matter how big,small or hard to talk about that bothers you to a point that itaffects your life; get help! Talk to a friend. A teacher. A priest.Anyone you trust.
BUT it is no badge of honor to wear,it's no excuse for being a shithead to people, it's not loose-changeto give back to anyone who criticizes you. And that cool tattoo thatcommemorates your survival? It's you telling the world that yoursuffering is better than theirs and it annoys the fuck out of anyonewho has been through worse.
And there are many of those. What doyou think happens to people like you when they get older? They justgo somewhere else? No, we shelve away the hurt, stop flaunting it,and get on with our lives. So, next time you think that old 'normal'guy just never could 'get' you; think again because odds are he's gotworse, or at the very least more, stories to tell than you.
When people meet you, they see who youare projecting to them right then and there. They don't see yourdeeper desires, your dark fears, your hurt and pain or your greatcontribution to society some day.
Tell the world that you don't want tobelong, and the world will make it happen.
We may start to care, if you give uslong enough to like you. But that t-shirt with the offensive image?That attitude? It's not helping, and really, we aren't interested.Because you are just one person, briefly entering our vision.
Once I stopped projecting my anger andhate outward, once I stopped hating Christians just for beingChristians, once I stopped pre-judging people who wore a suit towork, once I let go of all that I discovered a whole new world fullof new shitheads, but also full of new wonderful people who reallyweren't intolerant towards me so much as they had been intoleranttowards my intolerance before.
Caring takes effort. Some people arethemselves intolerant and hateful enough to care about you to thepoint that they will go out of their way to insult you or try toconvert you. Most people tolerate you, to the point that they let youmove out of their field of vision again without confronting you ormaking an effort to piss you off, as you are making an effort to pissthem off.
Their not caring is their gift oftolerance to you, you might want to think about why you are kickingthem in the teeth so desperately.
Why don't I get that job? Why doesn'tthe universe grant me happiness? Why do I always wind up datinglosers instead of some great person who will be with me for ever, andever?
Newsflash dickhead; we all feel thatway.
Like I said before; there is no karmicjustice. There's only what you make happen. And even if you try, andreally work hard, it may not. There are trailer-parks full oftalented, nice and hard-working people who really just did not getthose breaks.
There is no certain measure of miseryeverybody gets, and then it's over. For some, life just piles it on,and then some more. The love of my life left me, and went to marrysome shithead who goes through life taking advantage of people. Thenanother love of my life left me for some weak-willed guy who isprivileged to the point of not even realizing it and who is known forbeing the sort of mini-dickhead who just pushes himself to theforefront whenever he can in that low-grade way of the trulymediocre. So? I'm better than them, so I deserve the girl? Fuck that.
If I tally it up, I think I haven't hada single year in my entire life that I was truly happy with my life.
Happy is not the norm. It's as simpleas that. If you meet someone who is truly happy all the time, ask himwhat drugs he's on because I would like some of that shit.
And this is the same for everybody. Andthen some people get loads of extra crap to deal with. And lifedoesn't pick the ones who 'deserve' it.
What else can I say? Buck up. Stopacting as if you are being treated so unfairly. Get your ass in gearand try to change things. Maybe you'll succeed, but you sure as hellwon't if you keep wallowing in self-pity.
It may come as a surprise to you, butthe mere fact that you imagine yourself a nice person doesn't make itso.
Everybody thinks there's this nice guyunderneath. Everybody counts up the 'good' things they do and pretendthose offset their crappy behavior.
But it doesn't.
What you do is who you are. The rest isyour fantasy world. People won't see your true colors, even if theywere inclined to look, through that arrogant, judgmental,better-than-them attitude. Those ARE your true colors, unless youstop doing it.
So, stop doing it.
Like I said in point 5 about you, thesame goes for everybody else. There's a saying 'Someone who is niceto you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person'.
That girl who complains about someother girl 'tormenting her' all the time? Well, maybe she's justbatshit crazy and paranoid, and simply taking everything that othergirl does as aimed at her, even if the other girl doesn't really knowshe exists.
She may just have learned that vyingfor sympathy gets people like you to go to bat for her. And that shitfeels good. So she invents stuff so hard it becomes real to her.
I've had people like that in my life,and I've found that the only way to deal with them is to cut them outof my life completely. Or they keep going until you are a wreck andthey marry your girlfriend.
The person putting her arm around youand buying you another drink when you are down may just want to fuckyou. Or may just be investing in later, because we all need that armsometimes and yes, most people are that calculating about'friendship'.
Bitter? Me? Nah. I'm out the other end,where it is calm and peaceful, and where a sniper rifle just isn'tslow and painful enough to justify the jail time. And most 'wellbalanced' people are there.
So, just listen to what I'm telling youhere, because if you are the age group I'm aiming this at, yousimply, through no fault of your own, have not had the time to learnthe 'tells' and sortof, kinda, see the abusers coming. And yourwizened elders have. Why do you think your parents keep going onabout 'wrong friends'? They have had their heart stomped on moreoften than you. Or they are narrow-minded bigots. Your call. Butdon't dismiss this off-hand. Or do. Also your call.
So, how do you tell the sparrows fromthe nightingales?
You don't. You can't read minds. Overtime, a long time, you may find people who, through theways they hurt your feelings or make you angry at times, still showyou that they are trying to be better than the dickheads.
Because for the guy who was sucking medry and fucking my girlfriend behind my back there was another guysecretly madly in love with her, but who valued my friendship more.
Cherish those. Don't trust your life tothe others. Don't waste your time trying to 'convert' the dickhead.Don't think; he'll change. No matter how badly you want him to.
Even if he is really nice underneath,he's not being 'it' to you, and you are rewarding him.
Guess what? We had Slayer in our days.They were better at being Slayer, too. Sepultura, too. Motorhead,hell, they were there when my parents were dickheads like I was, andyou are today.
That cool band you just 'discovered'?Either it was around, or it sounds like what was around.
Your friends may think you've got thisgreat taste in music because you play Uriah Heep, but guess what; Iplayed 'The Magician's Birthday' so my mother wouldn't hear me and mygirlfriend having sex.
Those tattoos? Oh, if only you couldundress some of those office-workers you look down upon ...
All the situations I described above;think I plucked them from today? Think I got them from the people Italked about in my intro? Think I'm recounting what I see thosemodels get up to? Guess again. They are all snippets of what Iremember doing, having done to me or seeing done to others, twentyyears ago.
I was an asshole. My friends wereassholes. Asshole and 'teenager' are pretty much synonyms. But if youare still one after your mid-twenties, you no longer have any excuse.
Get over it. We are not impressed.
A truly great tattoo will meansomething to you now, and something else in ten year's time. A linefrom a song your dead best friend loved to play? Go for it. A treebecause you love what it symbolizes? Cool. A clichemetal/punk/whatever bit of symbolism? Think again. And keep thinkinguntil you get over yourself and realize that in twenty year's timethat symbolism will belong to the 'you' of the past, and will seemonly trite and embarrassing to the 'you' of then.
Talk to any tattooist (and no, I don'tmean your mate in his shed) and ask how many cover-up jobs they do.Ask how often they get asked to do swords, panthers and littlehearts. Or lyrics from songs that seem so profound to your teenageself now, but in all likelihood don't even mean what you think theydo ...
'A whiter shade of pale' was aboutsea-sickness and barfing. 'Smoke on the water' about some fuckerburning down a recording studio. Want to walk around with that (orsome equivalent of that) on your body?
Go paint your hair green to be'special'. That shit grows out.
And please, please, stop asking me todo photoshoots because you want to show off a 'tat' I can counttwenty of on a sunny day, 'k?
If any of the above even remotelyapplies to you, then you need to hear this one magical word a lotmore; NO.
Piss off, fuck off, go away, orwhatever variation of 'no' works for you.
In all likelihood you are alive, usinga computer to read this, in the west, with some form of food on thetable. So, in all likelihood, you are not so special that you need totake resources away from people who need it more; and every time acop comes around because you are keeping your neighbors awake theyare not helping rape victims. Every time your parents deal with yourcrap they are not dealing with their own.
Every time you act out, you are eatingup someone's patience and time in some way.
Need help? Feel lost? Trapped? Daddyputs his thingy inside of you? Find yourself cutting bits off thatshould stay on? Get help. Hell, if I know you, I'll help if I can.
Got a thing against us normal peopleand crave attention? I was you in the past, and I didn't even likeme. What makes you think I'm going to like you? If I wanted someovergrown teenager acting out at me with the same rebellious crap Ihave boxes full of in my basement, I would have made one myself. Gobother your parents if you must, they had the fun, it's theirproblem.
But if you let anything I tried to sayhere permeate through that thick overconfident skull of yours, you'llgo and tell them you love them. See "Pump up the Volume",it's a great flick. And do your homework. In the dark.