Halfway Through The Wood

 

I used to take a lot of walks.

I didn’t realize I was getting exercise, although I know now that it was actually doing wonders for me, because when I look back at pictures of myself I can see how in shape I was, despite thinking I was fat. The neighborhood where my family lived was built on this huge hill that was probably once part of a mountain or something, all of the houses lining the hill seemed simultaneously to be level and yet sliding down the hill. Our neighborhood was at the top of the hill and a little ways further around some turns. I would take my iPod out for a stroll so I could listen to whatever music I was exploring at the time. I remember walking during a cool, wet day and listening to Telepopmusik’s beautiful ambient electronic album Angel Milk, and feeling so… well, I wanted to say “at peace,” but that wouldn’t be right. I felt a lot of pain, and a lot of aching and longing, a lot of sadness, and mostly that I had so much I wanted to SAY. I wanted to write and play piano and scream and be heard, and I also desperately wanted sexual attention because I was in a stale relationship that had already lasted nearly two years longer than it should have.

When I think about me then and me now, the biggest difference is the depth of feeling. I felt so much then. Life was such a full experience, with rich textures and sounds. Most of the experience was sad, and in fact I was suffering deeply with my own mental illness, having panic attacks that were gradually driving me further and further indoors until eventually I was entirely agoraphobic and couldn’t leave my house, except to go to my boyfriend’s house, and the drive there was sometimes nightmarish. Once we got stopped by a slow-moving train and I was so visibly shaken and trying hard to breathe while I had a panic attack that my normally unattendant boyfriend rolled his eyes at me and told me the calm the hell down. He responded in this way to the majority of my suffering: a combination of annoyance and contempt. He would sometimes threaten to turn around and take me back home “if I was going to act like this.” I would look forward to seeing him all week and the first two minutes in the car with him would be wonderful, but we wouldn’t usually make it completely out of the neighborhood before he’d say something that crushed me, and all my hopes would be dashed, and I’d be deflated, and I’d settle in for a weekend of knowing I was miserable but refusing to admit it to myself because it just didn’t hurt enough yet.

But I digress.

I did a lot of walking aimlessly as an excuse to be doing something physical while listening to music. I loved experiencing the music and walking is a good way to do so, and I’d make a lot of music videos in my head, some of which I’d replayed so many times in my head that I’d added small details to until they were like their own little plays, with all the actors coming out to try out new things and add to the material. There were all these characters in my music videos, because I was always imagining myself as a musician, a real artist with real music videos and real fans who watched and discussed what I did. My music videos often featured various versions of myself interacting with each other.

I spent so much time back then fantasizing, creating, constantly creating in my mind.

When I look at who I am now versus who I was then, I guess the biggest difference is that now I feel so… drained. I mean, I was so naive and starry eyed when I was twenty-one, even though I was goddamn miserable at the time. I still had hope for this bright elaborate life that would take me to the places I dreamed of, for a future where I was far away from my family and on a tour bus playing shows or flying around the world and putting on elaborate stage shows. I don’t know where the desire to be a musician came from, because it wasn’t something I’d dreamed of as a kid, but now here it was. And it was mostly Tori Amos I was listening to at the time, because she was my newest musical interest and I was trying really hard to get into her catalog.

Eight years divide me from that time and that person, who he was. He spent so much time hoping and dreaming, there was so much still ahead of him. I guess the feelings that I’m having now, feeling a loss of that hope and even that innocence and wonder, is what you might call a quarter-life crisis, if such a thing really exists. But truly, that’s not really it.

It isn’t hard for me to pinpoint the real difference between me of the past and me of the present.

It’s the drugs, of course.

Not street drugs, not drugs like my cousins do and sell and go to prison for. Not illicit, scary drugs from a back alley. Good, safe, clean drugs that a nice respectable doctor prescribed me when I woke up one morning and found that the anxiety had gotten so bad that now the whole left side of my body, from the tingling on my scalp to the tenderness in my nipple to the weakness in the veins of my arm and on down into my feet, was numb. It’s weird because “numb” is the word I used at the time but now I think it was more “sensitive,” the whole left side of my body was really sensitive, it was easier to hurt me there, and there was this constant tingling running all up and down.

I was afraid I would have an early-in-life stroke or heart attack or seizure, afraid I might have some kind of brain tumor, and these symptoms were so strange and seemingly random. That’s when they finally gave me the medicine, and frankly I didn’t want to take it because I’d heard the word Klonopin before and never in a good context. I didn’t want to become addicted to a narcotic. But I took it, because my best friend told me the doctors know what they’re doing and I needed to take the medicine I was prescribed.

I remember where I was when I took it the first time, I was sitting at a barstool at the kitchen counter. I don’t know if I was on my computer or what, and I don’t know how long it took for it to affect me but it was very quick, and my dog was laying on the floor next to me, and I sat down next to her and petted her, and then laid down with her, and I felt so free, and I wasn’t sleepy but I knew I could fall into sleep perfectly at any moment.

In the early days they had that effect on me: my sheets were so cool, the air was so fresh, my eyes were heavy and sleeping and waking were so easy. I took them at the same time every day and I started to wake up with the sun and go to sleep with it too, and I felt so much more productive and healthy and mostly the biggest change was that I no longer had the panic attacks.

I could spend a very long time talking about my journey with antidepressants. I am not one of those people who thinks they’re evil and bad for you and that you should try something else. I tried everything else. I did the fucking breathing exercises and all they did was make me more scared. I tried meditating and doing yoga and doing reiki and projecting a fucking energy shield around myself with my mind during guided meditations and listening to Enya, I tried to be positive and to write positive and think positive, I tried not to focus on the fear, but that did not stop my body from going numb, it did not stop the panic attacks from coming, wave after wave, until living was impossible.

So I’m glad I took them, I truly am.

But.

The thing about antidepressants is that they start to sap color and sound and feeling from the world around you. The world is a bright and vibrant and terrifying place, and if you want the good stuff you have to take the bad stuff too, and the antidepressants will make the bad stuff go away but it also makes the good stuff go away too. It’s not so blatant that you realize that you don’t have depth of feeling anymore, but after a very long time, you look at who you used to be and you realize that even when you try to go for a walk and listen to music now…

…it just isn’t the same.

I am not the same.

I’m so very, very tired.

Drained, lethargic, weary. Weary is probably the best word. I’m just so over it all. I feel like I’ve seen it all and felt it all, which will probably seem silly to me if I read this back to myself in years to come. But mostly I feel like the old washed up could-have-been sitting at the table and smoking a cigarette and staring off into the distance, eyes filled with visions of what might have been.

It’s not just that none of my dreams have come true. It’s that there’s no hope of them coming true, nothing on the horizon, no real changes happening. I look at where I am and even though I still love people and have dreams and hopes and I try and I create, I don’t have that same fascination with life anymore.

I’m too weary.

It’s been a long day and I don’t want to go to sleep but it would be nice not to feel so fucking tired.

And I just can’t stop taking the medication because life would kill me. The colors and sounds and feelings would overhwlem me and I’d be unable to handle it. I live with my family, and that is not a safe place to be, and I have to have a shield projected around me at all times just to make it through the day when I’m near them. I want to leave them but then I’ll need to be reliant on myself and that’s even worse, because then I REALLY can’t afford to stop taking the medicine because I can’t afford to miss work because of a panic attack.

You see? There is no optimal solution short of hitting the lottery and having the ability to live in a comfortable house with someone I love who respects and supports me, and write and play piano all day and wonder at the fascinating minutia of life as I stare out into the rainstorm. Because right here, in real life, I’m on the ground, and I have to find a way to make it through a life that has and may still continue to consist of going to work in a job I hate and putting on a smile and pretending that I’m not miserable for hours and hours a day, coming home and eating and staring at a screen for fun, then going to sleep and either doing it again the next day or spending a day resting from how exhausting it is to do it.

I feel both envy and anger toward normal people. People who think it’s fun to go to a bar. People who make weekend plans. People who can just go anywhere and do anything without being in constant fear their own brain and body will kill them. How dare they walk around complaining about ANY problem when I can’t bare to step foot outside without enough drugs in me numbing my experience of life to the point that I can feel love but not much else. Sadness I feel, loneliness I feel, sometimes intensely. Maybe that’s why I love the feeling of loneliness, because it’s the only truly intense feeling I have left.

I got sick two weeks ago, and my sex drive disappeared. Which is ironic because I STOPPED taking the antidepressant that was lowering my sex drive. And yes, I know a lot of what I’m experiencing right now is probably due to stopping it. I’m taking a different one but still, the transition is always difficult.

I miss life before the drugs, though. I know that they’ve become so entwined with my system, like roots growing into a house that’s being built until the house is part of the tree. So I don’t know that I’ll ever have a chance to be whole. I’ve been walking on crutches so long that my legs have atrophied, and my emotions might have done the same thing and just given up. Sometimes life feels like a pale and grey facsimile of itself, and I am just a reflection, a shadow cast from the boy who walked around the block and listened to music and made music videos in his head.

I wish I could talk to him and give him a hug, tell him I love him, and that I admire him, and that I aspire to be who I remember I was when I was him.

I mostly drive now, instead of walking. I didn’t have a license then. I don’t know what driving would have been like for me. I wish I could take him for a drive.

I wish I could feel the way I did, I wish I could try it all again and do things differently, I wish I’d been born to a loving family where I’m welcome and encouraged and appreciated, I wish the cow was full of milk, I wish the house was full of gold, I wish a lot of things.

I wish I could end this with something happy. I wish I wasn’t such a miserable sod who probably depresses anyone who reads my writing. I wish that someone would love my writing and my music and help me grow and take me away into a happier world where I just know I can see all the things I’ve been waiting for.

I made it through the sickness, the black despair of lying in the hospital bed for ten hours, and the scar on my arm from the IV needle still hasn’t faded entirely. I reorganized my room today. I’m sitting in front of a television in my room in a chair that wasn’t here before. There’s a new book sitting on my bed. There are things to do tomorrow.

There’s a friend I love who I want to ask to be my boyfriend, because I’m saddened by the thought of meeting someone else. I don’t know if it’s a functional kind of love or just more dysfunction from me, because really, when have I ever understood how to treat anyone with decency, much less myself?

I feel so much shame for the person I have been and the things I’ve said and done to people and the thoughts I’ve thought at night alone and the wishes I’ve had. I feel so weary at how heavy everything is and wish I could just try again, start again from the boy who felt so much so fully. I wish I could be a good enough, sound enough, stable enough person to know what a relationship is and how to enjoy one or experience one or be a good boyfriend to someone else or a good friend or a good lover.

I believe I have so much potential, and I also believe that right now there is a foggy cloud of confusion and pain and numbness around my head that makes it hard to see anyone through the blur.

I believe I’m still worthy of love, and that I should still try anyway.

My ex-boyfriend, not the mean one I talked about at the beginning of this post, but another one from later, one who I really loved and respected but who just didn’t work out, we’ve stayed friends through the internet since we broke up three years ago. Three years together, three years apart. I made a new Facebook account and he didn’t accept my friend request. I checked Instagram and he removed me from his friends there. I sent him a message from my old account and he read but didn’t reply.

I don’t blame him and I’m not mad at him. But it hurts. It’s sad.

I’ve always wished I could just kiss him one more time, to say I’m sorry and try to fix it all, even if it can’t be fixed, but just to do it for the sake of doing it, and for the fun of it. I always hoped I would kiss him again someday.

Now I have to accept that that might not ever happen. What if I never hear his voice again for the rest of my life? When I was laying in the hospital bed, I thought only of two people: the person I love the most, and him. I made voice messages to them telling them how important they’ve been to me and how much I love them.

Does he know how much I still love him and how much I treasure every memory that touches anything related to him? That there’s never a time when I see something related to the Legend of Zelda and he doesn’t cross my mind? That I still think of him when I hear the line in Into the Woods, “Sometimes people leave you halfway through the wood.”

I love you, Nate.

I’m glad we gave it a try.

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I’m Exhausted

I’m exhausted. I was angry, then a little time went by and I became exhausted. There are so many things on my mind. So many things swirling around in my heart and making me feel sad, and scared, and alone.

I’m angry first and foremost because I haven’t taken my medication today. I can take it and I will, but not until I’ve written this. I’m angry about the medication too. I’m angry that I need it, that I can’t go out in public without being medicated or else I’m overcome by anxiety that simply has no cure.

You can’t think your way out of the anxiety, you can’t be optimistic and hope yourself out, it JUST. DOESN’T. GO. AWAY. You wake up and you do yoga and you exercise and eat a healthy meal and try your best to smile, but still, when you get to work, you start having an anxiety attack and absolutely nothing you do can change that, and the worst part is you know this isn’t just a temporary thing, it’s going to happen again tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that and there is nothing anyone can do to take away this ghost inside you that makes you terrified every day of your life.

I’m upset because I’ll be out of medication in a month or so, and while that is time to find a new doctor, I don’t have health insurance, I was rejected for Medicaid, I don’t know where to try and find a doctor in this state, and I have no money anyway. I already have to pay out of pocket for my prescriptions and while they used to be about $15 each, they’ve shot up to $100+, meaning that I have to have them filled in increments of fourteen days between paychecks. And on top of that, my meds don’t even DO ANYTHING anymore. One of them is an antidepressant and it works moderately well, but the other one is for me to take when I have panic attacks to relieve them, and it does literally nothing. The worst thing is, I can’t stop taking it, because when I stop taking it I get EXTRA anxiety, so I have to keep taking a useless pill that isn’t good for me just because my body can’t go without it.

I haven’t been under a doctor’s care in a year, and it’s been about a year since I was told I have type 2 diabetes. It’s never been managed by a doctor. Who knows what kind of things could be wrong with me, I’m just screwed because I don’t have a doctor, my job will eventually give me insurance (and god knows how much they’ll charge me), but it might not be for a while, and what do I do in the meantime? Worry is what I do, just worry, nothing else, because there’s not much else I can do.

I don’t make enough money. I work almost every single day, fairly long shifts, seven or eight hours each. I spend all of my time at work, and when I get home I relax for a couple of hours and go to sleep, and go right back to work. And yet I STILL never have any money. I pay my very cheap rent, then my car insurance, my phone, and get groceries and gas and I’m done, that’s the whole paycheck. And I only get paid every two weeks. I make nine dollars an hour, that it just simply not enough money to survive on.

I’m angry because every single day I say I’m going to write and most days I don’t. The reason is because I put so much pressure on myself to do it, but there’s nothing I can do to change that, I can’t make myself write by NOT putting pressure on myself, can I? And I write things that I care about all the time on Facebook, things that I want to say, but once I’ve said them on Facebook I never say them here. And I don’t write my novel either, even though I spend every single day thinking about it, and I have years worth of notes piling up on ideas for the story, and I continue to take more every single day. I have several lists of blog topics that never get written. I have so much to say and I just can’t make myself say it. I get too intimidated, I know sometimes what I have to say is going to be crappy or not well-written, and I choke, and I don’t write it.

I want to write a review of the new Evanescence album, I’ve had notes written down for it for three weeks, and I still haven’t written anything. Every time I take my computer and go to Starbucks and sit down to write, I just end up downloading music and watching Youtube videos, I never do any writing.

I’m mad because I don’t truly understand how to play the piano, even though I’m a really good piano player and I’m mostly self-taught, but I hit so many walls. I study other people’s songs, the way they structure their chords, and I notice more and more that I’ve become stuck in my own style, and everything has became the same when I play it, a unique song loses it’s uniqueness when I play it my way because my way is predictable and I know how I’ll play it. I try and scan the piano for a chord I don’t usually play, but when I try to find a progression it’s just the same thing, the same way of playing, the same thing in a different key. Whenever I try to come up with an original musical idea, I realize I’ve just stolen it from another song.

I’m mad because even though I have mountains of notes, poems, scenes, and outlines written, I still don’t have much to show for all the things I’ve created. It’s all just notes, sitting around. I’m mad because I still don’t have anything decent to record with, just using my phone or my old USB mic. I’m mad because I’m twenty seven, almost twenty eight, and I’ve still done nothing with my life. I’m not a writer or a musician yet. I’m still just some kid living in his mom’s house.

But now that I’m getting older, certain aspects of my personality are disturbing to me. I’m incredibly sexual, and that used to make me think I was cute and kinky, now it makes me think I’m turning into an old perverted creep. I’m somewhat contrarian, and I used to think I had a fresh perspective because I tried to see different sides of an issue, but now it makes me think that I’m just an attention seeking troublemaker who doesn’t have anything valuable to say. I used to be able to deal with my guilt and shame over my kinks and my fears and my trauma, and now I feel so weighed down by it all that I don’t know how to keep living.

I am still stuck. I am still in a bedroom in my mom’s house, playing Final Fantasy VII and eating chips. That’s what I did when I was eleven, and it’s what I’m doing now.

I’ve gotten so fat. I have diabetes now because of it. I have two chins, I have stretch marks all over my body, I get exhausted just from walking. I can’t fucking stand it when people tell me I should just accept myself and love my body, because the fact that I’m fat and unhealthy is a PROBLEM, and I wish my friends would say something like “I believe you can get healthy and get in shape,” rather than acting like I have actually done something offensive by feeling guilty for mistreating my body. I’m angry that I can’t lose weight. I’m angry that I don’t know where to begin. I feel so stupid that I’m almost thirty and I don’t really know how to cook or what to make for food.

I feel so unprepared for everything. I feel like such a failure.

I’m scared because I live in a country that gets more and more terrifying every day. I’ve never even wanted to be in America, I always wanted to be in Canada or England, but I’m stuck here, and I’m afraid. I hate this country in so many ways. I hate it’s culture, I hate it’s politics, I hate it’s education system, I hate the way it treats people, I hate it’s religiosity and Christianity and homophobia and racism. I don’t want to be here. I also don’t want to be in a worse place, like a third-world country, but still I feel I have the right to be honest and say I’m terrified of this country and I wish I lived in a better one. I do not for one moment believe this is the greatest country in the world, far from it.

Above all else, I feel alone. So alone. I’ve felt alone for so long now. So long it’s unbearable, it’s excruciating to be so alone. I remember when I was fourteen and laying in bed, and all I wanted in the world was a boy next to me, someone to kiss and fuck and hold and feel safe and happy with. And I still don’t have that. I don’t even have friends who can fill in the gap by being my fuck buddies. I’m still alone. My long-distance boyfriend in England broke up with a couple of weeks ago. I understand why he did it and I felt relieved in some ways, but sad too, and now I’m just reminded of how alone I am, and it makes me feel bitter and disappointed.

So now I’m going to take my medicine, I’m going to play Final Fantasy VII, and I guess soon after I’ll go to bed. Maybe tomorrow I won’t be so mad. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do something that makes me feel proud. Tonight this is all I can do.

Why I Love Kesha

My relationship to Kesha is a curious one. She appeared at a weird time in my life.

On the surface, Kesha seems to be everything I hate about pop music: trite unoriginal pop songs with simple melodies and attention-grabbing hooks but otherwise little substance, cliche or vapid childlike lyrics, shallow subject matter that deals only with partying, sex, vague relationship woes, and verse-rap bragging peppered in between overly-synthesized and overproduced electro pop that is substantive enough to be entertaining but not enough to be unique, and lackluster vocals that are autotuned to the point that no one could have seriously thought the artist was ever really a decent vocalist to begin with in the first place.

I get that. I get the problems with Kesha. I get the reasons that people don’t like her. The above paragraph might lead you to believe I can’t stand her, but curiously nothing could be farther from the truth.

I started out hating her for all of the reasons mentioned above. Like everyone else on planet Earth in 2009, I too was subjected to endless repetitions of her breakout single Tik Tok on the radio, and like everyone else I was annoyed by it’s vapidity but secretly just a little bit entertained by it. But really, I genuinely didn’t like her. She sounded plain trashy. She clearly looked like a hot mess. Her aesthetic has always been “rave girl who hasn’t showered in several weeks and rolled around in garbage and glitter.”

But the truth is, Kesha is not what she appears to be. And the weird thing about is, she isn’t the OPPOSITE of what she appears to be either. She makes frivolous pop music, and she MEANS to do it, she means what she’s saying. She WANTS to be a pop star, and she isn’t making pop music ironically to try and expose the flaws in the medium. The pop music she’s making is genuine.

There are a group of listeners who consider Kesha to be another drop in the bucket, overly-autotuned pop singer cranking out tunes mostly made by producers, with little talent for songwriting or for singing. This is not the case. Kesha isn’t vapid or dumb. She’s incredibly intelligent, she has a genius IQ and received nearly perfect SAT scores. She’s driven and passionate and knows what she’s doing. However, don’t let that lead you to believe that Kesha is in fact an architect and student of Victorian literature whose lifelong art project has been to deconstruct the mythos of the pop star by playing one, laughing pretentiously in her study at night over a glass of sherry at plebeian pop fans who’ve bought into her charade.

The thing that makes Kesha unique among a slew of pop stars is the fact that she’s entirely authentic.

She comes from a humble background. In a life story that seems almost too perfectly fitting with her dirty rave girl aesthetic to be true, Kesha’s mother got incredibly drunk at a party and doesn’t remember the hookup that led to her becoming pregnant, and nine months later gave birth to Kesha Rose Sebert without the slightest idea (or worry) about who the father was. Kesha was raised by her single mother, a wonderful hippie songwriter called Pebe, and together with her brothers the family seems to have lived in an open, accepting home environment. Kesha definitely has hippie elements in her personality, and she speaks with a gentle slur that makes it sound like she’s always intoxicated, and a Californian accent that immediately calls to mind the movie Heather. I think. I’ve never seen Heather. Moving on.

Kesha moved to Nashville to become a musician, and spent many years writing her first album Animal. She made a lot of friends in the business, including fellow newcomer Katy Perry, and her first major role in the pop world wasn’t in her own song but as an extra in Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl music video. Go watch the video and near the end there are several sexy blonde girls sitting around a pool with Katy, and there she is, she even has her own close up shot for a moment. Kesha also wrote songs for many other musicians while working on her first album. The first song to put her on the map was Flo Rida’s “Right Round,” a simplistic and artless reworking of the classic song You Spin Me Round by Dead Or Alive into a sugary pop-rap tune with almost no substance whatsoever. When Flo Rida was working on the song, he decided he wanted to try out having a female vocalist on the chorus, and Kesha was working nearby in the same studio, so she was pulled in and recorded some vocals for the chorus. Because of some legalities, or the absence thereof, when Right Round became a worldwide smash hit, Kesha received absolutely no royalties for the song, and continued to live the life of a starving artist scraping to get by, while her voice was playing on every radio in the country and she remained unknown and unpaid.

This is where the infamous dollar sign in her name comes from. Her name is almost always stylized as Ke$ha, leading to some cute jokes in which people pronounce her name Kee Dollar Sign Hah, but it was conceived as a joke about the irony of the circumstance Kesha found herself in: everyone would assume she was rich, being in a worldwide hit single, but she got cheated out of any share of the money. As time would tell, she was cheated out of a lot by the music industry and the shady characters therein, and I’ll come back to that in a bit.

So, enter me. A ninenteen year old gay kid living in the south, struggling desperately to deal with a tumultuous life, and just coming out of a rather powerful bout of Christian zeal. I spent about a year of my life completely devoting my time and energy to being a Christian, and I took it very seriously, and I even achieved some small level of peace, but ultimately I realized it was a coping mechanism, and this time when I came out of Christianity I left it behind for good.

I was fairly aimless at the time. I’d hated school my whole life, and I’d graduated a year earlier. I did not want to go to college because I just hated school and didn’t want to experience any more of it, but I didn’t want to work either, both because I hate the tedium of boring and strenuous minimum wage jobs, and because I’ve been dealing with debilitating anxiety since I was sixteen, complete with rolling panic attacks that for all intents and purposes never really end or begin, but just go on forever. I wasn’t medicated whatsoever at the time, and I was struggling with severe agoraphobia that was developing in my life.

I was in a relationship that was both abusive and incredibly unsatisfying. I was entirely aimless, I was sad, I was lonely, I was horny, and I was frustrated in every possible way. Spiritually, sexually, emotionally, and mentally, I was frustrated to a breaking point. But I’d never had any suicidal tendencies (yet, that would come later) and never self-harmed, so I had no outlet, no real way to truly break down.

My boyfriend and I took a trip to Virginia and spent the night at some friends’ house. These friends happened to be another gay couple, and they threw a party which involved two more gay couples. One of those couples left once the drinks started flowing, leading to there being a grand total of six of us in the house. We got drunk, we got horny, and I, having never actually been drunk before, was eager to use the “oh it’s my first time being intoxicated” excuse to put as many dicks in my mouth as I could before everyone started to say no.

Does that sound a little rapey? It probably does. I can’t say I was in a good state of mind.

At any rate, there was a lot of sexual activity that night between just about everyone, pairing off for a few minutes with one another at different points. The radio was on, and Kesha’s hit single Tik Tok was booming through the house and I put my tongue into several orifices of several guys, and then spent the night in a cuddle sandwich with my boyfriend and one of the others who had broken away from the pack and basically let us fondle him the entire night.

All in all, it was pretty fun.

The next morning I had something of a hangover, which is honestly quite rare for me.

On the way home, Tik Tok was playing on the radio.

I don’t know why, I don’t understand it, but suddenly, I just got it. I enjoyed it. I had fun with that song. It was great. I didn’t want to stop listening to it.

Now, I know it sounds more like a joke than a real story: I never really liked Kesha until I participated in a drunken six-way gay orgy with some delightfully Virginian, slightly trashy gay guys. But it happens to be true.

When I got home the following day I honestly felt like I was still drunk. I sat in my bedroom, my head swimming, and looked up Kesha on iTunes, listened to the samples from Animal and read some of the reviews. I was disheartened. The reviewers were all mostly saying the same thing: the music was samey and average, the lyrics were so juvenile they sounded like they were ripped from the diary of a sixth grader dealing with boyfriend drama for the first time, and her singing voice was terrible and autotuned to the point of ludicrousness. I agreed with all of these assessments and quickly decided that Tik Tok was in fact a guilty pleasure, and that in general I still disliked Kesha.

But I couldn’t quite get that song out of my head.

My dysfunctional relationship progressed, as did my anxiety. I dove headlong into a Tori Amos phase from which I have never resurfaced, and mostly forgot about Kesha. I did torrent Animal at one point and gave it another cursory listen but I wasn’t terribly impressed. I fell in love with Imogen Heap, Florecne and the Machine, and many others, and continued to keep Kesha mostly out of my mind. When I finally broke up with the aforementioned boyfriend it happened to be right at the same time that my agoraphobia and anxiety had gotten so bad that I’d developed the curious symptom of alternating between sharp pains on the entire life side of my body or being completely numb in the same places. I was finally put on medication, and like magic, my panic attacks just disappeared. I was riding the first wave of stimulants I’d ever experienced, since I’d never done any kind of drugs before, and I was riding high on the antidepressants which elevated my mood and let me have gloriously peaceful and undisturbed sleep at regular intervals, and the relief and freedom of being done with an abusive relationship and having the freedom to love and to fuck whoever I wanted, provided I could find someone.

It was then that Kesha returned.

I don’t exactly remember what caused it. I just remember being high on my antidepressants, feeling adventurous and excited about going to gay clubs and finally getting my young adult life started, and I went back to those downloaded audio files from Animal, and turned them on, and I became completely hooked.

I listened to Animal front to back, non-stop, for several weeks. I didn’t listen to almost anything else. I fell absolutely in love with the music and started to learn a little more about Kesha. I still understood a lot of the complaints: some of the lyrics were trite, but there were also a lot of hidden gems that you wouldn’t have guessed existed. Tik Tok and Take It Off were big hits all about partying, but other songs on the album lamented the darker aspects of being a party girl, of trying to find solace in living in the moment and enjoying the night as much as possible because it’s all you truly have. Hungover, Blind, Animal, and Dancing With Tears In My Eyes are all very emotional songs about the loss of love and the difficulty of trying to live day to day in a haze of partying. There’s a longing in these songs for something, an emptiness, and a willingness to be up front about the good and the bad, to be unapologetic about sex and fun and relationships, to call things like the way they are.

My little sister joined me on this adventure and loved listening to Kesha with me, and was actually nice enough to buy me a physical copy of Animal with some money she’d been given, which I still have. Later on, when Kesha started to release singles for Animal’s companion EP Cannibal, I downloaded them all as they were released and ordered a copy of the two combined into one two-disc album (Animal + Cannibal) that came with a cute little “K$” temporary tattoo which I intended to put on my cheek at my first concert, and which I have still never used but remains in the case. When I attended my first real concert last year, the Dresden Dolls at Coney Island, I was sad when I realized I’d forgotten to bring along my Kesha tattoo for my first concert. But at least I still remembered. That’s something.

The companion EP Cannibal was a great nine-track romp that fit the atmosphere of Animal perfectly while managing to expand on it. The songs were still about partying and having fun authentically and unapologetically, but there was a song called The Harold Song which absolutely broke my heart and still continues to be one of my favorite songs. It’s a beautiful and melancholy song about the loss of love that really affected me at the time because I was dealing with a terrible breakup, and this song was a companion in that pain and darkness for me. At first I thought that Cannibal deliberately mirrored the songs on Animal (Grow A Pear has a chorus very similar to Tik Tok, elements of Tik Tok are incorporated into Cannibal, Animal itself is included as the last song in remixed form, and many other songs seem to borrow elements of songs directly from Animal), and I’m still not sure if it was done intentionally or if the song structures were just all very similar and working from the same pop framework.

Kesha is honest and authentic, and I think that that’s what makes her special. I think this is also the reason that people like Kanye West, but I just can’t bring myself to think that guy is anything but a self-absorbed douche. Kesha delivers pop cliches with a slight wink because she knows it’s cliche, but she’s doing it authentically. And she isn’t a bad vocalist either. The thing that confused me the most about Animal was the fact that Kesha’s voice is very unnecessarily autotuned in many of the songs.

Kesha is an incredibly prolific songwriter, and there are literally more than a hundred demos for Animal that never made it onto the album. One song, a completely acoustic breakup song called Goodbye, is a really great glimpse into an unfiltered Kesha with all of the pop trapping stripped away: her voice is soulful and unique, and her intonation is similar to Alanis Morissette. Her vocal ability is surprising, it doesn’t completely blow you away, but it’s not at all what you’d expect after hearing so much autotune and vocal effects on her album. She also released another EP between Cannibal and her second album Warrior called Deconstructed, which contains simplified emotional mixes of several of her songs, including The Harold Song, with her vocal ability really put on full display.

I still don’t really understand why she chose to allow herself to be autotuned so much when she didn’t really need it, although considering the dynamic between herself and her producer Dr. Luke that came to light later, it’s not difficult to imagine that maybe he made the decision for her. I don’t really know.

And with that we come to Dr. Luke. Kesha came forward and filed a lawsuit against Dr. Luke for raping her, and for abusing her. I don’t really know if there was physical abuse, and I’m not going to look it up. The thing is, I’ve purposely avoided learning the details of this lawsuit. Kesha’s entire career came to a halt because under her contract she was unable to release any music unless she dropped the lawsuit against Dr. Luke, and he vehemently denied ever having abused her, despite many other women in the music industry coming forward to say they’d suffered abuse at his hands as well. Honestly, my heart was just too broken for Kesha to read the details. I couldn’t handle it. I was having a hard enough time holding my own life together, and to know that someone who I had come to greatly admire and respect had been hurt so badly, and who was being treated unfairly by an unfeeling system, it was too hard. It’s why I still don’t know all the details. I do know that eventually Kesha was forced to drop the lawsuit so she could continue to make music, but I still don’t know many more details. I know that during her absence she appeared at a few live events, and at one of them gave an incredible performance of When It Happens To You by Lady Gaga, a song about surviving rape.

Kesha also briefly had her own reality show which I watched the majority of online and greatly enjoyed. It really showed her beautiful personality, and the general carefree and honest way in which she lives her life. It made me smile to watch it, and it gave me hope.

I used to have this poster on my wall, and alongside the topless poster of Lady Gaga, I imagine that anyone looking at my room was probably really confused about my sexuality

Kesha inspires me. Her strength, her dignity, her willingness to create. There was a moment during Kesha’s reality show where her little brother was attempting to write a song, and she was giving him writing advice. The advice was this: “You have to be willing to let yourself suck.” As a musician and a writer, this has been one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever absorbed. What she meant was that when you start out at anything, you’re not going to be incredible. With drawing, composing music, or writing, you start out as a novice, and even your best, most polished efforts, are still going to be less than perfect. You’ll probably experience a few flashes of incredible creativity and accidentally stumble upon expressing yourself honestly and with style, but you have to be willing to let yourself create something that is less than perfect. Kesha’s hundreds of demos are a testament to that. Many of those songs are not that great, but they’re all honest and authentic, and that’s the thing about Kesha that I admire so much.

You have to be willing to let yourself suck. You have to be willing to create whatever is in your heart, and sometimes it’s not going to be great, but you have to be willing to do it. Lady Gaga has said something somewhat similar, which is “You have to respect your vomit.” She was referring to one of her songs, and about how the lyrics come in a rush, and she just word vomits them out, and that she then chooses to respect her vomit, respect those words for being authentic and in the moment. This proverb doesn’t inspire me quite as much but it’s worth mentioning in conjunction with Kesha’s advice from above.

And so, in a surprising twist, I ended up loving an artist who I thought represented everything I hated about manufactured pop music. While, yes, the element of pop manufacturing is there, Kesha’s honesty and brazen authenticity still shines through, and even though some of her songs are a bit cliche, her music is a surprise. Her personality is a surprise. Everything about her is a surprise, if you assume that the dirty glitter party girl you see on the cover is as shallow as her surroundings suggest. I don’t know how much irony she injects into her style, but Kesha is a worthwhile person and a worthwhile musician. She’s an activist for animal rights, she loves the gay community and has immense appreciation for her fans, and she approaches life with the kind and passive attitude of a hippie but the fortitude of a revolutionary. Her voice is real and true, even though there’s sometimes a layer of autotune.