By Zac Lomas
I don’t know if it’s just the punk circles that I populate, but my friends and I say the word “fam” a lot. We use it as both a singular and a plural noun and half the time it’s ostensibly nonsense. However – whether we use it as trendy ironic slang or not – there’s a certain coincidental truth to our love of the word “fam.” At its heart, “fam,” (as one can guess) means family, and in many ways that is what the punk community I belong to has become – my family.
In my last blog I touched on my foray into yoga and its connections to my own musical identity –necessitated by physical education requirements and my overwhelming urge to graduate college. Update: I did it. However, as I spent one last weekend at my now alma mater, Colgate University, I realized that none of that was possible without an adopted second family that, you guessed it, revolved around music.
Throughout my first two years at Colgate I didn’t have many friends or outlets for social interaction. I was a pariah and not of my own accord. I struggled with depression, loneliness, and the frightening belief that nobody understood who I was and what I stood for. I spent many nights contemplating a transfer to a school where I might fit in better and, ultimately, be happy. But each time I thought about walking into the admissions building and filling out that paperwork I remembered that small series of rooms tucked into the basement of our student union – WRCU, our school’s radio station.
Like any good music lover, I made WRCU my first stop upon going to Colgate – quite literally. My initial taste of first year life was WRCU’s pre-orientation program, which focused on introducing us naïve children to campus life and, of course, college radio. From the minute I sat down in the broadcast booth, clicked on the microphone, and felt the electricity of sharing one’s passion for music with the world (or at the very least the greater Hamilton, New York community) I was hooked. But it wasn’t the sheer experience of being on air that truly made WRCU a safe haven for me; it was the community that I joined – it was my new music-loving family.
I spent hours reviewing the latest indie adds before they went on rotation with our music director, becoming a magnet for anything that he deemed to be evenly remotely punk. I spent late nights in the program director’s office attempting to read The Odyssey and instead bonding over classic rock with my perpetually “vintage” friend, Ian. I would routinely sit in on a barber shop radio show hosted by one of WRCU’s seniors, learning minutiae about a genre of music I had never taken seriously until that point. Most importantly, however, I bonded with my academic adviser, Professor Michael Coyle, about our shared love of punk.
In many ways Professor Coyle was my secondary father during my time at Colgate, or at the very least the cool uncle who listens to avant-garde jazz. Professor Coyle not only encouraged me to experiment with new music, but he invited me into his home – into his own small family – and made me feel like I had a place of my own on campus. By the time I graduated in the middle of May I was not only on the same trivia team as his partner, but a regular at his house during nights spent listening to music, playing dominoes, and sarcastically mocking everyone’s favorite bands.
Professor Coyle and the WRCU family I joined during my time at Colgate offered me a release from my depression and loneliness in an almost incomparable way. Without that family I do not know where I’d be right now and I doubt I’d be nearly as happy and content with my life as I am right now.
At its core, music is a communal experience – it’s about being part of something greater than oneself and celebrating the beauty of patterned sound with similar people. This musical truth is why I believe that the relationships formed through a shared love of music are so strong and offer such cathartic benefits. I can routinely count on my musical family to support me, understand me, and challenge me to grow in ways that I’m not sure my true family could ever grasp and I am thankful to have that multitude of friends and loved ones behind me throughout all the obstacles life places before me.
However, I know that not everyone has built that family yet and I know that my struggles as a cisgender, heterosexual male often pale in comparison to those of the LGBTQ youth that share my love for music. My musical family saved my life and the least I can do is to return that favor, to pay that forward to all the people out there struggling and buckling under the pressure of life. We may not live in the city or enjoy the same types of music, but consider this my open invitation to everyone join the Punk Out “fam.” I think I speak for the entirety of Team Punk Out when I say that everyone deserves to have a musical family to support on their best and worst days.
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