By Zac Lomas
Exams, papers, group projects, and labs; these are the traditional roadblocks separating undergrads from that oft-elusive diploma. But not for me, no, I let something much more mundane stand in my way: PE credit. That’s right, people. Like many other college students around the nation I need two Physical Education credits to graduate from my school – Colgate University.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to physical activity. In fact, I’ve been playing hockey since I was three years old and a stint with Colgate’s club hockey team secured my first PE credit. But the second one just slipped onto the back burner as I became increasingly more involved with college radio, writing, and every so often schoolwork.
So, as I entered my last semester at college I knew I had to suck it up and take a PE course. Logic would have led me to a spinning class due to my passion for cycling, but the adventurer in me said no. Instead, I was determined to step out of my comfort zone and take . . . yoga.
After three weeks of yoga class I am most certainly uncomfortable; my muscles ache, it hurts to walk up and down stairs, and I’m almost positive that any abdominal muscles I might have had no longer exist. However, an epiphany struck me last week during one of these classes as I contemplated how I was experimenting with new and unfamiliar experiences. Yes, my body was continually sore, but at the same time I was improving myself – I was growing.
Of course, my immediate reaction to this thought was to relate it back to music. I’ve grown up and matured in Buffalo, NY’s punk scene. I’ve cried my eyes out to emo jams during my lonely first year at college. I’ve screamed pop-punk songs out of my car window and into the ether of a cool summer night more times than I can count. All these experiences defined and continue to define who I am as a person, but they also created a shell, a musical safety net that I can hide in. My foray into yoga helped me realize that it is not enough just to stretch my muscles, but also to stretch my ears.
It’s easy to get caught in this trap, to reach a place where you are content with your taste in music. You scroll through your iPod or Spotify playlists and think to yourself: “Damn, I’ve got great taste in music.” I’m 100% guilty of this and although we may take pride in our taste, I think this complacency is a trapping that holds us down, rather than lifts us up.
For most people perusing Punk Out, music is not only a hobby or a passion, but rather an inextricable part of their identity. However, one often forgets that identities are not a static entity. Identities are dynamic, fluid, and changing. They evolve with time and if nurtured properly grow to become something even more beautiful and even more alive. We are all constant works in progress and our musical identities ought to mirror this progress.
One of my favorite philosophers, German existentialist Friedrich Nietzsche, asserts that one does not find themselves, but rather creates themselves. I tend to agree with Nietzsche on this point, especially within the context of musical identity. For the longest time I utterly despised rap & hip-hop because I felt it was the antithesis of my beloved punk rock, which, of course, represented everything that I stood for.
However, what I failed to realize was that my punk rock identity wasn’t something assigned to me from the heavens, but something I had decided on a long time ago. I had made a definitive choice to love punk and everything that came with it because it made me so happy, but in doing so I completely overlooked my ability to listen to, love, or experiment with any other diverse genres of music. I pigeonholed myself as the “punk guy” and that was that.
Thankfully, this didn’t last too long and just like my yoga adventure I began to try new things, step out of my comfort zone, and continue forging an ever-evolving musical identity. I cast aside the negative stigma I had associated with rap and started exploring classic artists such as Nas, MF Doom, and A Tribe Called Quest. Run the Jewels released one of my favorite albums of 2014 and have threatened to blow out my car’s speakers on more than one occasion.
It’s not only rap that I’ve infused into my musical identity. As General Manager of Colgate University’s radio station, WRCU 90.1 FM, I’ve spent my time around indie-lovers of all varieties and in doing so, I have fallen in love with Ingrid Michaelson, Death Cab For Cutie, and Built To Spill. I will even acknowledge that The All-About, the synth-pop project of former WRCU Music Director Zac Coe, is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
However, I’m not writing this article to tout my musical taste over yours, but rather to encourage you all to try some musical yoga. Yes, we may have slip-mats instead of yoga-mats, but we can still stretch our ears past their limits and try something new on for size. We all have the freedom to discover new music and forge into our identities and I urge you all to do this; fill your ears with something you’ve never heard before, something so violently fresh it knocks you back onto your bed and makes you just appreciate its beauty. But most importantly, let the music you love speak to your identity, your passions, and your beliefs. You don’t need a music scene to tell you who you are. You are the only person who gets to define what it means to be you.
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