In my MFA thesis* I wrote a chapter about “Kid A” by Radiohead, and how when it first came out it made me furious. I love rock music, and I wanted another Radiohead rock album, and this wasn’t it. I wanted stuff I could put on in my ridiculous car and play loud with the windows down while I drove around my college town at night by myself. In the essay, I wrote about how my furiousness was really about the fact I was getting older, I wasn’t a teenager anymore, and my ridiculous teenager’s car was ridiculous, and my life was ridiculous, and really I just wanted it to stay 1997 forever where my biggest worry was algebra.
I won’t rehash that essay here more, but I have something to add to it. If I’d not been who I was then, then I couldn’t have enjoyed “Kid A” later, in 2003, when I really needed it. In 2000 I was a junior in college at a big state school, in the journalism college (in that split-second moment where people were starting to think the internet was going to do wonderful/dangerous things to journalism but didn’t quite know exactly what/how). I was too far along to quit, but I didn’t know at all what I could do. I didn’t at all know what I wanted, because I had absolutely no idea what I was good at. I hadn’t tried anything except high school and then journalism, and journalism is just telling people what happened. It isn’t expression or interpretation or explanation, it’s just narrative and the material is dictated. You just copy it down.
In 2003 I was at art college, and was taking three elective classes in studio art in three different programs—graphic design, bookbinding and painting—I’d never attempted before. I had zero experience in studio art. I was working as the news editor of the college newspaper, and DJing and as promotions director for the college radio station. I lived in a beautiful garden apartment in a Victorian house in Savannah. And I was happy.
Just that I would even attempt the coursework, and the hours of effort and practice to get good enough at doing it just to accomplish the work for the classes, plus the extracurricular stuff, plus I probably had a better social life then than almost any other time of my life. I was constantly amazed at myself. I didn’t give up. I worked my ass off. I got straight As. (I did lose part of a finger though in a tragic utility-knife accident, but no big deal.)
I’d never thought I could do art; I never thought I could hone a craft-skill to a good-enough level and then simultaneously have something good enough to express with it. That I could try it, and that I could try it in such a wholehearted way, was an incredible chance to take, and I did. I chose to do the hardest things.
And when I’d come home, tired and sweaty and hunched over, I’d lie on the beautiful wood floor of my apartment and put “Kid A” on and just zone out. In “In Limbo,” Thom Yorke sings “You’re living in a fantasy world.” I was.
So, now, “Kid A” has this nostalgic*** quality for me. I’m nostalgic for a time in my life where I thought for just a short time that I had something to say, and that it was worth saying. And when I listen to it, sometimes I cry a little for that feeling because I miss it so much and I may never have it again.
*I think everybody/anybody who begins anything with “in my thesis” should be punched in the face. Especially in something as self-indulgent as a blog post. Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes**
**I didn’t write that. Walt Whitman did, and he’s a much better writer than I am.
***You probably know this, but the Greek root words for the word “nostalgia” mean “homecoming” and “ache.” Whoever picked that out was a genius.