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A sad story ep 5/8: Hitting the ground

Chapter 5: Hitting the Ground

* From this point on I shall refer to my old town as Satan’s Dustbin. Because I can, now read on.

Mid 2004 I ended up falling back into Satan’s Dustbin, unemployed and looking for an alibi to explain to the fake friends why I’d still be there after the mid year varsity break ended. I’d be exposed, which was in about a month’s time. I wanted to run I wanted to hide and most of all I wanted to die.

My parents had exhausted my college fund on my studies in Cape town and so now I had no shot at a further education, which wouldn’t have helped in any case because I knew I had based important life decisions on the evaluation of others up until now. I especially didn’t want to get a job out of fear of being locked into another fixed identity and I had just recovered from serious symptoms of PTSD and burn out, it was way too soon.

The truth - that the last 6 years had been a lie and I was right back here where I started, here, to sift through the wreckage – was a hard pill to swallow, just like the white pills the psychiatrist had given me.

The night my parents dragged me to an old school friends 21st party, I couldn’t lie about when I was going back to Cape Town and luckily that’s all I managed to blurt out, my reply to: “So when you going back to Cape Town?” was,” I’m not, I decided not to carry on studying Architecture.” The fake friend Gary who’d asked me that, told me a story about how his one friend was in hospital after a car crash and may lose some of his brain function. I asked why he told me that, to which he replied, “I wanted to share a sad story as well.” I knew it was a matter of time before I couldn’t hide from the others either.

Mid year break came to an end and all the people that had to leave town to study, left. All I had left, was to try and stay low and not let anyone see me so that they might think I’d moved on even though some fake friends knew I wasn’t going back to Cape Town, not all of them knew and might think that I got into something else somewhere. As long as they knew I wasn’t at home all the time. I made my brothers lie for me when some came, saying I was out, and didn’t know where. I didn’t answer my phone either.

When a fake friend did catch me at home, usually during day, if I wasn’t at a therapy session, they never questioned why I didn’t answer their calls or where I was when my brothers said I wasn’t there or even why I was at home - This is just a taste of the extent of their fakeness.

But they came to my house bugging me to join them for something like wasting my time going for a few beers or playing golf or going out on a Saturday night to see people I didn’t want to see. I really wished they would just leave me alone so that I could figure things out for myself, but I was too s*** scared to tell them off each time.

I didn’t know who I was, I only knew who I was not and I was not cool with being apart of the fake friends circle anymore.

It was September 2004 and after a fake friend’s 21st party out of town that I was dragged to, while everyone else was sleeping and I was still awake at 4am in the morning, I reflected for a while and thoughts come through the haze of the antidepressants and alcohol, “How have the meds really helped you? Could this insomnia be a side effect?”

The meds hadn’t helped me so far and it had been almost 8 months, a white pill hadn’t taught me anything or given me any confidence, what would be so bad about dropping them? So when I got back to Satan’s Dustbin I did. And the side effect of insomnia eventually lifted. That was the most positive thing I felt I had done for myself that year, as I didn’t need to see the psychiatrist anymore, I wanted a psychologist to help teach me how to deal with my life. I felt some comfort that my thoughts and personality were now untainted by medication.

There was only one worthwhile psychologist in Satan’s Dustbin, after seeing Dr. H for psychological therapy, where we basically read from my memoir, he didn’t want to read it to the end himself, like my psychiatrist had done, but instead chose to read passages from it each time we had a session together. I was starting to suspect something about Dr. H and our sessions together but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it yet.

Before the end of 2004, I decided I’d pursue acting as a career the following year. That would be my next move on the path out of mediocrity and Satan’s Dustbin. After my last session of the year with Dr H. where I pretended I was a celebrity on the interview couch and he was the interviewer I explained how I’d basically been playing a role since high school, why not make a career out of my chameleon ability? He agreed.

2005. I looked for the safest possible way to get to the success ladder of acting. I tried to join community theatre( something safe, as I knew fake friends would think it was so gay that they wouldn’t even think of going near) the group accepted me after meeting me, but when it came to the first reading, the script was in Afrikaans, they said, “I was too soft” but I knew that was theatre code for: “you don’t have a strong enough stage presence and your lack of confidence will undermine the performance and give the play a sh**ty quality” The main reason was, I think, (Your Afrikaans isn’t strong enough to carry these lines.)

So I scrapped the idea of becoming an actor. And not being an actor led me to wanting to make movies so I could still maybe be a part of the film world in the end. Filming small home videos led to adding music to videos, which I enjoyed a lot and I didn’t have to leave the house, which suited me fine seeing how I’d put myself under house arrest for the sake of saving face.

Mid 2005: I caught a break when Harry left town to work in Johannesburg. No more bugging me. I could now do the things I really wanted to do:(within budget which was zero) I tried out doing a freelance video editing thing from home and I spent two days learning the solo guitar version of my old school song, which I worked out myself, the first full musical piece I had learnt by ear. And I put it in the video for my brothers grade 12, valedictory service video. I had started growing my hair out and a beard to try and shed my old image, so that people might not recognize me easily.

I filmed & edited someone’s wedding video too, which was my first project for money. I developed a love for classical music during the process of putting some in the video. After the video was done I felt drained again, as I’d done the wedding for peanuts – R300 where the going rate for amateur level was actually R1000.

I was so unconfident in my ability to do the job well that I undercharged as a safety precaution. The bride was very happy about the end product, because I finished the video with such perfectionism that there was no way she’d be disappointed, if not about my work, then about the price. I covered all the bases by undercutting myself.

Anyway I didn’t want to do this anymore, it was too stressful and I feared burnout again, and also because of the conditions in my home; not enough space, brother’s needed to share the main computer also etc. I couldn’t really make a business out of video editing.

So that was the end of the video editing thing, I at least made some money out of it. I did quiet well at it, but didn’t think of it as a talent. It was just something I could do.

I liked doing absolutely nothing, playing computer and guitar, which puzzled Dr. H at our sessions, he said the world doesn’t work that way, people can’t just do whatever they want, but he couldn’t explain why.

2005 was coming to an end and I had my last therapy session with Dr. H I finally put my finger on what it was about him. He saw my session as a paycheck, I knew this was so, when I saw him in public on another occasion and he pretended not to recognize me, we read from my memoir at every session, as a way to continue therapy and his paychecks, I felt he had only helped as far as his compassion could stretch which was as far as the first five sessions, afterwards I felt he was useless (I really only went to keep my mothers nagging at bay.) We had reached the last page of my memoir book, what a tool (no pun intended)

I learned the most technical song I had ever learned so far on guitar, Joe Satriani’s - Tears in the Rain and I played it well on December holiday in front of my family and their friend’s children who had been in my class and knew my fake friends.

And that felt cool! I wasn’t ashamed to try out playing other classical pieces I’d learnt. I had thought the other guys would mock me for it but I was wrong about them. I realized I had taken a social chance, I dared to be myself for once, it was the first time I’d done that in years, and No-one mocked me this time, I decided I owed it to myself to find more of these experiences and be more daring with some of the conclusions and ‘what ifs’ I had about things. For 2006 I decided I wanted to be a musician, to pursue music as a career.

2006: I heard that all friends had gone out of town at last – Everyone; studying or overseas or in another town. Now I had no friends – real or fake -. No friends bugging me from the ‘old days’ so for once I had the whole year to dedicate to what I really wanted to do with my life not listening to society or my parents, well my mom was on my case with the whole, “what are you doing with your life? You lie around at home all day, you do nothing, nothing!”

I told my mother I needed her to move her stuff out the back room outside so that I maybe start a video business (a lie) but I needed my own space to be alone, and do what I really wanted. So I made a music stand out of wood, and I used the room to practice, where I wasn’t disturbed or distracted and I didn’t need to turn out the light like I did in the room I had to share with my younger brother in the house.

I could play guitar well, but I realized that every Tom, Dick and Harry could play guitar well. So I wanted to play another instrument, thinking that if I was more versatile I’d have more value in the music industry I was planning on going into.

I ended up learning to read stave music and play my brothers old soprano recorder decently in the 1st octave, in 20 days, my first steps on the road to learning a new instrument, It gave me a spark of confidence in my musical ability but I still had a lot of self doubt about my talent.

Some of the questions I asked myself were: Am I too old to be a good musician, should it already have happened by now at 23, should I already be in university of finished studying or be playing my own songs already? Is my goal of doing this for a living realistic? Should I have started even earlier than 14? - Is the cliché of the college drop out 20 something slacker who plays guitar in a band that plays bars and pubs for small money all that I can hope for now – that or being a teacher?

But most of all I questioned my ability, was I really musical? It turned out that a violin teacher had advertised in the newspaper that month, and lessons were affordable, I thought if I could learn to play one of the hardest instruments in the orchestra that would prove without a doubt that I had musical ability and was justified in trying to pursue it as a career.

“The sparrow never wanders where the tiger roams.”

I bought a violin in February and went for lessons from March. I practiced furiously. I had all the time in the world to do it. My violin teacher became my mentor, He suggested that I become ambidextrous, do more tennis type exercises, etc. I did all of them. I studied yoga too. I was so focused and dedicated to becoming an accomplished violin player.

During yoga and practice I also was able to reflect clearly on my thoughts about everything; who I was, what I was doing with my life and why, the truth. Much like the ‘Castle of Silence’ I had read about in ‘The knight in rusty armor’ – one of the psychology books Dr. W had me read in Cape Town.

Now I knew what it felt like, it felt good. I also taught myself to play piano in between violin practice, so now I could play guitar, recorder, piano and violin. Evidence of how I spent my spare time and that I had a lot of it.

I had reached grade 1 level in 7 months in violin studies and I played well by myself, but when I played with my teacher I discovered that although I played in key, I always played too fast, and I had to fight myself to keep in time with him. I played anxiously. When I played with a band, as a session musician, the same thing happened.

I had to embellish notes and improvise notes to fill up a bar, as I played too fast, and I was too much of a perfectionist at practice, getting on the guys nerves by going over the same material too many times. They’d say something like, “we’re not going to be playing for the president you know.”

So I meditated over why this was and realized that whenever I play in front people I get anxious and trip up if I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time learning the song so well that I could play it in my sleep. I resigned myself to a few other facts about my musical abilities: I started too late to join a professional orchestra, at this rate I’d only be ready by age 31; I was too normal to be a rock star, who is more of an entertainer, that you need a big personality to pull off. Best I could hope for is a wedding singer type musician.

After looking deep into my mind I discovered that social anxiety was still part of me despite the fact that there were no more fake friends to agitate it. In other words there was nothing to be anxious about, but yet I still had anxiety.

I decided to put playing music on the back burner for the moment while doing a full on soul searching project and the first thing I realized was that the music thing was just part of a personal pattern it seems that I follow the same pattern every-time. all that differs is the motivation.


1. I get inspired to become a what ever
2. I start out motivated and I do all the necessary work as perfectly as I can to gain experience and knowledge (I think I can somehow sprint up the ladder, I say to myself, “I'm not like everyone else I’m different”)
3. I shut out all "distractions" meaning: friends, time-off, holidays etc to pursue my goal of getting to the top quickly
4. I get scared I'm going to fall back into nothing and become "ordinary" whenever my work ebb's or if I slack off so I push myself harder, sometimes to the limit, to counter my own perceived "laziness"
5. I get fed up when my pushing hard doesn't get further up the career ladder or closer to my goal, I feel dejected and do nothing while I spend the whole day analyzing myself (literally the whole day I don't do any work at all). And this stage can last for weeks
6. I try to get motivation and inspiration from external sources: T.v, Religion, Music but it doesn't work
7. I go back to my 'work' to try and work and I get even more depressed when I find that I've fallen behind and I feel I hafto work even harder to "catch-up" so a burnout becomes immanent now.
8. I start thinking about doing something else, another career altogether.
9. I start hating the work I’m doing because now it makes me depressed because I do almost nothing else.
10. I want to go home, or to the mountains, or leave the country or anywhere away from where I am right now.
11. I give up my career, and do nothing for a while until I think of another career I could follow and this process starts all over again from step 1.

My Phases:

Computer Hacker (age 17)
Electrical Engineer (age 18)
Architect (age 19)
Actor (age 21)
Director, Film Maker, Video Maker (age 22)
Musician (age 23)
(What's was next ???)

I reviewed my whole life up to that point in the form of a law trial and documented it in a word document, which I sent off to the best and the only Social Anxiety specialist in South Africa. Dr. A. I explained how I didn’t have money for therapy but after reading my “trial” she invited me to go to the last SA group session of the year, without charging me for it, I could feel this was a doctor with compassion. And I didn’t mind scraping the money together for a bus ticket to Jo’burg.

That session changed my life. It lit a fire in my heart. My soul searching had opened the flow of energy, but Dr. C showed me how to strike the match. She knew the spell to make me real, and taught me what I needed to know to get me started. In one session 

I got back to Satan’s Dustbin, it was December 2006 and I was on fire, full of optimism I knew what I had to do: start to disconnect from anything and everything that was connected to my bad past. I felt like I could do anything. The first thing I wanted to do was lose weight, as the tube around my waist served as a reminder of my fake days, of too many braai’s and beers with fake friends. My anxiety about jogging in public was the perfect avenue to try out some of the mind techniques I’d learnt from Dr.C.

They worked like charms, over the next three months into 2007, along with a diet. I lost all the scum weight. I had accomplished something for me alone! I was starting to become real! Now I had to fight bigger battles, like trying to leave Satan’s Dustbin. I was hopeful but expected the worst.

I now found myself in a catch-22..
Liacheng · 36-40
It's completely normal to question your abilities, especially when pursuing something as challenging as a musical career.

Learning to play an instrument like the violin not only develops your technical skills but also fosters discipline, creativity, and musical expression.

Remember to be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress along the way.
Liacheng · 36-40
Seeking out affordable lessons from a violin teacher shows determination and dedication to your musical journey.

Regardless of the outcome, the experience of learning and growing as a musician is invaluable. It's important to remember that musical ability comes in many forms, and each individual's journey is unique.

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