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  • Bill

The Best of Me

When I was around eight years old, I was playing a whole lot of Tony Hawk video games. When I was around thirteen, I was probably playing the same games. When I was twenty, I was probably doing it too. Actually, last week, I played Tony Hawk. If you ask any 20-something, terribly depressed, messy-haired, stunted-growth young protoplasm experiencing a deficit of the spirit and a drought of motivation, they could probably offer a similar childhood experience. We never had coffee tables or even entertainment stands, we'd have our PlayStation 2's sitting on the carpet below the TV, and the games just strewn about around it. This was just on the cusp of the age of wireless controllers, but not quite there yet, so we couldn't sit on the couch, or loveseat, or lazy boy or anything like that. If you were lucky, you could pull up a dining chair from the kitchen or maybe, even more trash-chic, you'd keep a folding chair in the corner of the living room you could break out for the occasion, and sit two feet from the screen, and listen to your mom yell at you about how you were going to go blind. Fifteen years later, I need glasses and don't have vision insurance. More often than not, we'd just have to bear with sitting on the floor and destroying our necks at a painful and stinging angle, gazing up at the screen.

It's a comforting, nostalgic image I can hold onto. Today, I have all the privileges and comforts I lacked, and none of the wonder or enjoyment I failed to cherish at the time.

The most common phenomenon you see which is a direct result of or hold-over from that shared experience between millennial losers, I think, is the licensed soundtracks from these skateboarding games standing as a formative center of our tastes in music today. Plenty of skater punk, alternative rock and underground hip-hop bleeds out of our Spotify accounts and vinyl collections. If I were to throw out my five favorite all-time bands, at least three of them I would've first encountered while pulling off sickass grinds and gnarly gaps with Tony and the boys.

You see the aforementioned 20-something stinkers relating this fond childhood recollection all the time in memes. Here are some, now.

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ah, excellent! Isn't that just a laugh riot? No?

In the past two months, I've had at least four anxiety attacks.

What about that? Is that funny? Are you laughing yet?

Anyone who reads these articles I write, particularly these past few, could've probably came to the reasonable conclusion that I'm not of the healthiest and most empowered mind, body and soul. I'm particularly nihilistic, cynical, and fatalistic. I am absolutely fascinated with mortality and the concept of facing that and coming to terms with it. Most affecting of all, I have severe anxiety involved with the concept of declining health and death. I've had to quit smoking weed recently because I'd trigger a anxiety attack related to this death anxiety just about every other time I'd try to smoke. Turns out, go figure, getting high is a visceral experience that puts you too much in your own head. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I triggered one completely sober. Isn't life just full of fun little quirks and ironies?

If, at this point, you're asking "where the hell did this article go?? what in the name of all that is holy does this greasy, self-loathing creep's problems with mental health and anxiety have to do with 2000's skateboarding games?? is it too late to stop reading this and go hug my children?", rest assured that I'll get to it. And yes, it is too late to stop reading and hug your kids. They're probably out in the woods killing critters, the little psychopaths.

There's this song I'd hear on Tony Hawk's Underground 2 back in the day, this 2003 ska punk track by The Suicide Machines called "High Anxiety" - have a listen, if you'd like.

Naturally, someone like me, who speaks my language, relates serious issues in my life to the Tony Hawk soundtrack because that just makes sense, doesn't it?

I was never much of an anxiety person. Even in the wake of serious loss and trauma in my life, I tended to lean towards the other side of the spectrum, towards depression. The more aesthetic and marketable mental illness! I've had friends and partners coping with severe anxiety, and did my best for them, but I never really understood the feeling. Not enough to be able to relate. Enough to empathize, but not sympathize. That is, until recently. And it being a new experience only causes me to fear it even more. And the lyrics in this old song actually feel familiar, and make sense to me.

"Well it's the high anxiety, a victim of society

High anxiety, a victim of society

High anxiety, my

It's my high anxiety getting to the best of me"

"This time I feel like I'm gonna die

Cold sweat, the fear is paralyzing

You know, I wish that this was over and done

Heart pounds, I can feel it escalating"

"I don't know why

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, I don't know why

I gasp for breath

I'm really feeling like I'm on the brink of death"

"I wish I could get this crisis under control

Then I could feel some kind of closure

I feel this could go on and on without end

I guess I'll just have to ride it out"

They never used to, and it makes me so sad for the younger, carefree me who couldn't relate. To him, it was just a song. It wasn't relatable in the slightest. The rational adult in me understands that, in the aftermath of this state, I might be a stronger person. I'm learning grounding techniques that not only will help me, but allow me to help others and better understand the physiological symptoms they're experiencing. I can become more comfortable inside of my own mind and more confident in overcoming emotions and defeating intrusive thoughts. It could be empowering and reassuring.

That's the rational adult in me, though, and he doesn't come out to play as often as I'd like him too. The brooding, sullen, emotional husk in me mourns for this newfound condition, crying out in despair as is his reaction to just about everything else. Of course, the fearful, pessimistic, anticipatory side of me, the new kid, the one whose been triggering these attacks, this dread, he whispers to me that there might not be an 'aftermath'. That there won't be evolution in my heart, and conquest over this anxiety. That it might just fester, metastasize and consume me, as I've let this fear of harm do already.

And then, the part of me that remains from all those years ago, the Bill that I'm walking up the hill for, he's in there, too. Sitting on the floor playing PlayStation 2, without a couch or folding chair in sight, busting his neck looking at the TV. Pleading with the other voices to quiet down, so that he might listen to the Tony Hawk's Underground 2 soundtrack better. He's got high scores to reach, combos to bust, S-K-A-T-E letters to collect. He might even finally beat the game on Sick difficulty, if "Rational Adult" and "Sorrowful Failure" and "Fretful, Uneasy Coward" could just pipe down, and let him focus. I have to believe he's trying, he just has to be. He can't give up just yet, because I think the others already have.

It's funny, this actually isn't the first article I've written on this website about music from the Tony Hawk video game series. Of course it isn't, would you expect anything less? That article was honestly so disjointed and sloppy that I'm not entirely comfortable linking to it, but it's worth comparing it to this article. I don't like to admit, but I wrote the first one kind of plainly and without a whole lot of thought. It was a few years ago, and it was during my bar crawling phase - I wrote it hungover, after being driven by my drinking buddy back to the bar to get my car from the parking lot. It was a really carefree moment in time for me, a lot of drunken karaoke and social expansion. Musical discovery, new tattoos, the bills were paid and friends were coming over often.

Today, I write this article that, to me, feels much more meaningful and quality. Whether or not it's objectively better, it's definitely more heartfelt. It comes from an emotional place - I laid in bed until 2:30pm today, forced myself up and into the shower in desperation. I came with my laptop to the café I'm writing these words in now, because I couldn't bear to stay in my apartment alone for another hour. This shit means something to me. The bills aren't being paid right now. Friends aren't coming over to my place much, if at all. Gotta do what I can to feel functional and alive. Have to actually make the effort these days, is all.

This, uh, this is one of those situations where I don't really know how to end an article. I think I'll be okay eventually, that I won't worry so much about the bad things that have happened, and are happening and will happen. Fuck it, they're gonna happen regardless, right? I can't change it, you can't change it, and even when they do happen, we'll overcome them like we've overcame all the other bullshit. Worrying about fate, freaking myself out until my heart beats out of my chest, isn't going to change things any more than propping myself up with a controller in my hand and playing Tony Hawk's Underground 2 would. Only I'd probably have more fun playing Tony Hawk's Underground 2.

So, uh, moral is, uh, go play Tony Hawk's Underground 2. I don't know, man.




One of my most memorable experiences with'a Tony Hawk game, was trying to not think about the ambulance in my back yard moving my best friend at the time who was just kicked by her horse (she's fine now 100% recovery.) The song "Ring of fire" by Johnny Cash is now permanently etched into the scars of my subconscious.


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