7 min read

Let This Destroy Me

Let This Destroy Me

I've got another confession to make. In late October 2021, while standing alone in the crowded main room of The Intersection music venue in Grand Rapids, I wept while Fit For A King (FFAK) performed the song "When Everything Means Nothing. "

This was not a single tear running gracefully down an otherwise unsoiled cheek. That may have been how it started, but by the first chorus, I was actively trying to hide the fact that I could not stop crying as other full-grown men pushed one another around while moshing just feet away.

I've replayed that night several times in my mind, and each time I find a new reason why that happened. Maybe I was overworked and stressed, or perhaps I was at the end of a long week of late nights and had finally reached my breaking point.

Oh, how I wish I could use those excuses. To write off my misery as something born of anything other than my actions would be dishonest. I wept that night because I had to confront the reality that I had fallen far away from the person I had spent my life attempting to embody. My personal life was a mess, my work was wildly uneven, and I was grasping at any branch I could find to keep myself from sinking further into feelings of despair that I only recently began to fight back into the darkness.

In the song, which hails from the band's album Dark Skies, the Fit For A King grapples with similar feelings of inadequacy. From the moment the verses kick in, there is a sense of confusion and panic that anyone in a similar situation would find immediately relatable.

Answers never seemed so distant
The fear of missing out blurs my vision
Am I enough to live up to the expectations of a world
That won't stop moving?
I am so lost (in the eye of the storm)

There is a brief sense of false relief as the chorus builds. Rather than complain about an uncompromising and uncaring universe, the crew attempts to bury their feelings under a positive outlook that ultimately comes undone. The band understands that quick solutions rarely exist for real-world problems, but they want them nonetheless.

But I try to smile, try to fight
Just say I'm okay
But every day feels like a hurricane

I think we all find ourselves in this position throughout our life. What I am learning with time is that each instance is incomprehensibly worse than the last. The things that push you to the brink of self-destruction in your 20s pale in comparison to the mess you can make of your life in your 30s. I cannot speak to my 40s, 50s, or 60s, but I have seen and done enough to know the same remains true.

2021 may not have been the hardest year of my life, but it was easily the most self-destructive. The fact I can say I still have friends and people who love me today is the closest thing to proof there is something greater than us that cares about us in the universe because I have no better explanation for why they remain in my life. The nasty details don't need repeating here but suffice to say; I spent the better part of 12 months making mistakes that I will spend the rest of my life working to never repeat.

On March 22, almost five months to the date of that fateful FFAK performance, the band returned to Grand Rapids on their dark path headlining tour. I was not, and I am not the person I was back in October, but I can't say I wasn't afraid of another public breakdown.

I have this crystal clear memory of my father and me watching the Mel Gibson action epic The Patriot on home video shortly after its initial release in 2000. In the film, Gibson plays a veteran and widower with seven children who foregoes participating in the American Revolutionary War. Two years later, he must abandon his pacifist ways and enter the war in an attempt to save one of his sons. It's a brutal and heart-wrenching tale that — SPOILER ALERT — does not end well for anyone.

When the credits rolled, my father rose from the couch and—without saying a word—stepped onto our back porch and walked into the yard. I remember standing inside, watching him from the window. I can still see him looking up at a star-filled sky under a big bright moon and wiping tears from his eyes. If he was audibly sobbing, I couldn't hear it, but there was no question that tears were flowing.

I asked what was wrong when he returned.

"Nothing at all," he told me. "Did you like the movie?"

To his credit, my father has always been more emotionally available than most men of his generation. The son of a pastor and the youngest of six, he comes from a world where good and evil were as clear as day and night. I've witnessed how the modern world and the access it grants has both widened his imagination and broken his heart.

When the night of March 22 finally came, I was admittedly nervous. Fit for a King is a band that means so much to me, but I often have a hard time expressing the source of that meaning. They are certainly not the first band to combine pop sensibilities with metalcore, and one wouldn't blame you for saying they sound like a softer Underoath in their prime. The band has not re-invented the genre or ushered in a new era, but that doesn't matter to me.

When I hear Fit For A King, I feel less alone. Their music reminds me I am not the only one facing struggles, which motivates me to keep pressing onward. I'm old enough now to know that nobody saves anyone, and there is no such thing as easy living. The best anyone can hope to do is to ease the burden of existence for others through kindness, support, and an abundance of hope in the face of oblivion. Fit for a King delivers all three, and in doing so, they make me want to be a better person.

But I keep thinking back to that night in October and the person I was at the time. If I were to cross them on the street now, I'm not sure I would recognize them. So much has changed in so little time, but I know there's much more growth needed. You don't find yourself crying at a metalcore concert on a random weeknight in October because you had a bad day. Maybe you do, but that's never been the case for me.

I've known what I wanted to do with my life for as long as I can remember, and I've been lucky enough to do it. For fifteen years and counting, I've spent virtually every day thinking and talking about music. The how and why change, but I've never had to worry that my ongoing obsession with lyrics and melodies would lead to ruin. If anything, it's celebrated.

Over the last year, however, I've felt a shift from within. Maybe it's a side effect of getting older, or perhaps it's as simple as personal evolution, but most of the music that made me feel alive throughout my life now hits with a dull thud. It's as if the color has been drained from the memories of the nights when this same material made it seem like I could live forever, and now those moments and who I was in them feel alien compared to the person I see in the mirror each morning.

They say the best description of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. As I stood in The Intersection that October night, I realized that I'd been doing the same thing on a loop for half my life. I track time not by the moments shared with Laura or my parents but by the concerts I attended and the pieces I wrote to support the albums those same artists released. I've believed that I exist to serve music rather than enjoy it, and it's destroying me.

Furthermore, I've run away from difficult conversations with those I love out of fear and embarrassment. The repercussions of those choices echo to this day and most likely will for some time. I cannot change my past behavior or undo the lies I've attempted to tell. Try as I might, pretending I didn't behave poorly, mislead others, and break the trust of those who depend on me most is not a lasting solution. It's not a solution at all. It's cowardice, and I am being a coward.

I didn't cry at the gig in March, but I did feel the same stirring of emotions as "When Everything Means Nothing" rattled the room. The difference between the boy weeping in the fall and the man doing his best to hold it together now is that I've accepted the need to change. If I want to spend the next fifteen years working in music and being happy, I need to learn to love again. That means fewer concerts, less music, and more focused effort to appreciate the beauty in each note. It's spending nights with Laura and our animals instead of bands who never remember my name. I'm scaling back in hopes of going forward with clear eyes and a kind heart. I've lived long enough now to know that too much of a good thing is possible and that if it goes on long enough, you either kill the best parts of yourself or become a realtor. I'm not that interested in either at this juncture, so instead, I'll pivot.

The future is coming into focus, and I'm aware of what must happen. The path ahead will be difficult, but not impossible. Please grant me the grace I do not deserve to show you I am the person you know I'm capable of becoming.

Something big is coming.

More soon. Much more.

Thank you for sticking around, y'all.