Since I was five years old, I’ve spoken with a pretty profound stutter. As can be expected, it’s affected how I view myself. Throughout my recollectable past, if I reached a verbal block, a voice in my head would tell me the joke or story I was trying to tell, or the question I was trying to ask, wasn’t worth finishing. I thought—and for the most part, still think—that people don’t have the time or patience to sit and wait for me say what I’m trying to say. Upon introducing myself, people often grimace or giggle at my speech, and I received ridicule growing up from the stereotypical playground bullies and a few close-minded teachers.
About a year ago, I was in college at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, but my stutter prevented me from actively participating in classes—or at least that’s what I told myself. In the three years I spent in college, I didn’t make a single friend. If somebody tried to crack a joke or ask me a simple question, I felt like I had to avoid contact with them, and on the off-chance I did reply I’d often get a confused look. I sat alone at lunch, walked to classes alone, and did my homework alone. I would ask all my teachers to do group projects alone so I didn’t have to interact with anybody. Plus, the cliques and frat life at the University of Minnesota aren’t receptive to outsiders—not that I necessarily wanted to be their friends, but the air of exclusivity at the University of Minnesota did not mix well with low self-esteem.
I felt like my speech also prevented me from getting a job. In past jobs I’ve had as a delivery driver, people have hung up laughing at me, thinking that I was pranking them while they were trying to order Chinese food. A lot of people just don’t understand it, and it’s frustrating. The thought of having to explain myself to an impatient manager in a busy restaurant sent hot coals up my spine. I was petrified of having to provide customer service or answer phones, embarrassed by the fact that something so trivial affected me so profoundly. Since I didn’t have a job, I would skip eating about half of the days out of the week because I couldn’t afford it. Depression made getting out of bed feel like running a marathon. With all of these obstacles stacked on top of me, I decided my options were a) to continue college and face the competitive purgatory that is university in the United States, or b) drop out and pursue music production.
Music seemed like my only viable option. It brought me confidence and a voice—and a little much needed money—while college was just dragging me deeper into depression and poverty.
Trying to verbally express things has always been difficult for me. Not only is it difficult to actually get words out, but it’s difficult to think of words in the first place when I’ve been trying to say the word “the” for 15 seconds. Music is the only language I have where I feel fluent and capable of expressing the ideas I can’t verbally. At that point, I had enjoyed making music but felt like my own music was without any real purpose. I made beats here and there, but never really thought my music was the music I wanted to be making. My dad got me a drum kit when I was five years old, and ever since then I had been picking up as many instruments as possible. To me, dropping out of college was the intersection of frustration, poverty, and depression with a real opportunity to change my situation on my own. Music seemed like my only viable option. It brought me confidence and a voice—and a little much needed money—while college was just dragging me deeper into depression and poverty.
After I dropped out, I began running studio sessions and selling the beats I was making to pay for rent and food. I didn’t have anybody telling me to do it that way; one day I just realized that people sell beats, and I had tons of beats. I made a post on Facebook seeing who wanted to buy my beats, and I’ve been selling them ever since. I’ve basically spent every day since in my studio working as hard as I can to be comfortable. I still haven’t gotten around to paying back any student loans, but I can eat now, I can pay my rent, I have some great friends, and I’ve had the privilege of playing and working with some of my inspirations in the last few months. My band C R A M and I have even gotten to open for some cool acts like D.R.A.M., Soulja Boy, Allan Kingdom, $uicideboy$, and I’ve gotten to open for some of my biggest inspirations on my own. Purity Ring, Eprom, and Giraffage were all really great shows. People seem to be really receptive at shows, which is a beautiful thing. It’s been rewarding, and it finally feels like I’m actually making progress.
You can find a way to make a living off of what you have passion for, but only if you decide to pursue it.
If you feel alone, voiceless, or misunderstood in your day-to-day, make sure you follow that which makes you feel human again. Pursue your passions. Eliminate the mundane. If it takes some sacrifices now, it will be worth it in the future. Stay up until six in the morning getting the mix right on that song, even when you have to work in the morning. You’ll regret not going harder when you have the responsibilities of being a full-blown adult. And even if you do have some large responsibilities, you’ll allocate time to what is important to you. You can find a way to make a living off of what you have passion for, but only if you decide to pursue it.
Check out Shrimpnose’s latest single “Darkness” here, find him on Twitter here, and listen to more of his music on SoundCloud or Bandcamp. If you’ve got a story about how music changed your life, we want to hear it. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.