Why what? Why not? Why wait? Why bother? Why do anything at all?
“Why” is perhaps one of the most useful questions we can ever ask. Looking outward, asking “why” helps us make sense of the chaotic world in which we live. It challenges us to go beneath the surface, to not just accept that something is the way it is, but to uncover the motivations and reasons that explain why it is the way it is. This in turn facilitates understanding; assisting us to appreciate the good things that happen, and cope with the not-so-good things as well.
Turning inwards, asking “why” helps us to more deeply comprehend not just what we really want, but where that want comes from. Too often, when forced to think about our reason for doing something, we attribute the “why” to one specific cause – to make money, look good, get likes, avoid embarrassment, and so on. While there might indeed be a foundational factor that underpins all the others, a little further introspection reveals that there are usually several reasons that explain what we think, say, do and desire.
This kind of insight is extremely valuable, but why?
Once you know what you want, it is my belief that the pursuit and achievement of any truly meaningful goal must begin with the fundamental question of “why?”; especially when that truly meaningful goal requires years of deep, focused labour, sacrifice and dedication to realise. If this is the sort of thing that you want, and you’re not 100% clear on all of your reasons for doing it right from the outset, when the hard times inevitably come, you will crack, crumble and quit.
This is something I have had to learn the hard way. I thought I knew what I wanted when I was 18 – to be a Physiotherapist. To go to uni, have fun, get my degree, work hard, open my own practice, fall in love, get married, raise a family, buy a house and a BMW, go on snow trips, have the best lawn in the street, retire, tour Alaska via train and die happy. Oh yeah, I wanted to help people too. But as you can see, that was an afterthought.
It wasn’t until 2.5 years through my 4 year degree on a particularly insightful day that I realised I’d chosen my career for the wrong reasons. Entering into any health profession, your number one “why” should be to help people; to make a difference. It’s shameful to admit publicly, but my number one attraction to Physio was the lifestyle – comfort and safety.
Despite this realisation, and as much as I wanted to quit, I didn’t. I finished my degree and I still work as a Physio in aged care. My “why” has changed: I do what I do to help the people who built the world in which I can chase my dreams, and some days, I really feel like I’m making a difference. But then there are days where I remember my original “why” and I feel like a fraud. Without questioning the reason I was doing my degree all those years ago, I’d still be operating under my own illusion. Instead, I’ve embarked on a Quest that is taking me down an unpredictable, unconventional and unbelievable path.
But WHY? Why throw away a stable profession? Why pursue a career in an overly-saturated market where literally millions of other people are trying to do exactly the same thing as I am? That makes no logical sense.
Well, for me, THAT “why” begins in 2008 with my naive little heart in pieces following a break-up. Seeing how completely shattered I was, a very good friend brought round his 3-day-old Fender Squire and amp for me to play until I felt bit better. Within the week I’d bought my own.
Over the next few months my fingers became slightly less clumsy, I managed to string together a few clunky chords into a couple of crappy break-up songs and most importantly, I found a means of expression – not that I really knew it at the time. Just as it has done for millions of people for literally thousands of years, the performance of and complete immersion in music gave me a sense of peace, tranquility and escape that nothing else could provide.
In 2009 I left my childhood home in Tamworth to attend university in Sydney. By this stage I’d bought another guitar, my skills had improved and I thought it would be an awesome way to pick up girls. I was right. Guitars are magnetic. But there was one problem – I was waaaayyy to scared to anything about it.
So I drank, and drank… and drank. That makes me sound like an alcoholic, but it was really just the typical pattern of 19-year-old binge drinking that unfortunately pervades our society and is, of course, completely OK because everyone does it. Right?
At one blurry uni party in 2012, amidst a drunken haze, my ears were touched by something they’d never heard before. At the time, I was totally obsessed with coastal rock crooner, Jack Johnson, but this sounded nothing like that. It was noise. Offensive yet engaging noise; flirting the line between pleasure and pain. With a sneaky peak over the DJ’s shoulder, I discovered that the song was called ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ by some dude called Skrillex. Listening back now, I’m not so sure what appealed to me – robot sex is pretty far-removed from the ultra-mellow vibes of Jacky J. But if I had to guess why it caught my attention, I think it must have been the violent energy that emanated from the speakers, and how my body was compelled to move in such a ridiculous manner.
This was a real turning point. For the first time, at the tender age of 22, I stopped passively absorbing whatever was fed to me by the radio and started actively looking for more of what seemed to be called “dub-step”.
Myself and a couple friends got really into it. Listening at home was great but it just wasn’t enough. We started looking for dubstep events in Sydney and it didn’t take long before we stumbled upon this thing called “The Wall” – a pumping Wednesday night dubstep rave at The World Bar in the then-thriving Kings Cross. I have the fondest memories of pre’s till 12, shots till close, stomping all night, stumbling out the door at 5am and nursing dance-induced whiplash for the next week. Unfortunately, this is indeed now a distant memory.
Thanks to the side-room (The Cave) at Chinese Laundry, I then discovered a genre called “Fast Dubstep”. I didn’t like it. Too fast. Too noisy. No wubs. I’m not ashamed to admit that ‘Feel The Love’ by Rudimental was the song that changed my feelings towards Fast Dubstep – those vocals, the emotion, dat energy, dem vibez! It was dubstep on steroids and I HAD to chase the dragon. Further and further down the rabbit hole I went until finally, I was humbled by the fact that “Fast Dubstep” was actually called “Drum and Bass”. Net-ski was, in fact, Net-SKY. How embarrassing.
After a solid year raving which felt more like 10, I was lucky enough to receive an 8-week DJ course for my birthday. It could not have come at a better time because, after another pretty terrible break-up, I’d found myself in what was and still is the lowest point of my life. Again, music came to the rescue as tool of escape and expression.
I dove into the course with insatiable enthusiasm, mixing / train-wrecking for hours after class had finished. DnB was too hard to mix so at the end of the course, I performed an all-dubstep set (I’ll upload it for you one day) to a room of about 30 mates. In short, it was amazing. Not my skills, they were obviously shit, but the EXPERIENCE was amazing. It felt like I pressed play, passed out and woke up 30 minutes later. I was stone-cold sober – as I am whenever I play – but the only memories I have from that set are from photos taken by others. I was electrified; completely absorbed in and by the moment. I can honestly say that it might have been the first time I’d ever felt truly alive, and I wanted more.
So I registered for Your Shot, a national DJ competition that has been helping young Australians kick-start their dreams for 6 years, hoping it would help me take the next step. Not gonna lie, I was pretty confident that I’d get through but I sat down at the interview and froze. I choked, spluttered and was ultimately, rejected… until a month later when I managed to win a second-chance prize and was thrown into the competition. Lucky eh?
Around this time, I somehow coerced my Mum into loaning me the money to buy some CDJ’s and a mixer. She might even still technically own them (thanks, Mum). I unboxed the decks like a kid on Christmas and begun to mix like a man possessed. 6 weeks later, I performed in the competition to another room of 30; but this time, it was aaaallll dnb. I didn’t win, though that was hardly the point. I craved the moment. It was… indescribable, no words could do it justice.
So why not stop there? I couldn’t. How can you glimpse the infinite and not reach out to touch it? I HAD to have more. So, following one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received (“support the clubs you want to play at”) I set out to try and get some club gigs. To this end, I was VERY unsuccessful. In hindsight I cringe, but at the time it made no sense to me. I was hungry, I was “ready”, I worked hard, I deserved it! Why couldn’t everybody else see it?
Then in mid September 2013, my younger brother had turned 21 and we were having a party back in Tam Vegas to celebrate. With my newly-acquired DJ skillz at the ready, I was asked to provide the evening’s soundtrack. Fending off requests from left, right and centre, I played 6 hours straight of liquid whilst overlooking the pool in my old back yard, sipping on Coronas between mixes. It was beautiful.
As perfect as the night was, the real magic came the following morning. Instead of being woken by my old friend, Hangover, I rose with an overwhelming feeling that I can only describe as clarity. The most pure, serene clarity you can possibly imagine. It wasn’t words in my head, but a whole-body “sense”; like I’d uncovered some long-lost and universal truth.
Without a shred of doubt in my mind, I absolutely, fundamentally, categorically KNEW what I was supposed to do with my life. Music! And she’d been slapping me in the face trying to get my attention for years.
I remember sitting in the lounge room of my childhood home, trying hopelessly to explain it to my Mum and brother. As I finished speaking, I erupted into the happiest tears I’ve ever cried. So did they. I’m not religious in a conventional sense, but that moment will forever remain one of my most spiritual and liberating experiences.
I feel like I owe so much to that day, but what I am really indebted to is the fact that I asked “why?”. If I hadn’t, I’d still be sound asleep. Instead, I now know that I do what I do because I must. I don’t have a choice; nor do I want one. I love it! And while this knowledge leaves me far short of the finish line, I think it’s a pretty good place start.