Saturday afternoons during the Fall of 2007 were loud, really loud. Three friends and I created a band. Insufficient Noise was the name and Aggro-hardcore was the game. Today, I’m still unsure of which genre that was. That’s not because our collected talent elevated us above label status. Actually, it was quite the opposite. That didn’t matter because we didn’t care.
At the time, we were preparing for an upcoming battle-of-the-bands performance. As the date drew closer, so too did we. Each session got louder and a tad bit more cleaned up as our collective energy was unbound. It wasn’t that we were as excited about the performance as much as we genuinely loved jamming together. These weekly shred sessions consumed us. Every day, more ideas, sounds, and feelings regarding practice were being discussed at school. We fed it. It fed us. It was all we wanted to do. It was us.
Each week, we met at Meyer Hesse’s house. Meyer was the drummer and behind his parent’s place storage shed. There was nothing remarkable about the shed; it stored many items, both commonplace and miscellaneous. Behind it was a massive oak tree preserve.
For a couple afternoons a week, this shed served a different purpose. It housed hoarse screaming, disorderly distortion. The shed represented the perfect juxtaposition of near-deafening noise pollution enveloped by the serenity of an immense, surrounding forest.
That shed became our domain. It was there that the name Insufficient Noise came to be. The purpose of the name was two-fold. First, it was a direct reference to our obnoxious sound. Second, it was meaningful to us. Each shed session was full immersion on the task at hand. Essentially, we were blocking out the noise of the outside world that was considered insufficient to our pursuit. We weren’t concerned with how others qualified our quantified our music. Our noise was our noise, and nobody could take that away: 100% authenticity. We hadn’t the slightest clue as to what we were doing, but we knew we loved it.
As a verb, ‘shed’ means to discard, disconnect, or to rid. That is exactly what took place each session. Harsh judgment was nowhere to be found. There was no fear of failure. We were completely disconnected with anything beyond our domain, and, in turn, fully connected to the task at hand. That, to me, was catharsis.
Our performance at the High School “showcase” was really just a dressed-up version of our sh(r)ed sessions, precisely the way it was intended. Many of our peers deemed it atrocious and confusing, including a couple of my family members. We didn’t really care. It propelled us to keep playing, writing, and tightening up our game. The flames were stokes and the fire burning. There was nothing else we wanted to do, so we kept at it.
2007 to 2018…
It seems smartphone use has become an almost daily conversation. As they are relatively new devices, more and more evidence continues to emerge. These devices are not inherently bad, nor are they good. They are tools. They do have the capacity to create a cascade of problems, most of which are unnecessary. These devices offer a dopamine loop that is disguised as a constant flood of distractions. One hour passes by. Then another. And another. I am by no means any less guilty for squandering my own time as well. The problem is real and carries an array of psychological ramifications, many of which we have yet to discover.
In much further depth, a recent Atlantic Monthly article elaborates on the connection between smart phones and increasing levels of anxiety, stress, and other conditions. Always being one-click away carries real weight. Less 16 year-olds are obtaining drivers licenses because there are less people their age going out. When some teens do go out, they have they capability to share their whereabouts for all to see. Often, many others observe these posts from a safe distance (usually from home). Not only does this generate an feelings of exclusion, but it’s literally crippling. As a society, it seems we are a long ways from understanding how these devices affect our brains. It’s more than dopamine.
Back to the shed…
A wooden box filled with gardening tools and family heirlooms was hallowed ground. From the outside, it was no different than any other shed. On the inside, it was a perspiration-soaked arena. In there, we were moving. We were grooving. Free from distraction and expectation, we were unapologetically ourselves. For a couple moments a week, we were invincible. Nobody can take that away. Ever.
In the past ten or so years, I went off to college and did that whole deal… The initial adjustment to college was difficult. At the time I didn’t know it, but what I needed to find was a shed. There was no way it was going to be literal.
Eventually, I started jogging 2-3 miles 2-3 days a week. It was a release from stress, expectations, distractions. Each time I finished, I purchased a chocolate milk at the student store as a reward. They were well-earned and delicious. But chocolate milk wasn’t what kept me coming back for more. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I understood that I needed to do something because doing nothing produced nothing.
After I’d wash up, I would feel even better. My mood elevated and I was more confident. It could have been the warm shower after a cold run. Regardless, following each run was a calming sense of clarity that washed over me. I didn’t know that at the time, but it felt right.
Running slowly became vehicle for journey to see how far I could push my body. I soon learned that it was moreso about how far I could push my mind. Then, my good friend – Josh Hickey – introduced me to the trails. That was a whole new world. Without a doubt, the lessons I’ve learned out there cannot be rivaled by anything I’ve learned in a classroom.
The trails have become a source of connection through disconnection. Oh and that feeling after? It’s still there. I have come to learn that this deeply-intrinsic satisfaction can’t be manufactured. Nor can it be purchased (except for maybe the purchase of elicit drugs). It has to be earned; the price you pay is discomfort. That’s not to say that the discomfort is always physical. Most days it’s an early-morning alarm, fatigue, or a lack of motivation. But once you get going, that entangled web of thought dissipates. Thought becomes clearer. While you can’t literally run from all your problems, taking time to move will help. Choosing to stay sedentary will not.
On the trails, I have also shared intensely personal conversations. I have tripped, kicked rocks, and fallen on I have ranted and raved about anything and everything. Some days, everything is in rhythm, just like those days in the shed. And in those moments, I don’t concern myself with anything except forward movement. I’m not wishing my stride was like so-and-so or that I could hammer even faster. Aesthetics, stride, and pace become completely irrelevant. I might never win a race, but that doesn’t matter because I know that feeling of catharsis that follows a trail run is immeasurable. I hold onto that feeling as I enter back into reality.
Currently, the external noises fueled by an on-the-go society are becoming more prevalent. Thus, that constant infiltration is making it harder for many to navigate their own landscapes. People are being pushed and pulled in every direction. Many consume as a way to keep up with people they don’t like. If you let it, it can become a 24/7 distraction from acknowledging what it is you want, who it is you are.
Whether it is shedding (v) oneself of superfluous things or seeking a literal shed (n), this idea of “shed” will help navigate through the noise. Decisions become more sounds. Choices begin to make more sense. Those aligned actions add up; your character is reflected through that accumulation. Hopefully, that reflection is one that is authentic to your existence. Authenticity harbors integrity. Once integrity is established, it’s that much easier to align who you are with what it is you want. In understanding that, it becomes easier to eliminate potential diversions. Once off-track, it becomes more difficult to filter through the insufficient noise that has the capacity to weigh you down. It can literally stop you in your tracks. So keep on. Find your shed.