The Win Column details what life’s losses can teach you about winning.
Ever been punched in the face? Ever been hit so hard you don’t feel the pain until all the adrenaline and terror have left your body? Ever experienced what it’s like to feel the skin and knuckles of another man’s fist torpedo its way into the socket of your eye, causing the lens in your glasses to go shattering back into your skull, and separate the flesh beneath your eyebrow until 11 stitches are required to mend the gap of exposed meat? I have.
I was 22 years old and leaving an apartment party some uninvited guests desperately tried to crash. When I decided to go home, they were all downstairs, waiting to pounce on the first person to leave the party. That was me. It was an October night, when the temperatures drop, causing the asphalt of the NYC streets to harden again after the summer’s humidity softened ‘em up. I didn’t even see it coming. One second I’m putting out a cigarette, the next I’m kneeling in the middle of the street, screaming “WHAT THE F*CK!?!?!” as I began to taste the iron of my own blood trickle into my mouth and blind my right eye entirely. I’d like to say I put up a good fight, but I’d be lying. I was outnumbered.
I’ll be honest: a fist in your face is simultaneously the worst AND best thing that could ever happen in a young man’s life. When it’s over, you’re left with nothing, but a huge f*ckin’ mouthful of Humble Pie. And I’m not talkin’ about some boxed-up, chemical-laced, manufactured Hostess pie. I mean a real deal, Humble Pie. See, getting punched in the face means getting put in your place. It doesn’t mean you’re a loser, a winner, a lover, a fighter…it means you’re a human who finally understands life ain’t always fair.
One blindsided hook from the right was all it took to go from coddled boy who kept his sneakers clean, to perspective man quietly observing life’s chaos from my self-created vantage point. It wasn’t easy. The healing process involved a lot of frustration, denial, booze and music–the saving grace of all of life’s bullsh*t. I listened to certain songs to vent. Songs to listen to after getting punched in the face, when I’d been stripped of my dignity, but still fought to find the soul of a champion I knew was still inside me. These aren’t songs to inspire you to fight back, but rather they are songs to address the pain and darkness with the same amount of swagger you’d address everything else with.
Chemical Brothers ‘Setting Sun’
Chemical Brothers‘ “Setting Sun” is creepy, out-of-sorts, and the most perfect thing I heard at 3:30 in the morning, when I could still feel the sting as my stitches pulled my skin together. I kept replaying the incident in my head after it happened. This song provided a soundtrack to face the reality head-on. I sat up in my bed wanting to tear my pillow to shreds, but instead I had this song.
There’s a solid chance you’ve never heard of Unsane and that’s because they were on MTV for a minute and usually late at night (on “120 Minutes“). The song is a decent punk-thrash tune with tons of warbled screaming, but it’s the video I really enjoy, since it features skateboarders crashing face-first into concrete and, well, misery loves company.
Pantera ‘5 Minutes Alone’
I know most of you are into hip-hop (and I’m right there with ya), but nothing compares to the rage and aggression of a band like Pantera. The day after my ordeal I threw on a hoodie and my headphones and just walked, freshly bruised, and stitched up. This was the song I played. I looked at no one. I just walked, letting my heart beat to this song as I squeezed my hands into fists in my pockets. I was f*ckin’ pissed. All I wanted was to bash the guys who bashed me first, but since that wasn’t an option, I settled on “5 Minutes Alone.”
Megadeth ‘Angry Again’
A bit more subtle than Pantera, Megadeth‘s “Angry Again” is a continuation of the rage I felt. At first, I wanted to find those guys and run ‘em over with a Dodge Durango. Then, I was just burned out by the fact it happened. I had no idea I’d be dealing with the fallout of this for the next few months. I was able to contain my fury by listening to “Angry Again” and put things in perspective. The song helped me regain control of who I was.
2Pac ‘Baby Don’t Cry (Keep Ya Head Up)’
As with anything catastrophic in life, you eventually need to move on. Everyone’s struggle is different from the next person’s. Keep ya head up. It’s that simple. Sometimes sh*t ain’t your fault. Sometimes sh*t just happens. Keep ya head up. Being a man is not easy. You might get knocked down and knocked out. Keep ya head up. “It’s OK to look back at the past. Just don’t stare,” said somebody at some point in time. And it’s true. Keep ya head up.
Men need to get f*cked up in order to achieve inner peace. I’m not recommending you go out and get punched in the face. That’s just dumb. What I mean is: the traumas you survive are the catalyst for the reflections of understanding. Whether it’s one punch or more, nothing teaches you the hardest lesson in life like a savage attack on your dignity. Cocky men who walk around loud-mouthing their way through their days have no clue. They never stared at a bonfire ’til unexpectedly getting pushed in. They keep dancing around it, but I don’t. I’ve been burned. And I’ve got my scars to prove it. I’ve had my Humble Pie and ate it, too.