In “The Included Outcast,” Joyce Adane draws from personal experience and uses several short, narrative scenes to articulate her passion for music. Take special note of the ways Adane’s sharp and lyrical prose, coupled with her first person narration, invites the reader to share in her unique perspective. As you read, consider how Adane creates strong links between her development as a musician and her development as a writer. Are there personal experiences not directly related to writing for a course or class that you feel have shaped your identity as a writer? If so, would those experiences be most strongly communicated through narrative or through another form? (Citation style: MLA Seventh Edition)
“Ever had one of them days wish you would have stayed home
Run into a group of [people] who gettin’ their hate on
You walk by, they get wrong, you reply then shit get blown
Way out of proportion way past discussion
Just you against them, pick one then rush them…”
— Clifford Harris, Robin Tadross, and Justin Timberlake
I felt the rush. The intensity of charisma; words that spat out in perfect unison, at my command, like bullets fleeing at the mark of the trigger. I knew what I was aiming for…the beat! And they just stared. With the look of anticipation waiting for me—the show-off—to finish saying what they couldn’t remember, or rather, what they didn’t care about enough to remember. The “they” are my friends who truly represent a world that views music as a template of melodies and nothing more in regards to its intention. “That’s the beauty of the song,” I think to myself as I am reminiscing; “that’s what a song is.” A rhythmed melody that aims to make peace and rest, challenge thoughts, and completely take away all thoughts. Anyone can easily sing a catchy chorus that might get the crowd singing at the top of their lungs or put each individual in a melodic daze of emotions, but it doesn’t transcend the mind to a conscious state, or to cloud-nine. Better yet, it doesn’t create a calm in the midst of a storm or tranquilize the raging beast stuck inside.
I was stuck. That was always my problem. Stuck in the moment. Stuck in the past. Stuck on the thoughts of finding the right words to comfort a friend. Stuck in between expressing myself as I wanted to or should have. This made me an outcast.
In elementary school, I hung out with the cool kids but I was not cool. In middle school, I meandered amongst crowds, about once a month, always trying to find my “place”. I was always offered seats in the orchestra of various groups’ lunch table or awkwardly included in the recitation of their own unique jokes and conversations, yet I had nothing to offer. In all of the diverse ways of conducting their songs, I never heard their sound, let alone been able to sing along.
One morning day in the gym, my friends and I were singing “Dead and Gone”—the hottest song out at the time. It got to the rap part, and I stole the show! After my grand performance they went on singing as if nothing had happened. Why did they do that? Did I mess up…are they trying to be nice and act like nothing happened? I analyzed the lyrics line by line in my head. “You walk by…shit gets blown…” I kept reciting it. Why are they still singing?… Did I jump ahead of myself?… Did Amber want to rap it instead?—she keeps looking at me.
That feeling—the awkwardness of never being able to read people’s expression because I had nothing to offer but irrelevant comments—remained static. Each interaction felt like asking questions without receiving an answer, or screaming in a crowded room and not one eye turns to you. This went on for 6 years until I discovered Kendrick Lamar (my favorite rapper) sophomore year of high school. I knew what he was thinking, and he knew what I was feeling. He spoke the very words that I wanted to say. I studied him; from his diction to his topics, you name it, I could tell you all about his style. His delivery of melodic and poetic tones have shaped my communication and writing skills today. Whether it was the anecdotes of his childhood or the tales of the streets of Compton, I vicariously lived through his words and his sound. His words brought me up and never let me down.
Amid the highs and lows, I inversely found my sound. My beat. My rhythm. Underlining each aspect of my life—serving as my release—it transcendently found its way into my literacy. I discovered my knack for words and interpretation beyond the admiration of rap. I discovered the tempos and release of rock and soul music. I took on playing the trombone and piano. I dove into the wonders of haikus and fictional stories. I created. I wrote. I discovered. I delivered.
Music serves as my format for writing. Its swagger, nonchalance, vibrancy, and unapologetic nature allow for any genre at hand. It is my inspiration. It reinvents my thoughts and approach to any piece. Reading and analyzing sheet music all while playing instruments trained my mind to comprehensively create masterpieces while simply thinking and writing. It also reiterated the simple essentials of writing. My playing of the trombone allowed the practice of syncing various thoughts and ideas in coordination with other parts playing, so to speak. The music sheets of the piano taught me the vitality of transitions. The unpredictable nature of rock music characterizes unique forms of poetry and fiction that I write. Soul music gives rise to an array of emotions which may be incorporated into any style of my writing.
Writing is like channels to a television. It provides an entry to different worlds and allows for a swift exit when needed. The fine details of my thoughts are perfectly transmitted, allowing all to view it with their own unique interpretations of my words and ideas. Writing is my peace and rest. It either challenges my thoughts or completely takes them away. Writing is my song. My words are where I belong.
After all, I am not meant to be among the popular, the nobodies, the jocks, the badasses or the class clowns; I am not meant to merely exist in the comfort of acceptance. I am supposed to be lost and scattered, for the independence of not being marginalized lead to great distinctions of my gifts. Even amongst the creators, innovators, and story-tellers, I am not truly defined. I am meant to use my words for my own satisfaction. I am meant to create a story—my story. A story that builds a rush so powerful, one can feel the intensity of my presence—like bullets fiercely exiting its enclosed chambers without a request or a command.
Stray or aimed, my words cast me into the space of inclusion. Upon maturity (of my thoughts and skills), in literacy of music and poetry, my understanding has broadened that one’s self may coexist with the world. However, the true existence of one’s self relies primarily in the independence of the mind. With the independence of one’s mind, one may truly discover his or her gift and apply it to the world. In this acknowledgment, one is truly included and not merely an included outcast.
T.I. “Dead and Gone.” Paper Trail. Written by Clifford Harris, Robin Tadross, Justin Timberlake. Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, 2008.