‘Limbo.’ - #N9neThoughts x Carl
Limbo. - ‘an uncertain period of awaiting; an intermediate state or condition.’
From my Twitter alone it’s probably quite hard to guess where I am, what I’m doing or how I’m feeling at any given moment — it's a pretty emotionless social space and I don’t tend to give off much. I’ve always been the type of person that needs the stimulus of a one-on-one or a face-to-face conversation to crack my emotionless shell.
With that being said, the other day I had a phone conversation with a good friend of mine and like we usually do, we asked each other how we felt. My response?
Anxious… Nervous… Worried..
Let me take you back a few years…
Ever since I was a kid, maybe about 10/11 years old, if you had asked anybody around me ‘what does Carl want to be?’ without hesitation they’d tell you a lawyer; marge, pops, uncles, aunts, friends, even strangers on the street, I’d tell anyone with ears that one day I would become a lawyer.
From when I was born till about 15 years old I grew up in North London around Tottenham, Edmonton and later on in Enfield. If any of you are familiar with these areas you’d know that young black boys are caught up on the wrong side of the law way way way too often, whether rightly or wrongly so. So from a young age I’d always been aware of the law and because of my environment, I had grown up with a keen interest in it, hoping that one day I could use it to benefit those I’d seen it be used to disadvantage.
Fast forward a few years and I had moved off ends to a place called Essex but had maintained a strong interest in the law. So for one of my A Levels naturally I picked law and ended up aceing it. It gave me a greater hunger to pursue a career in law and it let me know I could actually do it. I also did pretty well in the rest of my A Levels and managed to get into my first choice uni, which at the time was in the top 15 for law.
Pretty sick right?
Actually, not at all. My first year went horribly. It probably couldn’t have gotten any worse if I had tried. Granted, part of it was my fault, I was just there to do enjoyment and blow my student loan on dumb shit. But at the same time, it was a completely different ball game to that I had played pre-uni and I was really struggling to keep up with the academic demands. The second year started in similar fashion although the grades began to pick up. But by then the damage had been done. Bad grade after bad grade eventually had me severely doubting myself. I started to question whether I’m cut out for Law or if I’m even smart enough to do it. I had hit a pretty low point early in my second year of Uni and couldn’t really find a way to express how I felt. To me, it was embarrassing and a show of weakness to ask for help or even talk about it. Instead I ended up convincing myself not to follow through with Law and just go with the flow of life.
Pretty shit huh?
Towards the end of my second year and throughout my final year I began to distance myself a bit and turned to music as a vice. I’d always been into music, but for the first time it was like I’d rather listen to music than actually talk to most people. I kinda found comfort in dope lyrics and even sicker beats. Instruments began to fascinate me; the rhythm of the bass guitar, the soul of a sax, the cadence of the keys, I could go on. In my free time I’d spend ages getting gassed putting myself onto new stuff. I even started my vinyl collection during this time. All of this is what would help me eventually regain focus and knuckle down. Every time I’d complete an essay I’d add to the vinyl collection. If I had a new album I wanted to listen to I’d savour it by waiting till I’d completed my work before I listened.
Things started to pick up again.
Fast forward again to 2016, I had smashed my final year and graduated with a great grade in my law degree. After graduating I grabbed myself a decent job within financial services and was chilling. Before accepting the job though, I had flirted with the idea of going to law school and actually qualifying as a lawyer in the end, but was still scarred from my first year experience so I opted not to. The first month of work went past pretty quickly. Month 2, 4 and 6 also followed in smooth succession. Then a perfect storm of healthy monthly pay checks mixed with limited brain usage was beginning to form. Before I knew it I had completely abandoned the idea of becoming a lawyer and was full steam ahead into a career I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in. But it paid well I guess 🤷🏾.
But then few months ago I woke up on the morning of my birthday and I took a few moments to pause and reflect like I usually do. Of course that provoked me into asking myself a series of honest questions. One of which was
‘Am I truly happy with where I am at the moment?’
The answer to this was a no and it didn’t take me long to realise why. A whole year had gone by and I had drifted further away from a major goal of mine and the final academic hurdle that stood in its way. It was in that very moment when I was laid up in bed, before the madness of my birthday ensued, that I realised I desperately needed to get back on track if I wanted to be happy.
I made a few applications here and there without putting too much thought into it. I kinda knew I wanted to go through with it but was not all the way convinced. A few weeks later an email came through on my phone. I’d been accepted into law school.
It was actually happening. I proceeded to accept the offer and I thought I’d be happy about it, but the decision soon became the beginning of my problems. It was like I had opened a can of worms. The excitement of finally becoming a qualified lawyer quickly faded as I realised I had to quit my job and actually go back and do that Uni stuff all over again. Then I started recalling my times of struggle. The sleepless nights, murmuring exam answers in my sleep (lol), stressful exam timetables, relentless essay deadlines etc. It was all coming back to me along with a wave of anxiety. About 3 weeks ago I was tipped over the edge. I had been sent an email with an official start date for the course along with a course outline and some key materials I needed to read before I start. That very night I woke up in a cold sweat after dreaming that I would fail all of my exams. I was paralysed with fear and couldn’t go back to sleep. Pretty mad huh? While I waited for morning to come I started to question myself again.
“Am I ready and able to go back into formal education? Do I want to put myself through all of that again?”
“I’ve heard law school is a lot more intense than a degree, am I cut out for it?”
“Should I just forget it and go back into work?”
The truth is, I’m still asking myself all of these questions and I think I will do right up until I start.
So here I am, in ‘limbo’. Waiting for my fate come 18th September.
Whilst I prepare myself and wait, I’ve decided to turn my emotions — anxiety, nervousness, worry — into something productive and take my mind off of it the way I know best, through music.
Because I still struggle to voice how I feel, and music is cathartic to me I have decided to express myself through a short playlist which accompanies this piece; it reflects my current mood and feelings as I wait to start my new course. The songs I have picked are mixture of Rap, RnB, Progressive Indie Rock and Experimental Electric and is a sonic reflection of how I feel, not so much lyrical.
A few words to describe the playlist’s sounds are: tense, heavy, anxious and contemplative.
The playlist starts with Taylor McFerrin’s ethereal ‘Blind Aesthetics’. It sets the early pace of the playlist. It’s kinda like an intro.
The first three songs share the characteristic of a slow and gradual buildup. They represent the ‘uncertain state of awaiting’ before I start my course. ‘Spanish Sahara’, one of my favourite songs by The Foals, takes us on a 7-minute-long progressive journey which ends with a tidal of vocals, drums, pianos and drums.
The second third of the playlist represents the uneasiness, anxiety and a heaviness I’ve been feeling during this waiting phase. This is encapsulated by the dark sounds of Bank’s ‘Waiting Game’.
The last three tracks of the playlist are songs of two halves, representing the ‘intermediate state or condition.’ The title of this piece is perfectly summed up during the limbo-like period between 4m 27s and 5m 23s on the familiar ‘Pyramids’ by Frank Ocean.
I decided to end the playlist on a euphoric high with ‘Hi-Fi’ by Essex rapper Dream Mclean. Why? Because it’s sick and I like it. Hopefully euphoria is what I’ll feel in a years time when I graduate… again.
N9neThoughts x Carl - Limbo featuring Taylor McFerrin, The Foals, James Blake, The Weeknd, Banks, Kelela, Frank Ocean,…itunes.apple.com