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What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger, and So Does Music

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I had a problem the other day, and when I confided in someone about it the advice I got was the simply "have a thicker skin." My immediate response once this interaction was over was to put on my headphones.

We all have moments in life when we feel about as thick-skinned as a paper doll. A bad breakup, a humiliating mistake, a fight with a close friend or family -- there are moments in life that tear us down.

The most frequent occurrence of this feeling, in my opinion, happens in middle school. Most of us (if not all of us) have horrifying tales from that awkward time in our life when we go through the transitional period from being carefree kids to angsty teens. A hierarchy tends to build in the classroom, with some tearing down others in order to stay on top.

To me, this is the time in our lives when we learn to build that tougher exterior around our emotions that we refer to as a "thick skin." It also happens to be the time in our lives when we begin to explore sound in a new and exciting way, and start to develop what our lifelong taste in music will be.

Music has a unique way of tapping into our emotions, and not just when we're in the stage of slamming the door and blasting our music to display the truth depth of our frustration with parents.

Sound with rhythm and a beat can take us to a vulnerable place. A favorite song, album, or artist can help us work through our hurt emotions and heal in ways that science can't yet fully grasp. But what is really special about music it that while it can help strip us down, it can also build us up.

There is evidence of music in war dating back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans and beyond, both in signaling commands or announcements and in chants to keep soldiers battling on. And while the original Olympians may not have had iPods, it's likely that music played a role in their preparation for the games. That continues today, as few years we eagerly await articles telling us what music favorites like Michael Phelps are listening to before going for the gold.

After chatting with him a week prior to the O Music Awards, I caught up with Andrew WK again just minutes after he achieved his world record for drumming for 24-hours straight in a Times Square store. With what little energy (and voice, for that matter) he had left, he told me this about the experience:

"I realized it was going to be challenging, but sometimes you just don't know what it's going to be like and all you have to do is just keep going. You just keep going. I actually didn't know if I was going to be able to finish but I knew I wasn't going to stop, and that was enough to pass another ten seconds or another ten hours. It was very intense."

The same drum beat that called men to battle thousands of years ago kept Mr. WK going and allowed him to achieve what he really thought might be an impossible goal. It's this beat drives preteens through what might be the most awkward stage of life.

And it's this beat that keeps me going strong, regardless of how the thickness of my skin is perceived by others.