8123: The School For Compassion & Kindness

An 8123 Community blog by Josie Bircham

I never really had anyone to look up to when I was little. Sure, I got taught how to use a knife and fork, how to read and write, ride a bike... but no one really showed me about compassion and kindness; they don’t teach you that stuff in school and I certainly didn’t learn about it at home. At my school, you would get ridiculed for being enthusiastic or passionate about something, it was cool not to give a shit about anything. Consequently I didn’t do as well as I might have done and I left there without having a clue what to do with my life or any motivation to figure it out. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I started finding inspiration a little further afield; from the music I had been listening to for years, and the people behind it. I started to learn that it’s okay to be yourself, even if that self doesn’t quite fit into your current surroundings. That being nice to people around you, and having fun without worrying about being cool will make you feel a lot better about yourself. 

I first stumbled across The Maine back in 2012 when they supported All Time Low on tour. I was instantly drawn to their vibe. After that I delved into their back catalogue of music (and John’s infamous twitter account) and their current album at the time, Pioneer, which was a huge game changer for me and remains my all time favourite album, but that’s a story for another day! Every lyric resonated with me and were more relatable than anything I’d come across before, it felt like coming home. 

Watching the way these guys conducted themselves, how they treated their fans and the message they were putting out made me want to be a better person. I started off with these little ‘random acts of kindness’; buying a cup of tea and a pasty for a homeless person, leaving little notes for people to find around town, I signed up to be a volunteer at my local animal rescue shelter. It felt so nice to put just a little bit of good back into the world. 

Now the next part is where things got really interesting! It was the 2014 8123 UK Tour, I was at the October 9th date at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. John stopped in the middle of the set to make a speech to the crowd, his voice was full of so much sincerity and passion, at one point I thought he was going to cry, I don’t there could have been one person in the room that wasn’t at least a little moved. Here is the censored version of that speech: 


 "We don't know how long we're alive for. Please don't spend your time doing some bullshit you don't enjoy, that you don't get excited about, that you don't find happiness through. Please please go out and be happy man. Enjoy yourselves. Enjoy your lives - enjoy it all. This is all we have. Nobody's written a tale from the grave telling me that they've experienced some other life. This is all we experience my friends.”


I walked out of the venue that night knowing I was going to quit my job. I’d worked in retail for nearly ten years and I hated it. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I needed to do something. I don’t know if you believe in fate, or if you would call this next part a happy coincidence, but the next day I received a message from a very dear friend of mine. It was a link to a job vacancy at an animal shelter, she encouraged me to apply and told me I was made for it. It turned out that an old school friend of mine worked there, and she kindly handed my application onto the manager. I got the job! Three or so years on and I am still so lucky to be able to do something that I enjoy, that I get excited about, and that I find happiness through. I get to go to work every day knowing that I’m making a difference and doing something worthwhile for all the animals in my care who don’t have anyone else. No more counting down to the end of the day, or the week. No more feeling stuck and worthless and fed up. Just a whole lot of sunshine. I’ll be forever thankful to 8123 and that little sprinkle of fate for helping me get here.