Today I woke up like any other monday, tired and not wanting to go to university. I checked my email and Facebook, and there was one innocent little message in my inbox. A friend who I’ve known since high school said he had recently heard some sad news from another old friend and needed to call me. Him being in Australia and me being in Canada made calling difficult, but I had an immediate gut feeling that something terrible had happened. From the two friends involved I had a hunch that it was about another mutual friend of ours from High School, Jared Pritchard, since we had all been really close friends in school and had since drifted apart on our different paths through life in the intervening 8 years. A quick look at Jared’s Facebook page revealed a wall filled with touching eulogies. My heart sunk as my worst fears were confirmed, my old friend had passed away.
Here is an amazing video showing some of Jared’s life. It was made by some of his close friends and does a far better job that I can put into words:
I’m going to recount some memories I have of my time with Jared in High School. I became friends with Jared when I was about 14. We lived near each other on the Central Coast and both went to Gosford High School. We had a close group of friends that liked the same punk bands, we loved bodyboarding, we were usually interested in the same sports etc. Over the course of the next few years I came to admire Jared greatly. He was an amazingly talented person at everything he did. He was a great musician, dancer, athlete and friend. We used to catch the same bus home from school and would spend many an afternoon excitedly discussing our favourite bands, stopping to look out the window to check the surf on the way home, and if it was good trying to convince our parents to drive us to the beach. I remember we also used to lament about girls we had crushes on but could get nowhere with. We called this “The Hole”, and whenever one of us was stuck in the hole we would exaggerate everything to the extreme until we were laughing deliriously at the absurdity of it all. We laughed a lot, and back then laughter solved pretty much all our problems.
When we were 15, on Wednesdays we would skip afternoon sport and go back to Jared’s place to jam. I played guitar, and him drums (even though he was a far better guitarist than me) and we would knock out four chord punk songs trying to mimic Bad Religion, my favourite band at the time. This was when I first began song writing, and Jared was the person who initially encouraged me to start. He was a huge musical influence on me as was in awe of his talent, the bands he had played in, and the songs he had written.
Around this time we also started getting interested in break dancing, a strange thing for punk kids to like but we didn’t care. We would practice in the school hall at lunch spraining our wrists and bruising our hips trying to learn to do the moves. We started Capoeira classes (an acrobatic Brazilian martial arts) to try and learn some things that would be useful since there were no break dancing classes in our town at the time. Eventually Jared stopped the Capoeira and stuck to straight breakdancing and became very very good at it. I on the other hand stopped breakdancing and embraced the martial arts aspect of Capoeira, though I didn’t get nearly as good at it as Jared did at breaking. People who knew Jared in his late teens will remember him as an amazing breaker.
Our group was also quite good at athletics. In Year 10 three of us, myself, Daniel, and Marty were in the 4x100m relay team and qualified for the NSW State Athletics carnival. The fourth runner was a boy in the year above us at school and this team was our best chance to get to the State final. The day before the carnival the fourth runner broke his ankle and we were ruined, but at the last minute we phoned Jared up and asked him to come fill in the place. Unfortunately this story doesn’t have a fairytale ending, Jared wasn’t as (relatively) fast as he used to be in Year 7 when he was last in the relay team, and we didn’t qualify. But he tried his hardest and helped us out and that’s more important. Even though we didn’t win we still had a great time, and like always we saw the humour in everything and just laughed about it. To top it off after the race Jared, Marty and I were trying to do front flips on the high jump mats in the warm up area when my Dad said he was ready to take us home. Marty said “Just one more try!” and went for a big flip, his long legs getting in the way and his knee hitting himself in the jaw with a thundering crack as he landed. I swear I saw a chunk of his lip fly off into the distance and blood came gushing out everywhere. After getting some ice we ended up laughing about that too on the trip home (sorry Marty).
There were many more stories like this from our Year 10 days, however after that year finished Jared changed schools and moved to Sydney to go to Newtown performing arts school. This was a perfect move for someone of his creative calibre, but sadly it also meant due to the distance that he started drifting apart from our old group. Slowly everyone lost contact with Jared and then one and a half years later in mid 2003 we heard the startling news that Jared had had a stroke. Jared underwent extremely risky brain surgery to save his life, though he lost some coordination and motor skills from the brain hemorrhage. I visited him in hospital and was heartbroken to see one of my most influential high school peers in his present condition, but at the same time was inspired by his optimism and hope for life. About two years later tragedy struck again and Jared had another stroke, this time leaving him severely paralysed on half his body. Some of Jared’s closest friends made an inspiring documentary about his battle, which showed his amazing spirit and creativity even in the face of such adversity (I’ve included them at the bottom of the page).
All I can say personally is after a heartbreaking visit to see him in hospital again the next, and final, time I saw Jared was in 2008 at my sisters 21st birthday. Jared was visiting the Central Coast at this time and my last memory of him is him wanting to have a go at chugging a beer bong. He did this from his wheel chair, and made a heroic effort for someone with partial paralysis. He managed to drink about half of the beer before spilling the rest onto his T-shirt. Though that was the last time I saw Jared, I did keep in contact with him via email. For the person who first inspired me to begin writing songs, it’s somehow fitting my last conversations with him were also about song writing.In early 2009 just as I had finished my undergraduate degrees I was recoding my first EP for my solo music project Eclectic Dreams. I was doing this on my own and I knew almost nothing about mixing and mastering, relying mostly on trial and error and dumb luck. Jared suggested I email him some of my mixes, and he then gave me valuable feedback on improving them and even then helped me learn a lot about the mixing process.
Shortly after finishing my EP I began my life as a vagabond by backpacking and moving to Canada and during this time I had only sporadic contact with people in Australia. It’s only now that I learned that Jared passed away on December 1st 2010. Jared was one of the most creative, unique, talented and just generally likeable people I have met. He inspired me in so many ways. Sadly he had a tragically short life, and his later years were held more than their share of misfortune. However, I believe that in his 25 years on this planet he influenced and inspired more people than many could hope to achieve in a century.