Darker Days and Rays of Hope
This blog is being posted late because it covers some heavy topics.
“TRIGGER WARNING- this post contains information about suicide which may be upsetting to some people.”
Have you ever forgotten to practice what you preach? I’ve realized that’s something I’ve been doing lately.
In my song dandelion (an ode to my inner child) I write…
“You were never meant to draw within their lines never clip your wings or dim your shine”
For the past couple of months, I’ve been really down on myself for not being able to conform to what society wants me to be. I’ve felt like there was something wrong with me and I’ve even sought treatment for it. I felt like I was deserving of the shame I felt, the failures I’ve had, and the judgement I’ve received. Tonight, I felt a sense of liberation for the first time in a long time.
My night didn’t start out that way though, I was actually feeling kind of down. I’d gotten to the point with my lack of a day job where I needed to do whatever in order to bring some type of money in. The quickest resource available to me was driving for Uber Eats. This was something I was trying to avoid resorting too at all costs. I really had thought those days were behind me, so it felt regressive. I hate feeling like I’m going backwards.
Before I set off however, I decided to go see one of my friends play on a whim. It wasn’t one of the more typical downtown venues, it was actually an Irish bar and restaurant a little farther out from town. It was a really cool place, and it’s hard to be sad in that kind of environment.
The round included my very talented friend and some other seasoned writers. It reminded me why I love doing “Nashville stuff.” When I’m not, it’s very easy to start to feel alone in all of this, to feel like I’m the only one who believes dreams can happen. But in a city like Nashville, it’s actually quite the opposite. Everyone here is crazy, everyone is attempting to do the impossible, beat the odds, or be content to spend their lives and money trying. I’d encourage any artist out there to go see a show if you’re feeling down. It’s a lot more fun to feel like you’re part of a crazy collective. You go from feeling like an ostracized misfit who can’t do anything right to feeling like you’re part of an elite club of reckless dreamers. It’s inspiring exciting and good for the plot. That outlook, regardless of if it's your current reality, makes the obstacles feel more like an adventure and a lot less stressful.
With that in mind, I had the motivation I needed to get back out there. It was oddly comforting to be back out there, and at that point, I actually felt more proud of myself than disappointed. Having cut myself a lot of slack over the pandemic, it almost felt empowering to be back out there, doing what I needed to do to keep going, taking my dream into my own hands so to speak. It reminded me of the earlier days where I felt that new to Nashville hunger, where I felt stronger and more willing to do whatever it took. I haven’t felt connected to that part of me in a long time.
I returned home around 3am and after a shower, got to work on some freelance copywriting I was also doing. At that point my mind was buzzing and I was able to crank out ideas effortlessly. Had I still been trying to fit into the 9-5 box, I’d have been tossing and turning and stressing about how exhausted I was going to be in the morning.
There’s a certain satisfaction I get out of being up and making money while the rest of the world is asleep. It felt good to finally be doing things my way, and as a result being much more successful.
It is hard to be an unconventional person in a very conventional world. As an artist, you might get looked down on, misunderstood, or even have your character called into question because you don’t fit the mold everyone’s used to. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. That it doesn’t make you or your skillset any less valuable, in fact, in most cases, it simply means you’re able to do different things in different ways than most. When the task doesn’t appeal to the masses, you’ll be where they look for help.
"If they don’t pick you, it’s just cause they don’t get you. You're a wild thing they can’t contain but there ain’t nothing wrong with you."
It’s something I knew subconsciously when I wrote it, but tonight is one of the first times I think I’ve ever truly believed in what it meant.
Welp, I lost another job today.
I chose my well-being over working on two hours of sleep after sheltering from tornados into the wee hours of the morning. Employers don’t really seem to like that.
This is something I’m learning. In all of my previous jobs I used to want to give my all. But I don’t care anymore. It’s not worth it for me to get up barely functioning for $15 an hour. I’m choosing myself from here on out.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I really think it was time for me to move on to something better, and that’s why this is happening. No harm, no foul. I just wish it didn’t have to be this way for working people.
Showing up on time isn’t worth damaging your health. You shouldn’t be expected to prioritize work when the night before you were contemplating whether or not the night would be deadly for you like it was deadly for 70+ others. This seems like common sense to me, yet I’m somehow the outlier.
I know I can’t single handedly change things. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to find an income source I can stay in for long. But I am a lot more determined than defeated this morning. Maybe the answer isn’t about what am able to find, but what I am able to create.
It’s later in the day and as the day goes on, I feel like I’ve lost a lot of the empowered outlook I’d had this morning.
The truth is, this cycle is exhausting. I’d like nothing more to be content and satisfied at a day job. I’d like to just be able to go to bed at a normal time, and wake up refreshed, and do my job, get paid and go home. I’d like to be able to do what everyone else seems to be able to do.
My whole life I haven’t fit the mold. When I was younger I made up for it by excelling at other things. Feeling accepted has always felt very conditional. So it was always like hey, maybe I don’t do a lot of things the normal way, but I can be the best jumper on this cheer team. I can run down that girl on the soccer field. can get As in all my classes.
At this point I don’t even want to apply for anything else because I doubt it will work long. But the freelancing is also inconsistent and comes with its own risks, especially Uber eats driving at night in the city.
I’ll figure things out. I just wish it wasn’t so hard. I wish it could be easy for once. I wish I could show up, get paid, and go home and be content like everyone else can. This is the reality of these feelings whether I want to feel them or not. I wish more people could understand.
The past week has been a rough one.
I’ve been stressed about finding a new job. Then, we had tornadoes roll through town.
It’s funny. It’s not funny. What I mean is, it feels like deja vu. Around the time when covid first came on the scene, there was also a major tornado that hit Nashville. It's brutally comical that nearly two year later, we’re in what feels like the same spot in a lot of ways. Obviously we have vaccines, obviously Trump isn’t president anymore, but it still gives the feeling that this is just going to keep going on and on.
Torados have always freaked me out. I think it has a lot to do with being scared of the TV alert noise when I was a kid. But Being so close to one that it made my lights flicker, and seeing the destruction thereafter definitely made the threat feel more real and the likelihood more possible.
I am pretty prepared. I even stopped off for nonperishable food and water after I got out of the cowrite I had that day. I also kept my eye on Nashville Severe weather, which is an awesome twitter account that keeps an eye on storms in the local area (if you're moving to Nashville, you should definitely follow them.) When the warnings came in, I was awake, of course. I got my roommates up, put my helmet on and we hung out in our apartment's basement parking garage.
Davidson County ended up having four tornadoes that night, none of them were a direct hit on Nashville. I think there was one fatality in Tennessee. But a lot of the major damage wasn’t too far away. The tornados in Kentucky were devastating, with 70+ fatalities.
A lot of people make me feel silly for prepping so hard for tornados, but you never feel like it’s going to be your town that’s leveled till it is. I stand by “overreacting” in situations like this, which I really just consider properly reacting. Being prepared. Taking precautions. Heeding warnings. I’d rather do all that and have nothing happen than not do enough and not make it through.
I’ve got a song idea in my notes called “I’ve been feeling a little too mortal lately.” It just feels like everywhere I turn over the past couple years has been death and destruction. From the Trump presidency, through covid, to beginning and ending the year with deadly tornadoes, it feels like we can’t catch a break. And even when we do catch a break, something bad happens again.
This time it hit closer to home than it has ever before.
I was out with my friends catching a break a night or two after the tornadoes when I got news that my uncle died by suicide. I haven’t been able to talk to many people about it outside of immediate family who already knew and my best friends from home. It’s not entirely that I don’t want to talk about it, it’s just that I don’t know how. How do you even start that conversation? What do you say, and what can you expect anyone else to say back? Is it even fair to burden them with that kind of information when it’s already hard for everybody out here? I’ve even looked into therapy, but it all seems very disingenuous. I don’t feel like talking to anyone who’s first question is what insurance I have, how I’m going to pay for it, and the fee they’re going to charge me if I miss the appointment. That doesn’t sound like someone who cares about anything besides their own bottom line.
That night I had no emotional response to what I just learned happened. I don’t think my mind believed it or processed it. I was actually concerned with the fact that I wasn’t feeling anything.
Then the realization and the sadness set in and I didn’t do much for the next couple of days. I stayed in my room, I slept a lot, watched a lot of tiktoks. Cried.
The only thing I could think like a broken record was WHY. Why, why, why after all we’ve survived so far?! It doesn’t make sense. I don’t think it ever will.
What it does do is shake my own faith. How can there be a higher power or purpose for all of us out here when things like this are allowed to happen? Within weeks of Christmas? It makes the universe feel a lot more chaotic random, and indifferent. Sticking around at this point feels more like just a matter of dumb luck, which is very anxiety inducing.
The existentialist optimist in me will then say that it’s all the more reason to live the life you want, to the fullest. Because you just never know what is going to happen next and you can only control what you can control. So why waste time at a job that doesn’t light up your soul, or save your money for a time that may never come when you could spend it trying to make your dreams come true now, or even just experience something like traveling. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so do it today.
But this also makes it depressing when you can’t do everything you want to do today. When you have to work, plan, save up. It’s scary to have to wait. It feels risky.
I think what strikes me about this the most is that my uncle always felt like the one person in my family who could see the closest through my perspective as a musical artist. He was also a songwriter. He did rap, and actually has recorded a lot of music. He performed. He understood what it was like to be an artist, a real artist, not someone who just wanted to gain fame or fortune. He just wanted to create and felt like he had something to give the world. A lot of the times he felt dissatisfied with the way the world worked. Almost as if being an artist in this world was an act of rebellion in itself.
It’s sad to see his story end this way. It’s a little concerning too. Right now I’m young, I’m not tied down, I have minimal responsibilities and they’re all to myself. I don’t have others depending on me. I can keep dreaming big. What happens to me when I’m in my late 40s and still feel like things are happening TO me instead of FOR me? When I’m still dissatisfied with the way the systems of the world are run. I know I’m a different person, and I’ve went about a lot of things in different ways. I don’t foresee this as my future at all, so don’t be worried about me. It’s just a sobering thought. It’s sickly. There are a lot of parallels.
I’m sad. Sad is an understatement. It’s a major blow to our family, which has already struggled in a lot of ways. It’s not fair. Nobody deserves what they’re going through right now.
I’m sad we won’t be able to talk shop at Christmas. I’m sad I can’t remember the last time we talked. I’m sad he’ll never get to hear my EP, because I think he would have really liked it. He would have really listened to it, not just listened to it in passing. I think he would have had good feedback to give and an interesting perspective to share. A lot of times throughout this recording process, I thought about what he might think. I was excited to talk with him about my choices.
What it also does though is strengthen my resolve to keep going after my dreams, for the both of us. I still get to be here. I still get to do this. I still have songs I want the world to hear. I’d like to even incorporate some of his stuff into one of my songs one day. That’s the thing about being an artist, your work lives on.
I ended up moving my remaining cowrites to after the holidays. I’ve spent a lot of time at home.
Something that has helped me feel a bit better is cleaning my room, washing my bedsheets and taking a shower. I also saged my room and burned some sage when I was in the shower. I also have been trying to sit in different areas of our living room couch. Whatever at least feels like I'm not being stagnant. I had a couple of rough up all nights that threw my already terrible sleep schedule into going to sleep at 7am and waking up at 4pm, similar to my pandemic schedule. That only lasted a few days though.
I also had a live performance during the week after I got the news. It was really hard. Although I didn’t say it out loud, it was dedicated to him. The bar I played in was Bobby’s Idle Hour Tavern. The round was through Smokin’ on the Row, which included free BBQ for the crowd along with the performance. The place had an old Nashville feel, and the photos on the walls reminded me of my Grandpa’s old place. We lost him years earlier to other struggles.
I’ve always been the type to believe the show must go on, no matter what, and so it did, but it was really difficult. We had to fit a lot of people on stage because one of the acts was a duo and of course I had a guitar player, so that was two extra chairs. For a moment everyone was sitting up there but me as the hosts were trying to find a chair for me and my guitar player. In that moment anxiety in the back of my head was shouting that I was going to get booted out of the round somehow. What a silly thought, but it felt like it could happen in that moment. That’s the thing about putting on a performance when everything else feels like it’s falling apart, the slightest deviation from what you expected to be doing can throw you for a loop. I was way more bothered by that than I should have been, but that was why. I hope I was able to play it off ok, since I don’t want to seem like I have a bad attitude. Once we got up and situated, I had a tough time getting through my first song without crying but I managed. By the end of of the round, I did feel a lot better.
I stayed to watch the rounds after mine, and at one point one of the artists (who was also one of the hosts who cooked the BBQ) handed Kazoos out to the audience to play along. That was hilarious. I felt the comradely there. Despite where my head was at I was still having fun.
I feel lucky to be here. Despite all of the hardships and the uncertainty I get up and thank God, or dumb luck, that I get to be here and do this. I will always choose to be here and do this, for as long as I can. I’ll keep going no matter how hard it gets. I’ll never give up. I not only want to do it for myself, now I want to do it and dedicate it to those who can’t anymore, like my uncle, or those who for whatever reason never got the chance.
If you or someone you know is struggling, help is always available. You are not alone. Visit https://afsp.org/suicide-prevention-resources for resources.
I’m really starting to get worried now.
I’ve done my best to stay positive, and try to think in the what I want verses where I am, but where I am seems to be catching up with me.
January first is supposed to mark a new year, a fresh start. A chance to have a clean slate with new goals and new possibilities. For me right now, January first is a deadline for bills I can’t pay and a whole lot of stress.
I’ve had a couple of interviews I feel really good about but no offers so far. I am home for the holidays and am extending my visit because someone in my household was exposed to covid, which is actually hilarious (but not funny) because the same thing happened last year. I thought I’d have the copywriting gig during these weeks, but that was put on pause. A major difference is this time around I don’t have unemployment coming in, at least not yet. It’s still needs to be adjudicated and apparently there’s a backlog. I can do some Uber eats while I’m here but I haven’t yet. My family only has one car and my sleep schedule is so off by the time I get around too it it’s too late. I also feel bad using their car.
I’m extra stressed because I parked my car at the airport. I normally don’t do that but the day before my flight I was coming from somewhere else, traffic picked up and I didn’t think I’d make it in time. I’m pretty sure it’s $15 a day. I’m trying not to think about it. I have some wiggle room on my credit card but not much, and I’d been saving that to try and keep my EP project alive.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with that if I don’t get another job quick. My bills are going to wipe out all of the money I currently have left. I was able to get one of my private student loans and my car payment delayed a bit, and I’m also going to skip voice lessons for a month. I’m canceling any non essential subscription I have. I’m prepared to go back to bean burritos like I did when I first moved here. I hope it won’t come to that, but I’m determined to figured out.
Last night I had really bad allergies. Like REALLY bad. My eyes, throat and ears were so itchy I felt like I was going to lose my mind. I didn’t get to sleep Until around 7am, which then resulted in me sleeping the day away, so I didn’t get to drive Uber Eats. I wish I had. Even if I’d earned a little money I’d feel a little better.
It’s really hard to stay optimistic, but I’m choosing to do it anyway. I’ve been worse off and have figured things out before. I know I can. I’d just love to get to a point where I don’t have to prove my resilience every couple of months. I guess it makes for a better story later on.
Speaking of stories, as I type this, I’m currently watching “Walk the Line” the movie about Johnny cash. I was flipping channels (which isn’t something I usually do, I usually watch Hulu or scroll through TikTok) and happened to catch it right as the opening credits were rolling. It’s providing a lot of much needed inspiration. Sighs like these always seem to show up when I need them. So I’m going to watch the movie and take it as my cue to keep going.
Today is New Year’s Eve, normally my favorite holiday because of the champagne and glitter, the brief moment of global unity and the hope to come, but NYE is feeling pretty heavy this year.
Beyond the loss of my uncle, there’s still an anxiety around covid going into 2022 with the omicron surge. I really thought that would be behind us by now. I really thought I’d be going out with friends wearing sequin dresses downtown Nashville this year. It’s wild how long this pandemic has lasted.
I woke up this morning and learned that Betty White had passed away, days before celebrating her 100th birthday. It feels unfair, it puts a damper on things, and feels very fitting for 2021, bringing things down right up till it’s bitter end.
On my Instagram feed, I see a lot of my fellow artist friends posting photos and highlighting all of their accomplishments this year. Although I’m happy for them, it is making me feel discouraged. I feel like I don’t have a lot to show for myself this year…
Which isn’t entirely fair. Maybe my accomplishments haven’t been very flashy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There’s been progress, especially on my main project, my EP. I’ve been in voice lessons and feel like I have improved a lot as a singer, especially when it comes to increasing my range. And right before the year’s end, my following on TikTok pushed past 20 thousand. I could not have conceived that number a couple years ago. I am always pushing for more, but I need to do a better job of being proud of myself.
Still, I really thought 2020 was the year for laying a foundation and 2021 was the year for execution. Going into 2022, I’m still laying a lot of groundwork, but I have less safety nets and I face a lot of uncertainty. I’m going into the new year without a steady income and I’m not sure how I’m gunna pay my rent next month let alone finish my EP project. I’m determined to do it, and I’ve figured things out before when I had nothing and my back was against the wall, but I would appreciate being able to accomplish things without having to fight for every inch.
I found myself thinking about the fact that before a caterpillar turns to a butterfly, they first dissolve into a ball of goo. Maybe 2020-2021 was my ball of goo. I feel like a ball of goo at the moment. But if I don’t go through the goo process, I might have been more, comfortable things might have felt less uncertain, but I’d still be a caterpillar. And I know I’ve got more in me than being a caterpillar. I was meant to spread my wings.
Here are my main goals going into the new year.
Learn my EP songs on guitar, play at a writers round by myself by the end of March
Release EP by the end of July 2022
Complete a small tour before the end of October
play the open mic at the Bluebird
Play a round at the Listening Room Cafe
Learning guitar is really important for me to achieve this year. It’s embarrassing that I haven’t by now. Had I practiced every day since moving to Nashville three years ago, I’d be already be playing. I’ve managed to get by without it up till this point, but It’s held me back and cost me money. With one of my regular players (who is a friend) now requiring payment for writer's rounds, I need to be able to do this on my own. I know I can buts it still feels very daunting and I’m too impatient when I don't succeed right away and I lack discipline when it comes to practicing regularly.
I also need to finish recording and release my EP. I really don’t want to delay it, but I want to release it properly. That includes marketing it. So getting more consistent income is a must. I don’t want to compromise anything about how it rolls out and I’m determined to make this release go the way I want to.
Touring is also something I want to do. It’s a natural next step especially after releasing an EP. I want to get it on the road and spread the word about it. I want to meet some of the fans I’ve accumulated online. I’ve talked to a singer/songwriter friend of mind who has toured before so I have a good blueprint. I want to start it off small and maybe make it a yearly thing, growing each time. I’m less concerned about playing full bad shows this year. I think I’ll tackle that after releasing my EP and touring acoustically. I need more money for that anyway.
The most important thing we can have going into a new year, or even a new day, is hope. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved New Years so much. No matter what we face, the world still gets together to reflect on the good times that have past, and celebrate our collective new beginning. The music industry, life, it’s all full of uncertainty and things out of our control. But no matter what you can always control your own outlook. You can always control your resolve to keep going and keep believing in yourself, your dreams, and the betterment of humanity. It’s why throughout history we’ve been able to persevere, and slowly inch ourselves towards peace and progress even when it seems impossible.That doesn’t mean it will always be easy, that doesn’t mean you won’t WANT to give up sometimes and feel discouraged now and then, but when all is said and done, you get to take the gift that is every new day, and make the choice to hope for something better. It’s what despite everything, I will continue to do. And with that, I look forward to the possibilities and opportunities 2022 will bring.