The thing about me is I feel like I can only be so stagnant for so long. No matter what I face there always seems to come a point where I stop feeling sorry for myself and start demanding more of myself. I think I’ve reached that point today.
The truth is I’m pretty ashamed of who I’ve become lately. I feel like my younger self would be so disappointed if she met me now. I’ve felt so defeated lately that I’ve lost the part of me that aspires to fight on and figure it out. For months I’ve been living in this no man’s land of life isn’t fair. I think I’ve come to a realization that yeah, it isn’t, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still succeed. Ultimately it's in my control whether or not I beat the odds and overcome the obstacles.
I went to the gym for the first time in a long time, if for nothing but to just get some endorphins and improve my mood. They say an object at rest stays at rest, and I’ve been at rest for too long.
During my run I listened to a playlist of cheerleading mix music. I’m really trying to reconnect with that part of myself, the competitor, the athlete, the one who always left everything on the mat. Realizing that art is not a competition and shouldn't be approached like sports was good for me when I first moved here, but I feel like I’ve almost been too much of an artist lately when it comes to my mindset. I’ve been feeling everything and doing nothing. I need to get back to attacking my goals the way I used to when I was an athlete.
Competitive cheerleading is a really inspiring sport because it easily acts as a metaphor for life. It’s all about pushing past your limits, deciding to be the best and going out there and doing it. Every second of that routine is a fight. The entire time, every part of your body is screaming at you to give up, but you push through. You keep smiling, you literally yell at the top of your lungs about how you’re the best and that nothing can stop you. It’s exhilarating to believe in yourself like that. It's rewarding at the end when you’re completely gassed but know you made it through and gave it all you could. It’s a high I got addicted to at a young age.
There’s something to be said about being loud and proud. Cheer is all about harnessing that concept and using it to fuel incredible, impossible things. I used to attack all my goals in this way, but I haven’t in a while. That ends tonight.
Things have been picking up for me as of late. Maybe it’s my shift in attitude, maybe it was the new moon, I’m not sure. All I know is I have been doing a lot more freelance writing work lately. I put out a shoutout on Instagram and ended up picking up another Tiktok client, and I may even get a gig editing a book (thanks to the amazing connections queen Dani Felt.) I also emailed a restaurant on a whim after finding out they have really good hours (11AM start, no work on Saturday and only till 3 on Friday) and I have an interview with them Sunday! I’ve also had a string of really good cowrites.
My bank account is still looking a little dismal, but I’m hoping I can change that as the month progresses. Between all of my side hustles and my food delivery work, I feel like I might just get by this time. I’m hoping I’ll be able to earn beyond that.
The more my money is in order, the more I can relax and focus on other things. I’ve been a lot better at practicing guitar, and I’m happy about my progress. I haven’t booked any more rounds yet, and I’m feeling a little anxious about the progress of my EP, but overall, things are feeling a lot better in February than they were in January. Maybe the new year just needed a warm up.
Speaking of a warm up I am more than ready for spring weather.
I haven’t done a lot of writing this month because instead I’ve been doing a lot of doing. One thing I had been wanting to write about but haven’t is the Olympics and how they have shaped my outlook on adversity. This boost in motivating content could not have come at a better time for me.
I’ve always been a fan of the Olympics because I love the idea of the world coming together in unity to celebrate some of the best we have to offer. These athletes push the boundary of human limitations and prove that anything is possible if you’re willing to dream big and work hard enough. It’s always helpful to see people doing incredible things and makes it easier to say if they can do it, so can I. These people are literally competing at the highest level. Whether it's pairs figure skating that goes against the laws of physics, ski/snowboard cross that is just flinging yourself off a ramp and hoping for the best, or sledding face first faster than a car can drive, saying that olympians are inspiring would be an understatement. The olympics are always a dramatic event that brings about many human interest stories, whether it's the underdog winning or the favorite falling apart. Two team USA redemption arcs really stood out to me this year and definitely felt like they related to what I was going through with my musical journey.
The first was men's figure skater Nathan Chen. Going into the previous winter olympics in Pyeongchang, he was the gold medal favorite, even dubbed the "Quad King" for being the first skater in the world to land five quadruple jumps in a single program. Going into the olympics, he was undefeated in world competitions . It was his to lose, and unfortunately that's exactly what happened. After falling while attempting a triple axel and failing to complete a quad in his short program, he finished off the podium.
I've been feeling particularly knocked down when it comes to my music career lately, so seeing anyone make a comeback and triumph is inspiring and positive. Having watched Nathan Chen's disaster of a program unfold live in real time at the last olympics, I was really rooting for him. I knew how much it must have meant to him, and I wanted him to get the moment he deserved. I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath the entire time he was on the ice, almost even scared to watch after every jump, but in the end, he did what he needed to do and got the gold medal, skating to Rocket Man nonetheless! Seeing him come back and win it this time feels like a good callback to myself and my situation. It's a reminder that success not happening NOW doesn’t mean it won’t ever, and that the most important thing is to keep working and not give up. I know this deep down but seeing it work live in action is very encouraging. It’s a message I needed.
The second redemption story I really resonated with was that of Lindsey Jacobellis. This is a redemption story that's been in the works since 2006. Talk about not giving up!
In the 2006 winter games in Turin Italy, Lindsey Jacobellis was about to win gold in snowboard cross when she lost her lead after going for what some saw as a celebratory board grab on the second-to-last jump. I remember watching the aftermath and hearing the announcer say "this isn't the face of someone who just won silver, this is the face of someone who lost gold." She'd retuned time and time again and hasn't been able to get it done, until now, at the age of 36. She also snagged another gold in mixed snowboard cross with her teammate, Nick Baumgartner, who is 40.
Seeing people considered "old" compete and win in an arena where they're constantly being told they have an expiration date is also very relatable to doubts I face in the music industry. I'm currently 25, about to turn 26, and to a lot of big businessmen at labels and radio, I'm already considered too old to be marketable. Too old to bother taking a chance on. Real artists have shown time and time again that this isn't the case, but that doesn't make it go away. At the end of the day I try to be confident and I tell myself that my music doesn't stop being good once I turn 30, my music won't stop being good when I don't have a young face anymore, if anything, my years will only give me more stories and experiences to pull from, more time to learn new skills and see the world through different lenses, more wisdom to incorporate into my writing, but it's still hard. Even though I know these things and do my best to just focus on the art and let the rest be noise, I still feel pressured to succeed while I'm still young. It's easy to feel like I'm running out of time. Seeing Jacobellis have this comeback after all those years and watching those two not only compete, but win at their age gave me a lot of reassurance. I've got years ahead of me and there is opportunity in all of those years for my dreams to come true as long as I never give up.
It was also meaningful and inspiring to see Shaun White compete in the finals for his last olympics. This is again someone I've been following for years, since the start of his career. He really came in and pushed the envelope of the sport, inspiring the young athletes who were now competing against him and surpassing him in skill. In qualifying, he was able to clinch a spot for himself in the finals on his last run. I was sad when he didn't medal, because of course I was rooting for him, but I then realized that at this point in his career, one more medal didn't matter. He had already solidified his legacy as one the greatest of all time. One of the most memorable. One who stood out in the grand scheme of the sport. As he transitions into whatever comes next for him, that will never change. His legacy as a champion is something that he earned and something that he'll carry with him for the rest of his life. We're all chasing that time in the spotlight, and I believe that it's something that can happen at any time if you work hard enough, but it is fleeting, so you have to make the most of it. I think Shaun White made the most if it in the way I hope to make the most of it. He left it all on the halfpipe. That's what champions do, and it's what I will always aspire to do when it comes to my music.
I’m rounding out the month with some anxious feelings. I’m home right now for my uncle's funeral and have been doomscrolling the news about Russia invading Ukraine all day. It’s really hard to focus on myself at a micro level when such huge things are going on in the world. It really hijacks my attention. It feels kind of silly to be worrying about my individual goals and problems while huge things are happening outside. I’ve been doing my best to watch less news for my own peace of mind, but some things you just can’t ignore. Right now I have anxiety induced chest pains. Ive been putting off writing this blog and some other work I need to do, but I still can't look away. I'm trying to take breaks though. It’s a very helpless feeling. I’m just one person, there isn’t much I can do on an individual scale to change things or stop this, still I put the emotional weight of it on my shoulders like I have a responsibility to feel for the world. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been called to be an artist. I’ve always felt this sense to contribute to things bigger than myself. I think that art is a manifestation of that. I’m definitely not so idealistic that I think music will stop world war three or anything, but what I am saying is that my art is something that can extend beyond myself. It can reach people. Maybe it can help people, even if it’s just making them feel less alone, or inspired when they’re sad, or comforted, or motivated. I don’t know. It’s hard to articulate. I feel like I just feel the magnitude of whatever is going on around me. I mirror it internally. Art has always been a good outlet for me personally but I think my greater hope has always been that it can make a difference in the outside world on a scale that matches how big my emotions feel. I don’t even know if that makes sense. This could just be late night stress ramblings. Long story short my emotions are huge and my desire to play a positive role on the world (and my worries about the world when things are bad) are too and it gives me peace of mind and hope when I think I can create something that extends beyond myself and can actually reach people. I've always felt called to reach people.
I’ve got my uncles funeral tomorrow. It's almost 4am and I’m going to be so tired. I was stressing about it a lot prior to flying back to Illinois but now that I’m home with my family it’s not so daunting. I think it will be good for everyone to be there for each other.
On the subject of being able to reach people, I was asked to sing at church for my uncle's funeral. I was pretty nervous about it, because I knew it was important for our family and I didn't want to mess up the words. Luckily, I got through it okay. The service included a lot of music, and it got me thinking about the thoughts I had brushed on last night.
When tragedy strikes, it is really hard for us humans to know what to do, where to go, what to say. There often isn't much you can say. I feel like that's where music comes in.
I'm not a very religious person, but I get it. Having a reason to gather, having something to guide you during times like these is comforting if nothing else. And I feel like there is a reason why music has always been incorporated in religious ceremonies. I feel like it is a way for people to connect to emotions during the times when words aren't enough. Nothing in reality is going to be enough in a situation like this, because nothing is going to bring my uncle back. Grasping that fact is extremely difficult, processing it and having to live on after is even harder. While I was singing the song, I felt like I was able to reach out to everyone there in a way I otherwise wouldn't have been able to. Even though I know I can't change what happened, I can offer comfort. I can offer a voice that says I understand and I am with you and you are not alone. I can offer an avenue for you to feel understood about what is too profoundly painful to express otherwise.
The ceremony was beautiful, and I feel like it did help. We will take it day by day. My uncle as I mentioned before was also a musical artist. I think he would have liked that I sang for him, and I think he would agree with the fact that music can play a role in helping people cope with this crazy world.
Well, I was supposed to go back to Nashville, but my skin had other plans.
When I arrived in Illinois, I was getting really bad breakouts on my chin, probably from stress. Maybe from eating too much junk food and drinking, who knows. Luckily, my brother uses the same prescription acne cream I used to use, and I have used it at home from time to time. Well, I really wanted these breakouts gone for the memorial. They were cystic, deep under my skin and super uncomfortable, so I used a lot of the cream. You're only supposed to use a pea sized amount, I went well beyond that. Well, that didn't bode well for me.
At first I felt like my skin was just a little dry and peeling. That happens with this stuff so it was no worries. Then, it got progressively worse. I tried to use vaseline, lotion, even aloe vera gel and none of it seemed to help. The only thing that made it feel any better was using a cold compress (I'd later learn this made things worse by drying out my skin.)
By the time I got an appointment with the dermatologist, I couldn't move my face. It was bright red, hard like cement, and as itchy as it was painful. There was no moment of relief. This is probably in my top three of worst physical experiences ever. I think an ear infection I had may be the only thing to beat it.
Take a moment right now to appreciate that your face feels fine. Don't ever take it for granted.
I was given some steroid cream the provided immediate relief. I was very glad that the rash didn't cause a scar. It sucks, but in an image based industry like music, it's something you can't help but worry about.
The rash did allow for one good thing though. Since I was already home a few extra days, I got to stay for my brother's birthday. My family and I went downtown and I had a nice time.
I also healed just in time to perform for my my mom's school's "Read Across America" day via zoom. I sang my song "Rome" along with "Our Song" by Taylor Swift. I hadn't performed in a while, so I was very nervous. I obviously didn't have a guitar player with me so I had to sing to a track, but it all worked out, and I was told both the kids and the teachers enjoyed what I had to offer. I also got to answer some questions from the kids, which was really fun. I tried my best to be positive and inspirational. I told them that Taylor's first number one song was one she wrote for her school talent show. If there's one kid at that school that feels like they can pursue their dream just a little bit more based on what I told them, then I've done my job. It is very easy to get superficial in the music industry, worry about metrics and followers and looking the part, but things like this really ground me and remind me why I choose to do what I do. It was a reminded I needed. I'm excited to get back to Nashville and keep fighting for the dreams of the kid I used to be.
While I've been home, I've also had more time for late night T.V watching. Something I'd wanted to see for a while now is the three part Netflix documentary on Kanye West. Now Kanye West is obviously a controversial character. I do not endorse anything he's done or said as of late, but I have always thought him to be a pretty incredible artist and creative. At the very least, he's interesting. You can't deny how he changed the landscape of rap and inspired huge artists like Drake. Interesting people make for good documentaries regardless of if they're considered good or bad.
What was cool about this one was that it wasn't created or directed by Kanye himself (which was probably a good thing) it was actually written by his friend who saw his star quality from the beginning, and stared documenting him when he was nobody.
The documentary as a whole was really well done. It felt a bit like a greek tragedy. It definitely came across as the rise and fall of a tragic hero.
At the beginning of his career, Kanye came across as someone you wanted to root for. Being from the Chicagoland area, it was cool to see the story begin there. While Kanye was known for his producing, he wanted to become a rapper, and nobody took him seriously. There is even footage of him playing his future hit song for his future record label, and nobody paid it any attention.
It's always reassuring to see that this is something that happens to everyone, even those who go on to become huge stars. It's important to never let anyone else decide if you're going to be successful or not. There will always be naysayers, even in powerful places.
Even after Kanye finally finally got signed, he still wasn't getting the support from the label he needed to really succeed as an artist. He had to do a lot of the work himself. He sold his beats to fund his own projects, even performing at poetry slams and self funding his first music video. He also had to do all this while recovering from a car accident, even having his jaw wired shut at one point and turning down a surgery so he could keep working on his music. When the label finally gave him a release date for his album, it was a massive success and won big at the Grammys.
Say what you will about Kanye, but sometimes YOU do have to be the one to believe in yourself whole heartedly, even when nobody else does. That is what got him to where he was. By the end of the second episode and that grammy night, the story would have had a happy ending. Of course, we know what happens next, and it's a shame. Here's to hoping Kanye will be able to redeem himself again some time down the line, because without all of the antics that arised after his mother's death, it is an inspiring story of a kid with a dream who started with nothing and worked his way into making it a reality.
I never plan to go full scale arrogant Kanye, but I do think it is an important lesson to believe in yourself unapologetically. It is so easy to have imposter syndrome in this town. It is so easy to feel like you've already missed your shot. That you're too poor, too old, not talented enough to make it. But at the end of the day, I've said it before in my first released song, Never Slowing Down, "The odds are stacked against you till the day you realize that the ones who never made it are the ones who never tried." As long as you're still living, you have a chance. And as long as you never lose faith in yourself, you'll always have a chance.