Three Steps Forward, One Step Back



8.21.2020


I just got done editing and posting the blog I had meant to post at the beginning of August. I also haven’t gotten around to writing any entries for August, so I am going to try and catch up in real-time as best I can.


I left off in my last post feeling like things were looking up. Since then it has felt a bit "three steps forward one step back." I realize this is supposed to be phrased the other way, but the truth is I feel like I am progressing more than I’m not. I’m also still getting used to being so busy again, which has taken its toll and made me feel down at times. The good part about this is that it doesn’t last as long as it used to. I feel like I’m on an upward trajectory, even if it is a squiggly line.

I have been having some issues with my knee, which was really discouraging. As I mentioned in my last post, a huge factor in improving my mood and social life has been being active and playing sports, but I had to sit out of my soccer game halfway through, which was really frustrating because I felt like for the first time I was finally playing a good game. Both of my jobs also require me to be on my feet.


It's like I can't catch a break. I feel like I am finally getting my shit together, and then my body gives out on me. Like, why can’t I just have a win without a setback?


I ended up going to the doctor and getting a knee brace, crutches for home, and anti-inflammatory medicine. It has helped but my knee still bothers me from time to time. I have a soccer game tomorrow so we will see how it goes.


Besides that I love my new job… as much as one can love having a job. I realized recently that I probably will not ever enjoy any day job. What I can do is find one I can tolerate, and I can tolerate this one. I have a chill manager and am finally working with a majority of people in my own age range. I have to wake up early, but I don’t have to use a lot of mental energy. I have a commute, but it’s shorter and has less traffic. It’s physically demanding, but It beats sitting at a desk all day and straining my eyes staring at a computer screen for eight hours.


This past week or so has been rough, just getting back into the swing of things. I also had my other job (the sports league job) for three consecutive evenings. Those are really long days that start at 8:30 and end around 10 or 11 pm. In theory, I really thought I could do both, but I quickly realized if I continued this way it would be to the detriment of both my physical and mental wellbeing. Now, I am only going to work my second job for two nonconsecutive days per week. Luckily, one was rained out this week, so I know I can manage less of it.


There were moments this week where all I wanted to do was quit my jobs again, but I didn’t. I was able to push through and feel good about it, which is what makes me think I finally found day jobs that will work for me.


I also recently attended the Garth Brooks concert in Lincoln Nebraska (which will get its own post eventually because it was that epic) and have realized that I am significantly more anxious while traveling. I was feeling this way when I went to Arizona too. It is baffling, considering I have flown on planes for as long as I can remember... before I could talk even. I’m an airline kid. I have a song called Horizon for God’s sake. I know planes are the safest way to travel. I know turbulence is safe, but lately, I can’t help but feel something inside me starts panicking whenever I get in the air. I have to really concentrate on not freaking out in order to not freak out.

The plane out of Chicago to Nebraska was the first smaller regional jet I’ve flown in a while. They tend to be a bit bigger out of Nashville to Chicago, so I was already not feeling good from the start. Then, the pilot told us there was a message he couldn’t get to come off of his screen, so he wanted to fix it by TURNING THE AIRPLANE OFF AND TURNING IT BACK ON. I know pilots are extremely smart and capable, it was extremely difficult just to get an FAA drone pilot certification, and that only scratched the surface of what real pilots need to know. Still, my anxiety could not reckon with the fact that this man was really trying to fix the airplane I was on the same way I troubleshoot my cell phone.

This took a significant amount of time and seeing the man in the front of the plane with an “aircraft maintenance” shirt on just made me feel worse and worse. Then, while they were trying to fix this problem, another one was discovered, and we had to get off and get another plane entirely.

My logical side is screaming at me saying, all this proves is how safe flying really is. But what I've learned is that anxiety doesn’t listen to logic. You can’t beat it in a debate. You can’t get it to listen to facts. You just have to try to regulate your body as best you can. I’m doing my best to deal with it, whether it be meditation, medication, or simpler things like positive affirmations or breathing techniques. I refuse to let it stop me from flying altogether, but it does make each occasion an exhausting ordeal.

I find it perplexing that I should develop such fear now when I never have before, and I think it might have something to do with the pandemic, and just all of the events of 2020 in general, especially the election. It just feels like I’ve been in an unrelenting state of threat and vulnerability. I feel less invincible than I ever have. There are a lot of people that didn’t make it out of that year, even people close to me like my uncle who died in a car crash. For a while after that, I felt extremely on edge any time I would drive. I feel more mortal and more fragile than I ever have.


I was looking up reasons for this new anxiety as one does and discovered that apparently, new fears do tend to come on around my age range. It’s usually because people are going through major life changes, like having kids, which make them much more aware of their mortality and the time they have left. I would say a global pandemic and everything else that came with 2020 counts as a major life change, so it at least makes a bit more sense to me why I am feeling this way. Everything going on with Afghanistan right now definitely isn’t helping. With everything that I’ve been through, what I want to feel is that I have a sense of control or a way to escape. When I have to trust someone else to get me safely from point A to point B, regardless of the facts I know, it’s still scary.

I realize I’ve gone through a lot this past year, and to some extent, I could really benefit from some help. I have been trying to utilize some benefits and set myself up with some counseling, but they can’t work with my work schedule, which is all the more frustrating.

Regardless of all of that, today is Saturday. I had some friends ask me to hang out, but I decided to stay in and have my first relaxing day for a while. For the first time in a while, I have felt really relaxed and safe, especially in my home. We even got a new couch to replace our uncomfortable futon, and it makes it so cozy. I also took a break from TikTok while I was on my trip, which then energized me to create more once I got back. I feel like I am getting a lot better at creating balance for myself and setting boundaries for the sake of my wellbeing.

This weekend has been great because I have been able to catch up on a lot, from things related to my alumni group to things like this blog post. I know there will be days when I feel overworked, tired, anxious, and stressed, but I think the difference is that I also have a greater sense that I can handle it and not feel burnt out. I finally have a dependable income, I have a lot of fun things coming up, and I feel almost on top of everything.


I am going after big dreams. I live an unconventional life. I’ve been through some crazy things in the past year. It was never promised that it would be easy, but now more than ever, I’m feeling like I’m making progress. I know that it’s worth it, and I am confident in my ability to push past the setbacks.

9.9.21


I haven’t written in a while, it’s because I’ve been busy. Unfortunately, I’ve been mostly busy with day job stuff.


That’s not entirely accurate. Actually, up until this point, I was feeling like things were looking up, and maybe that’s why I didn’t write about it, but lately, the news has been depressing.


Tennessee is the worst state in the US right now when it comes to covid cases. I’m not sure how to handle it. It feels like 2020 all over again. I now have to wear a mask at my day job (even though customers don’t) and our hospitals are filing up again. I know I’m pretty protected with the vaccine, but I’m still worried. This time around I’m not experiencing the pandemic from the safety of my childhood home. I’m working face to face with potential spreaders every day.


This has all really taken a toll on my mental state. I’m such an extroverted person, I really struggled to stay locked down the majority of 2020, and I want so badly to get back to doing things. I feel so frustrated and stuck. Because at the same time, I don’t want to take the risk. I don’t want to end up in the hospital all alone and terrified kicking myself for seeing that show or hitting the bars with my friends.


There isn’t anything the CDC or Dr. Fauci can say that will help me decided what to risk and what to be cautious about. I can’t go back to a complete lockdown, my anxiety couldn’t handle that. At the same time, I also don’t feel comfortable in crowds or places like restaurants, so there’s that. It’s a fine line that I haven’t figured out yet.


This is the part where I tell you not to worry about me. Remember, on my good days I’m not in my head and ruminating on my feelings.

I had more to say but I was falling asleep while I was writing this and don’t remember now.

9.13.21

For some reason, 9/11 hit me really hard this year.

I feel like it has to do with everything that has gone on this past year. All the death and destruction. It resonates. Maybe I’m also just old enough to really fathom what even happened that day. Maybe I’m finally processing what I experienced as a kindergartner, twenty years later. It feels more real this year somehow.

I’ve always felt a somewhat personal connection to 9/11 because flying has always been a huge part of my life. My dad has worked for United Airlines for my entire life, so it truly feels like “our” planes were taken that day. Ones we could have easily been on.


There’s a lot to feel about it. Obviously, the withdrawal from Afghanistan has been in the news. But I think it’s more than that.


We like to romanticize the sense of unity we all felt in the aftermath of the attacks. The way people helped each other, the resolve and determination to be there for each other. That obviously doesn’t paint the whole picture, as there was also a lot of xenophobia going on and of course, the wars that followed would be argued about for the next twenty years. Still, something feels missing about America today.


Maybe it’s because a 9/11 worth of Americans are dying every day and we are still arguing over masks and vaccines. Maybe it’s because the loudest people on the left see America as an irredeemable imperialistic empire while the loudest on the right are actual nazis. Maybe it’s because on January 6th I watched those Nazis attack the capital building, which was a potential target for 9/11 but was never hit because of the brave Americans who worked together to fight back on flight 93.


I’ve had a song written about flight 93 for a couple of years, but I haven’t played it for anyone anywhere. I hope to one day, but it’s kind of an awkward thing to do. If I do play it I want it to be clear that it’s not about me, and I don’t want to use it to garner any attention, I just want to honor the memory of those inspiring people.


In my mind flight, 93 is a quintessential American story. There were people from all walks of life on that plane, including a gay man, Mark Bingham who played a key role in the assault against the terrorists. Mark never got to see don’t ask don’t tell repealed or marriage equality achieved. He is said to have said the world needed more gay heroes.


“It’s a story to me that shows the strength in our diversity, and how powerful we can be when we work together. The first thing they did before deciding to fight back was take a vote. They hatched a plan, executed it bravely, and saved lives because of it."


I’ve never been a fan of George Bush, certainly not a fan of his disastrous policies, but he really did articulate it well in the speech he gave at the memorial.

“Twenty years ago, terrorists chose a random group of Americans, on a routine flight, to be collateral damage in a spectacular act of terror. The 33 passengers and 7 crew of Flight 93 could have been any group of citizens selected by fate. In a sense, they stood in for us all. The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people. Facing an impossible circumstance, they comforted their loved ones by phone, braced each other for action, and defeated the designs of evil. These Americans were brave, strong, and united in ways that shocked the terrorists -- but should not surprise any of us. This is the nation we know. And whenever we need hope and inspiration, we can look to the skies and remember.”


This is the nation I continue to stubbornly believe in, but one for the duration of this year I’ve failed to see. It’s not that there haven’t been good people and heroic sacrifices, especially by healthcare workers, it’s just that it seems the selfish and ignorant are too loud to drown out. Too much of a liability to ignore. I’m so unbelievably frustrated that we’re still dealing with this, a whole year later, simply because we are so divided, and half the country still seems to be living in an alternate reality.


Regardless of a lot of things, I am proud to be an American. That doesn’t come without acknowledging the darkness in our past. But it does come with believing in our ideals. Democracy, liberty, and justice for all being a beacon of hope for immigrants all around the world, a place where our strength comes from our diversity, a place where every voice matters. We have the freedom to make positive changes and CHOOSE to progress and be good. Choosing to be good is easier said than done, and I think that’s what makes it more meaningful. Each generation has done it. We move closer and closer each time. I don’t want to be the one that drops the ball.

Ideally, I’d like to put the election and the pandemic behind us. I’d like to be able to reconcile with people and extend olive branches (not without accountability) but I can’t feel safe doing that because I still feel like I’m living in a constant state of threat. I really don’t think our country can survive another election where Trump runs. I’m really hoping he doesn’t so we can all just finally move forward.


As for my music, which this is supposed to be about, I feel like I’m at a standstill. I know I’m not, but that’s how it feels. Because of the covid numbers I haven’t booked any new performances. My producer is in the process of moving so working on my EP is paused until he gets his studio set up. I’m working full time now and I’m tired when I get home. Sometimes it feels like I’m never going to get going again.


But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t progress. I may be procrastinating a lot of the business side tasks on my to-do list, but I seem to have gotten over my writer's block. I’ve been writing a lot more lately, and more importantly, I feel energized to write songs. This is something I haven’t felt all of 2020. I’m writing full songs now, not just half-baked ideas. I feel like I am able to get in the zone and crank something out the way I did pre-pandemic. I’m really happy with a lot of the things I’ve written lately. I’ve also gone to song salon again.


I want to do some vocal training before I record my EP because I want the quality to be as best as it can be. Having not been regularly performing I know my voice isn’t as strong. I’d really love to go into the studio and not worry about if I was flat or sharp, but instead focus on giving the best performance. I haven’t quite gotten there in the past and it’s really important to me to make this as perfect as it can be. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten anywhere with a voice teacher. I've been talking to someone online but we have yet to actually schedule something.

I've also completely fallen off the wagon when it comes to guitar. I really don’t know if I’m ever going to learn. My problem is what I want is to be able to play my own songs without the stress of having to coordinate schedules with someone, I could care less about the actual guitar playing. If I had the money I’d hire a band to play with me always. I need to find a way to motivate myself and be disciplined. I need to start up lessons again.

Having felt the weight of 9/11 all weekend, Monday went surprisingly well. I was in a good mood at my day job and it carried on into the rest of the day. I’m hoping it will carry on through the rest of the week and give me the energy to work on the things I know I need to do.

9.15.21

Right now I feel like I’m just waking up to go to work and going to sleep so I can get back up and go to work again.

Every morning I wake up and want to stay in bed. That sounds more dramatic than it is. What I mean is I hate waking up early. I hate working in any capacity. All I want to do is music and I feel like I don’t have the time and even when I do have the time I don’t have the energy and am constantly having to choose between my livelihood and my well-being. Covid is still really bad in Tennessee. I feel protected by the vaccine but the fear of needing hospitalization still lingers and I don’t want to be that breakthrough case. I don’t want to need to go and be sitting in a parking lot because it’s full. At the same time I want to keep progressing with my music, this is a constant battle.


I like my jobs. I don’t mind them. They’re not hard and they pay well. I can tolerate them unlike my previous one. I just don’t want to do them. I hate the fact that during this finite time I have on earth, everything I actually WANT to do has to be squeezed in between obligations.


I know this is just this week. I’m already almost through it. Once my producer is done moving I can get back to recording my EP and feel like I have a sense of purpose again. I also have fun things coming up like friends coming to town, a wedding, and I’m attending a songwriting retreat in the smoky mountains which is something I’ve been wanting to do. There is so much to look forward to. I'm just impatient. I have so many plans. I’m just not disciplined.


I’ve learned that it’s better to sit and let these moments pass than to try to fight them. I will always naturally fall back into creativity and productivity. When I try to fight through a slump all it does is prolong it and tire me out more.


Even writing about the things I have to look forward to is making me feel better. I got a manifesting journal a while back and I think my next task should be to find some time and fill it out. I’ve been waiting because I want to be in a good place when I do.

9.23.21

It’s really late but I just wanted to pop in here and say I’ve had a string of really good days, and I’m starting to feel myself getting productive again.

Maybe it was the weekend with mg college friends, maybe it was the harvest moon or the change in the weather, but I’m really starting to feel like I’m getting myself back in motion. Weather it’s making plans to record again, starting up my video series, booking shows and times to record cover songs, or catching up with people, I feel much more aligned with my desires than I have been for a while.

When I’m feeling this way I’m not laying in bed overthinking everything, so I’m not writing it all down. I wanted to point this out because I realize this blog could be painting a disproportionately negative picture when that is not the case at all. My life here has always been a swinging pendulum, or an uneven path. There’s ups downs and all arounds, but the downs teach me important lessons and remind me how strong I am, and have always lead me to higher ground. I’m so excited for everything I’ve got planned and I believe in my ability to execute them, and I just wanted you all to know that.

9.28.21

I don’t know what got into me yesterday, but I gave myself a real kick in the ass. I essentially had a conversation with myself that said, “Listen, we’re better than this. We need to stop wallowing and complaining and start getting work done.” And I’ve been in a productive mood for the past two days.

I can’t really tell you why I’m feeling this shift other than the fact I decided I needed to be. I tend to operate in cycles like this. Unless I decide for myself that I’m going to get moving then I won’t, so I really have to level with myself. I think it’s a good thing.

Yesterday I got a lot done that I’ve been putting off. I even reorganized my to-do list. I’ve gotten things on the books like performances, cowrites, and recording sessions. I’m hoping this momentum will carry into October.

In my song Rome I recall a conversation I had with my mom during my first week in Nashville. Everything felt like it was going wrong. I was talking to her about it and I summed up her response in the song by saying “life gives you two choices, give it up or you could get tough instead.” I feel like mentally I’ve been hiding out in the general vicinity of giving up (even though I know I never will fully) and yesterday was a breaking point. I've been coddling myself too much. Ive been giving myself too much of a break. I think there’s a fine line between self care and self sabotage. I think my generation has been really good at bringing mental health awareness about, and a lot of good has come from it, but I also believe within that lives an opportunity to make excuses. To play it safe. To not push or challenge yourself. I am still learning where that line is so I can balance between burn out and cop out. I think this week I found it. I don’t feel like I’m overdoing it and I am setting boundaries where it counts, like socially or at my day job. But I also need to get moving on my music goals. I can’t allow them to stall anymore. I can’t never learn guitar because I’m tired and don’t feel like practicing. I didn’t move to Nashville so I could be well rested. I came here to do big things.

All this to say, don’t be afraid to kick yourself in the ass now and then. A lot of times you might need to be gentle to yourself. But don’t let yourself take advantage of yourself either. Don’t be so kind to yourself that you allow yourself to sit in a hole because figuring out how to climb out and taking those steps feels too daunting. Sometimes the best kind of self-love you can give yourself is tough love. I’m feeling empowered by tough self love tonight.

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