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To Process a Pandemic

May 4, 2020

I haven’t written a lot during this pandemic because frankly it’s been a lot to process. It all happened so fast. One minute my biggest worry was finding a dress that would match my sparkly boots for the show I was planning, the show that my family would be in town for, and my first time playing my music with a full band. Then, I was in the hospital after passing out in a Starbucks (vasovagal syncope reaction to a medical story the person I had a coffee meeting with was telling that morning, thankfully unrelated to coronavirus.) A couple of days later I lost my day job and Nashville was more or less shut down, which meant my gig was canceled along with my family's trip. It all happened so fast it was hard to grasp. I decided to go back home (to Illinois) and be with my family because I really didn’t know how crazy the world was about to get. The news was changing by the hour.

And so I’ve been home, and honestly, it’s been nice for the most part. The pace of my life went from one hundred miles an hour to about five. I had a lot of sleep to catch up on. Before this, I don’t remember a time I’d gotten more than five hours. I’d wake up for my day job around 8 am and work on music stuff till around 3 am every night, running on green tea to wake me up in the morning.

When it comes to losing my day job, it was oddly enough more of a relief than anything else. As I’ve said before, stability gives me anxiety. As flexible as my job was compared to most, I still don’t think it was flexible enough for my free spirit. I enjoyed my time there and learned a lot of valuable lessons, especially when it came to networking and sales, and truth be told I definitely wasn’t in a logical position to leave anyway. I tend to be a lot bolder when I have nothing to lose, but it's harder to walk away from something that is, for the most part, enjoyable and keeping a roof over your head. I’d been working with my financial advisor to work extra with Postmates to get my debt down, so I wouldn’t have voluntarily left this job unless it was for a higher paying opportunity. A lot of times though, I get a sense that change in my life needs to happen before it happens. When I don't have the courage to initiate it, the universe finds a way to force me.

Although I’d only been at this job for a little over a year, it’s the longest I’ve spent ever doing the same one thing. Deep down I was craving a change, and given the choice, I probably wouldn’t go back even if I had the chance. In general, I don't really like to look back in life. I want to be constantly progressing and changing. Ideally, I’d be doing music full time, but even as a worker bee, I don’t think the 9-5 set up is for me. It’s too much of a routine. Too predictable, not enough time in between for spontaneous adventures or seizing last-minute opportunities.

I’ve applied for some interesting positions here and there, but with everything shut down, there isn’t much hiring going on, especially in my field. I know I'll have to figure something out at some point, but at the very least I can fall back on Postmates. The one thing I like about that is that I get to work on my own terms.

I was lucky enough to be let go before a lot of people were, and have had a much easier time with unemployment before the system was overwhelmed. It's been especially tough on so many of my friends who depend on their performing for their living. The system isn't set up to help those who are self-employed or gig workers. That makes me mad because Nashville wouldn't be Nashville without them. Overall, I feel like this pandemic has exposed a lot of flaws in our system that have been there for a long time. The way money goes around and the way working people are treated simply isn't fair, and I could go on and on about that all day.

It’s definitely been an adjustment being back home, but it’s been nice. I miss my family, and it’s a rare opportunity for the four of us to living together again, one that we’ll probably never get again. I’ve been living out of state since 2014.

Of course, I’m really enjoying spending quality time with my dog. During that stressful week between being in the hospital and losing my job, all I wanted was to hold her. It’s all I could think about on the plane ride there. Now she’s getting a walk every day and just hanging out with me. She’s my favorite thing in the world and being around her has done my soul a lot of good.

Slowing down has been strange in the sense that I find myself up at night thinking about things and people I haven’t thought about in years. I’m curious if that happened to anyone else. I am nostalgic by nature, and I guess being so busy I haven’t had the time to dwell on the past like I normally do. Some of that has been a challenge, but I also think it might be good for me.

I’ve not written many songs, but I have had a lot of song ideas, which is interesting. I keep reading that we’re all collectively going through a traumatic experience, so feeling tired and unmotivated is normal. I’m trying not to pressure myself or be hard on myself. I have done some cowrites over zoom, which has gone better than I anticipated. I’ve also been able to keep doing Song Salon via zoom, which I’ve enjoyed immensely.

I have yet to practice guitar and I am not proud of myself for that.

I have however begun making plans for my Debut EP, which has been exciting but definitely nerve-wracking. I talked to my producer and have mapped it all out and the work, although necessary, has been tedious. The songs are there as well as the marketing plans. I’ve just got to figure out how to get the capital. Ideally, I’d have a $40,000 budget for everything and right now I’m trying to find the right strategy for raising it in the most effective way. I'm not in a position to take out any more loans, I'm still paying off the last two.

Since the EP is a plan for next year, in the meantime I’ve got one more music video to release, and a podcast to launch. I want to make a podcast based on my blog. It will simply be my stories and I’m hoping it can help me engage with fans and build a bigger audience me for when my EP does arrive. I’m giving myself time to record all of the songs first before putting them out so that I don’t feel like I'm rushing it and I can raise the money I want to raise in order to market it effectively.

I’m also trying to figure out my living situation for next year. My lease is up in July, and I’ve been unsuccessful in finding a suitable place to live, or a roommate. It’s gotten a little discouraging. Tonight I found myself considering staying with my parents until I can pay off my 10k loan, just to ease the burden on myself. I don’t want to not be in Nashville, but if I can barely survive it may be worth a couple of extra months in order to pay stuff down quicker, given thy shows and festivals are going to be shut down or vastly reduced anyways. I feel like my heart and head are fighting over it. In the end, I decided that Nashville is where I need to be. It's more important than the money situation. I'm scared that the longer I stay away, the harder it will be to go back.

I’ve realized that I have a lot of acquaintances and almost friends, but not a ton of really close friends. I hope things can be different in that department this year. At my day job, I was the youngest person there (by a longshot) so I didn’t really have coworker friends. None I hung out with outside of work anyway. I have friends I know through music but I’ve yet to really do much beyond music with them, mainly because I’m either too busy or too broke to participate. I’ve also had two roommates that I never really got that close with. It’s certainly better than when I started here knowing no one, and I’m sure I’m more well-liked than I think I am. It’s just hard and gets lonely sometimes. I honestly feel like I haven’t had a solid group of friends since my senior year of high school. ever since then, it’s always been very scattered and not very enduring. I’m hoping that can change this year.

I’ve been staying up till the sun comes up and sleeping well into the afternoon. It’s crazy how quickly my body clock puts me on the vampire schedule.

A lot of the days, I feel tired, even though I’m sleeping double what I was before. I’m not always as motivated as I’d like to be. I’ve been procrastinating getting my demos to my producer and staring my Kickstarter campaign. What has helped me is being happy with even achieving one thing for the day, whether it be adding a part to the Kickstarter instead of finishing the whole thing or making a list of the songs I want in the EP instead of arranging the demos. I know I’m not lazy and I know this is something I want to accomplish and something I care about getting done deeply. It's just hard to focus with everything else going on. People are dying alone, our government is handling everything terribly (the red states) and the truth is we really don’t know when things will be normal again or if they ever will be. It almost feels personal, because this has caused Nashville so much pain. I finally found this magical place, where the streets are alive with music and dreams can come true on every corner, a place that feels most like home to me than anywhere I’ve even been, and suddenly it's all shut down. It hurts to see photos of the honky-tonks I’ve come to know, normally humming with happiness now eerily dark and quiet. I constantly find myself thinking, how dare this virus do that to us.

I wish this virus could be something that brings America together, but it feels like yet another thing on the list that tears us apart. I think if we all just hunkered down for a couple of weeks and listened to what doctors and scientists say we should do, we could get back to the music faster. It frustrates me that people are protesting common sense. Some days it feels hopeless. Like now we've got murder hornets too? Really?

Yesterday, I had to take my dog out around 4 am. All the birds were already chirping, even though the sun hadn't begun to rise yet. They couldn't see the light, but in the midst of the darkness, they knew it was coming, and they sang together to welcome it. That to me seemed like the perfect metaphor. With all the uncertainty happening right now, the most important thing I think is to find any excuse we can to feel hopeful again.

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