My Lack of Perspective, My Old Friend

I’ve slept four and a half hours and I’m on a plane to Florida, on my way to another show. As I type, my raw freshly-calloused fingers have a dull ache. Though I happen to like this feeling because I’ve always associated it with self-improvement. Right now I find myself thinking a lot about the emotional connection we have to our craft, what it means to have a positive attitude, a negative attitude, be self-deprecating, or so loudly confident that it’s incredibly vom. More than that, I find myself zeroing in on what the very personal, and often painful, experience is of how one sees oneself in relation with one’s craft and it’s place in the world. And most importantly, and less logically, how it makes you feel. I’ll call this your perceptive, your outlook.

Perspective is a blessing for me one day, and hell on earth on another. I don’t think I can write about my thoughts on perspective without touching on mental health, so I will say that sometimes I find myself wondering if my emotions roam within the confines of what’s considered “normal.” It’s hard to define what normal is. We often hear people talking very vaguely about bipolar disorder, depression, or manic depression, but I think a lot of us, myself included, don’t really understand the details of these illnesses. Theories on others’ mental health get tossed out all the time, especially lately, even about the president of the United States. I find myself shying away from a conversation when I hear someone say “but, you know, I think they’re going to have to break up because I just get this feeling he’s… unstable, he’s bipolar or something.” It seems like a dangerous diagnosis to make as just another dude with no connection to this person walking down the street sipping your cold brew, and it’s also kind of insensitive.

I wanted to write about perspective because I think right now, more than anything, this is the thing I want and need to work on. I can have two days in a row that are very similar in circumstance but that are so different in my personal experience. Let’s say I wake up early, I eat breakfast, answer some emails, answer the same amount of frustrating emails to clients or managers, then set foot in my studio to work on a composition. One day, my coffee has never tasted better as I stroll down Graham Ave in Brooklyn. I’m cheery and kind to the people I pass, offering a smile, and a hefty tip to the barista. Life feels good, I feel good, and I like who I am. The next day, it can start kind of similarly, but without warning, this darkness will set in. All of a sudden I’m worried about my career and where I’m heading, if I’m wasting time, an impatience sets in, and there’s this much deeper, more intense, anxiety that takes hold and it stays. I drink my coffee just to stay awake without even really tasting it, I’m unkind to the people who pass me by, and my unkindness is reflected back at me which keeps the cycling going as I think “everyone in New York City is so miserable, what’s their frickin’ problem, I hate this place.” I step foot into the studio and I hate the way the room looks — I see all the things that I don’t have yet, instead of seeing all the things I do have. I see that I don’t have a window, and it kind of smells like pot even though there’s a no smoking policy. I curse everyone in the building and scowl at them in the hallways. My head wants to explode every time I have to put down the toilet seat in the shared bathroom, feeling resentful and confused that I’m the only lady in a studio space of about twenty rooms. You can see how this all plays out on a bad day.

The main contributors to my downward spiral within an awful day is that all the little things really, really get to me. An email about how I need to arrive at a gig with my hair curled will frustrate me so much that I’m on FaceTime in less than 10 seconds complaining to my boyfriend about it, pushing my anxiety right onto him. Another clear indicator that I’m suffering from a lack of perspective on a given day is that every little email and text overwhelms me, whether they’re nice or frustrating, a friend or a work-related thing. They all seem unsurmountable and I can’t find the right, normal words to respond.

These kinds of days are the worst. And I’ve started to wonder how it can be that two days that are so similar on the outside can feel so insanely different on the inside. When my emotional 180s keep on going like this for many days in a row I go to bed anxious because I don’t know what hand I’ll be dealt the next day.

But is it a hand that’s dealt to me? Am I just simply at the mercy of my emotions? I regard myself as professional enough to never really let these ups and downs affect my work, so there is that range of control. And when I find myself in a calm, stable place, I truly feel I have so little to complain about, that the things that I find myself pontificating about to my boyfriend over FaceTime really are trivial and could be handled on my own when I’m feeling a little more emotionally-neutral. Sometimes I think that if I could just reason with myself, if I could flip it around, I could change my perspective and see that all these anxieties are really just in my head, nothing has changed, it’s all good.

So how do you maximize the days where you feel good, or at the very least, neutral, stable, able to handle the world? If you’re reading this hoping that I’ve made some sort of break-through then I’m sorry to disappoint. But what I do want you to know, fellow creator, is that you’re not alone. And you’re not crazy. These things are what make us colorful and unique, able to empathize, to write and create with such detail and connection to others. But, more than I want to improve my skillset, practice more hours a day, be better at my “online presence,” promote my shows better, be a better composer, I want to feel good about myself in relation to my work and my relation to the world.

I also suffer from joy due to praise… fake joy, I like to call it. When I put out a song and it’s received well, I feel on top of the world, like I have purpose. When I put out a song that I believe in just as much, or even more, and there’s no great reception of my art, I feel deeply sad, like I fucked up. I tell my song it’s terrible and I should never have trusted it. I don’t want to play the song live and I shun it; it’s the under-achieving child amongst the successful ones. But isn’t this losing perspective of your work? How can your feeling towards something you put so much love and care into when creating shift once it’s not received in exactly the same way by the public? I know that if I don’t break this cycle, which I’ve gotten better at with each release, that I would lose my mind and be afraid to release music, and that’s not what making music is about for me.

Which leads me to wonder if perspective, trusting yourself and your art, loving yourself, believing in yourself is actually as simple as you’ve always known it to be. Have we just forgotten how to live mindfully? I believe we don’t spend enough time listening to ourselves and showing up for ourselves as we used to before the internet came about. This is why people (who I hate in this moment of interaction) tell you that their lives have changed because they started meditating using an app called Headspace, or they started doing yoga three days a week, or they started acupuncture. All that’s saying to me is that you’ve found a way to be still, show up for yourself, and listen. We keep carelessly tossing our emotions out there. When something tragic happens, people write write about it on the internet, but more often, when something awesome happens people also write about it on the internet. But, how do you really feel about this? Before you can even realize what this event may mean to you, you’ve shared it with others, and you constantly check the comments section to see how it’s received — which I believe leads you to pick up on how you probably should feel about it. It’s like living with your insides on the outside and everybody can poke and prod and judge. You’re on display and their reactions inform your opinion on the matter.

I used to do this a lot. I’d have something pretty cool happen, let’s say it’s playing on live TV, and I’d do the usual humble-brag post about it, showing people I’m working and promoting what I do (yes, it’s promotional, I’m not gonna lie to your face about this). People always GO NUTS for this stuff. They love it, they make comments like “you’re famous now” or “you’ve made it”. Because isn’t this how you’re supposed to feel about your achievement? But if you really know me, and if I really know me, I know that a much seemingly smaller achievement in line with my own composing or songwriting, my artistry, is a hundred times more meaningful to me than rubbing elbows with the famous. There is nothing wrong with celebrating something very cool, something that you maybe worked very hard to achieve. In the end, I worked hard for a decade playing an instrument before the very cool things started to happen. But where do you really stand on it? Do you feel fulfilled? Is this your own definition of success? These are important questions to ask yourself. I never asked myself these things until I noticed a chasm between how people saw me and how I saw myself. At the time when the most “amazing” things were happening, I probably had the lowest opinion of myself. It took me a long time to figure out why… I wasn’t being honest about what was meaningful to me. Please, find what is meaningful to you and not just what gets you the most likes on Instagram. Though if numbers on social media are very meaningful to you then all the more power to you, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way at all. We’re all different and freaky and wonderful and that’s what makes the world an interesting place. Just figure out what makes you proud.

I’ll tie all this rambling together by saying that what I’ve found to be my best friend lately, in regards to keeping a healthy perspective, is to listen for what I need. I’ve tried all the things and will keep trying them — meditating, running, yoga, journaling, eating healthy food, juicing, avoiding the news, listening to the news, drinking, not drinking, a really good make-out session. But on days where I just feel like dog shit, the best thing that I can do is to listen to that very small, tired, weak voice telling me what I need. Sometimes if I’m lucky enough it might mean taking the day off and turning off my phone for a while. Reading a book in a coffee shop or chatting on the phone with my family. Kicking a soccer ball in the park with a friend. Closing the curtains and having a cry, it happens okay? We’re human. But on days when I’m on the road or in sessions and have to work and leave it at the door, the best thing I can do is to zoom out just a little and remember that I’m just a tiny human on this giant earth and no one really cares if my hair is curled for the gig or not, it’ll all be fine in the end. Our plight always feels so huge to us, but it actually helps me to remember that it’s not all as serious as it feels. And if you’re a creator like me, then remember that we’re pretty much doing this to keep being the child version of ourselves and to have fun. So fucking have some fun sometimes or you’re missing the point!

If you’ve found ways to keep yourself calm I’d love to hear what you’ve tried. My favorites so far for keeping a healthy perspective have been twenty-minute at home yoga, reading (which I’m convinced helps calm your racing mind), and taking Sunday mornings off to stroll around town with my boo and dog-watch. And let’s face it, if you think you’re wasting time by stepping back for a second to take care of your emotional health, then you’re a fool, because you’re going to lose time when you inevitably reach your limit and break down during an important moment. Trust me, I’ve had years of making this mistake, thinking I’m invincible (Leo’s can be this way). Nowadays I can handle much more, and I think it’s thanks to really good coffee and cute dogs.

Midnight in New York City

I’ve taken up my usual spot at the dingy, dimly-lit airport bar that I’m convinced exists in some identical capacity in every airport in the world. The usual semi-morose crowd fills this bar/purgatory-of-travel sipping their poison of choice. I’m never quite sure which of us are alcoholics and which of us are innocently indulging in a large draught beer at 11 am which we allow ourselves while our lives are in motion. At any rate, the atmosphere is calm, and bored, and I sit here with a Miller and my laptop open. I’m facing the open airport runway thinking hard, with slightly dark thoughts of crashing planes creeping into my mind.

It’s the day after Christmas and I’m one flight down, one to go, traveling back to New York. This specific day feels so weird, like I should be changed in some way, like I should have some clearer perspective on life and the things I’ve learned. But really my mind is more cluttered than usual. 2016 has been a year of mind-fuckery; a reality TV star became president, The United Kingdom withdraw from the European Union (I’m still confused whether ‘Brexit’ is the official term or if the media really has that amount of influence over how we label things), and more and more countries seem to be leaning toward an extreme right-winged attitude. Christmas markets, clubs, and churches have been attacked, and I’ve watched it all from the safety of my mother’s couch while tucked away for the holidays in her home in South Africa.

I know that I am privileged. The newbie suburban lady next to me on the plane (reading the airport safety manual, so I know she’s not a regular) reminded me of this once I explained how I’m from Cape Town but went to college in Boston and now live in New York with the occupation of “guitarist.” I find myself thinking about privilege a lot more these days, and probably because the word has taken on more meaning as I watch a greater divide forming. Maybe I’m growing older and less self-centered, crawling out from underneath my composer rock to peer at and take note of the rapidly changing world around me. Or maybe there is just something insane happening that is seriously hurting those less privileged than me. Things have taken a sharp left turn, and I’m forced to face the darkest corners of civilization that most of us choose to ignore while we buy another dark-chocolate-caramel-swirl-fuck-me-pumpkin-spice latte and sip it while we choose which Netflix series to re-watch while we get stoned.

On November 9, the day after the US election, there was a tectonic shift in the world —  and because I am just one tiny human writing a blog post about my experience, I will say more accurately — my world. It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that there was a “Hillary won!” party at my apartment on election night. As we watched each state go red (by Florida I knew it was over) we started drinking more champagne straight to the face and the tears started rolling. I laid my head down on the pillow that night with a slight glimmer of hope flickering in my heart. I left my phone on loud by accident, and as I started dozing off my BBC app made the alarm tone for “Breaking news!” I knew it was over then and pretty much from that moment on until two days later I would have tears streaming down my face at any given, completely random time. The next morning when I woke up from sleeping in late, when I ordered my coffee at the Japanese coffee spot down the block, in the studio when I was asked, “how’s this snare sound?” with me responding, “it sounds fucking awesome”, water was uncontrollably evacuating my face. All the tears while life was still going on. Not so much out of sadness, but more out of shock, and then numbness. Not just because of an election result, but because of the accumulated hatred, fear, and anger that was now over-flowing through my heart and out my eyes.

So this is why I want to talk about privilege. My initial shock was not unwarranted — I am a female immigrant living and working in the United States. As well as the obvious HATRED of misogynist remarks and some conservatives’ wild fantasies of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, I felt hugely afraid of the isolation theories, the xenophobia, of the door being closed on me after so many years of living in America. I am freaked out by the idea of a nation going backwards, triggering a reversal of progress across the entire world, of having rights that were fought for throughout our lives and our parents' lives to be thrown out like trash, in vain. My blood felt thick and my body shaky — like that time I was 13-years-old and had hiked all day in Athens in the oppressive Greek, summer heat. Lying down that night, I literally felt my skin crawling while my head was spinning from dehydration.

But then the days went on. My parents stopped calling me to urge me to “maybe start planning my exit strategy” and started asking about my music again. Friends called to say that if I ever needed a place to crash while I undertook massive immigration costs that their doors are always open to me. An immigration lawyer even reached out to say he would assist me with my visa renewal case at no charge because he believes in my cause. People called me just to tell me they loved me, that they know I will figure it all out, that I would still be here in a year and that then we will drink champagne for much better reasons. The community came together and the love that was imparted on me melted the inch-thick layer of ice that was collecting over my heart, paralyzing me in fear and the “what-ifs” of a life choice that could go very, very wrong from under my feet.

There are people less privileged than me who have real fears and have much bigger problems. They’re really afraid. There are refugees from terror-stricken countries, ridden with war and hatred, with innocent civilians being murdered in the wake of rebel groups. There are islands completely overrun with water because of climate change, a real-life nightmare of people who are losing their homes — their entire world as they know it — who are forced to immigrate. With a world becoming more and more isolationist, I’m afraid that we are taking back our previously-extended hand to those who need our help and are leaving them drowning on their own.

This was the first time in my life that I felt the phenomenon of darkness being fought with light. That’s only way I can describe it. Yes, I still live with some fear in my heart that I may run out of money and out of time, or that my visa will be denied or my artist visa category will be taken away, and sometimes I even have my darkest moments of ‘what if I never make it’ inner monologue. But you know what this just reminds me off? Nothing is certain and nothing is permanent. I mean maybe the best we can do is to just find the things and the people we love and hold them so close to our hearts that we can practically breathe in their warmth. In my experience, that is the life-raft that keeps you afloat. No one can do it alone.

On New Year’s day I laid in bed in wintery NYC, sheltered in my heated room in Brooklyn, watching Midnight in Paris while eating delicious food with my boyfriend. I’d somehow never seen this movie before, and I watched the story unfold about characters who seem discontent in their time period. They’re convinced that if they were just in another age or another place, that life would be more exciting and satisfying. As the film drew to a close, it was eerily reminiscent of recent conversations I’ve had with friends and family. Everyone seems so beaten down, so disappointed in the world, so afraid of life. Everyone talks about 2016 like it opened up the gates of hell. But the only thing that can make this time in our lives a little better for us is us. Don’t back down you guys; don’t move to Canada, don’t give up on your dreams, don’t stop making outspoken art, don’t be afraid to enter the US with a visa, don’t be afraid to be sexually liberated and true to yourself, don’t be afraid to love openly, because we don’t have time for that. Do not act or make choices out of fear now. We need to do all the amazing things and we need to do them now and with fucking FIRE. Just do, move forward, keep your head up and put one foot in front of the other every single day, do some goddamn good in the world. Help others and they will help you, send out love and understanding — even to those who you don’t fully understand and who you disagree with. We desperately need to hear one another out because we seem to be continuously shouting at each other without listening, living in our idealistic views in our heads while ignoring the very real differences in opinion between some of us. We need to rebuild our damaged psyche and heal from a time that has brought on so much confusion and shock, and we desperately need to move on.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Midnight in Paris that really left an impression on me — it was one of those right thing at the right time moments. I hope that it will get you to pause for a moment and consider how you do things from here on out.

“Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present. The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking - the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in - its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

The Only Living Green-Haired Girl in Cape Town

This morning I woke up feeling quite optimistic. I hadn’t gotten to it all week, but I knew that today I was going to successfully write a new post that I was sure would be filled with the wit and quirkiness and useful insight to hopefully make me sound a little smarter than I am. I walked along the beach with a spring in my step to find a coffee shop and gather my thoughts. Somehow in my search for the serene I found myself being followed by a construction site for a wall being built along the water. (By the way, if you ever needed more concrete evidence that climate change is real, this is it). I settled in, drank my coffee in the refreshing, salty air and tried to phase out the drilling, which started to feel as though it were drilling into my brain.

I made the mistake of refreshing my email. Confronted with bills to pay, subs for shows next month, and pages upon pages of US visa contracts to read, my mind shriveled into a tiny, useless dried pea. Any hint of inspiration I had previously felt rapidly left the scene and the dull pain that I recognize as stress started up below my right shoulder blade. On a day like this where my mind seems to be on the brink of freak-out (which is how most twenty-somethings feel this close to Christmas), the wrong email can pull me down into the depths of hell. I start fantasizing about letting this shit burn, saying fuck it, pulling a Bon Iver and driving to a snowy cabin in the woods to write acoustic songs and grow a beard. The thought of being back in Brooklyn next week, after a month spent in Cape Town, brings about the all-too-familiar feeling of the walls closing in as I’m forced to face the messiness of real life. I walk home and this place seems to be laughing at me when a car drives by blasting Empire State of Mind. “New York, these streets will make you feel brand new, the lights will inspire you.” Bitch. Please. Not today.

So whether it’s in times of inspiration and optimism or sadness and self-deprecation, here are my thoughts on being torn between two places.

Being in the quiet of the beachy suburbs I have found myself lying awake at night mulling over how I feel somewhat removed from the place I sadly refer to less and less as “home." Most of my friends I grew up with here, who I shared stories of first kisses with, who I went to prom with, who’s shoulders I’ve cried on through my parents’ divorce and that time in middle school when a boy stole my diary and read it to all his friends, have naturally become more distant to me with each passing year I’m away. My love for them has never faltered, but I find myself asking where the road had split for us. I know it’s probably not as black and white as it seems, but they all seem so happy, so sure, so secure. They’re in love and married and talking about their future children. They’re neighbors with each other and their sisters are going to move in soon. They go to quiz nights on Tuesdays and yoga on Sundays and find time to go on vacation with their parents. They’re kind and giving to others and always make time for me. But, I feel like someone who is watching a movie or reading a book about other people. A stranger who stumbled onto a scene. And while it mostly suits me to play the part of the mysterious (though how mysterious can one really be when you write a personal blog?), green-haired artist living in New York, it’s moments like these where I’m starting to feel something that doesn’t feel quite right — a feeling I’m not entirely sure how to describe… isolation, confusion, a tinge of sadness, jealousy, being left out? To be honest, I spend most of my time thinking about myself and my career. Being back in Cape Town for the first time in over 18 months, I'm spending a lot of my time with family and friends, time I know I owe them but which is difficult to give as I’m at the pinnacle of my selfishness as a young adult. It’s probably no one’s fault but my own that I’ve grown apart from my childhood brothers and sisters.

Whether it’s jokes about how my father must be an alien and I must’ve gotten my green hair from his side, or my US visa label of “alien of extraordinary ability”, it alls starts to feel a little bit weird and isolating over time. I get inside the elevator in my mother’s apartment building and people stare at me like I'm an alien. They ask me where I’m from and I say “here”. I sit alone peacefully outside the local bar listening to music and random people approach me and ask where I’m from, and again, I say “here”. Let me tell you ladies, nothing will make you feel as weird as having a 15-year-old hit on you and then his father, separately. Like I’m some kind of zoo animal that each person can take turns peering at. I go to the grocery store and people ask me where I grew up, remarking on my half-America half-South African accent. I tell them, “I’m from here.”

A couple nights ago I went to see a show at a prominent Cape Town music venue I had played with my band back high school. Back then, if you could play this venue your band was the shit and everyone was forced to recognize that. Setting foot inside the venue with a couple friends, we’re all hit with the same bout of nostalgia. The place smells of the cigarettes people are smoking inside (some things never change) and familiar faces from ten years ago approach us. Did I grow taller, physically bigger? This place seems tiny. The stage is tiny. The bar is tiny. The same bar that used to make me feel anxious as I approached it as an underage 17-year-old, hoping to God they won’t card me if my heels were high enough and I had enough makeup on. The dance floor is littered with emo-looking teens and I turn to my friend and say, “what the fuck are these children doing here?” only to realize that when we frequented this place, we were children. A new addition to the club are the tables (seriously, fucking tables?) set up off to the side that are occupied by those our age — the “old people”, I guess. My friends and I pound shots and go straight up to the front of the stage. The band is great, but the vibe in here is shit. This place no longer has the magical charm it had back then. There are cheap flyers on the walls depicting upcoming shows for bands I used to stand in line to watch in high school, upcoming shows at the same venues I saw them play years ago. I recognize there’s some sort of metaphor or life lesson here, but I’m too busy grabbing another drink and singing along to Diamond Thug to care about thinking too hard right now. My friends and I dance and joke around and laugh anyway. I guess you can take the girl out of Cape Town but you can’t take Cape Town out of the girl. Some things never change.

I went to a bridal shower on the beach last week (double-bridal shower, because two brides; the more brides, the better, I say. Also this is wedding #2, not to be confused with the wedding from the last post). I was sitting next to one of the bride’s fathers who is an American-as-it-gets Southerner from Mississippi. “Are you going to play the national anthem at the wedding?” he asks in his Southern drawl, and I’m not entirely sure if he’s joking or not. “I think the South African anthem would be a bit long to play at a wedding ceremony”, I laugh, before realizing he definitely meant the American anthem. He immigrated and has been living in Cape Town for over 24 years, yet he still thought of the American anthem first. I tell him that I could give it a go in a Hendrix kind of way, an answer which he seems pleased with as he cracks a sincere smile. We both turn our backs to the rocks and look out at the Atlantic ocean while those around us talk away and share cheese and crackers. He starts peacefully and solemnly crooning “oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light…” and I take in the moment. I am still while I listen to him sing the whole anthem. In those few minutes I know that we are both experiencing the same, significant feeling that may fade over the years, but that will never quite disappear.

The Wedding

“Are you going to wear your hair like that?” and “no, you can’t change out of your heels yet” are the gracious, yet dead-serious remarks from my mother directed at me between exchanged stories of “when you were this small” (height indicated by hand gesture) with family I haven’t seen in about a decade. I’m feeling especially awkward in my faded green hair and unorthodox nose piercing, and I’m pretty sure it’s some kind of a sin to be hungover in a church. Yet, twenty hours and two plane rides later, I’m at the other side of the world on a vineyard spending the weekend at my little cousin’s wedding.

She resembles a porcelain doll entering the room as her captivated audience hangs on every graceful movement. The sunlight through the windows dances around her veil as her father, much shorter than her in a very endearing way, guides her down the aisle to give her away. I cry while Cannon in D reverberates around the open room. I don’t cry often from non-sadness, but in this moment I can’t hold back my tears. There are memories seared into my mind of us playing on the beach together at nine years old, being little models in the girly dresses our grandmother sewed for us, and eating cookies in the big comfy chairs in her living room in Durban, South Africa. One time when I was about eight years old, I saw some very weird scene from a movie on their old TV in that living room. I don’t recall where everyone else was, but I remember seeing Kevin Spacey lying in bed looking up at a naked teenage girl draped in red rose petals on the roof of his bedroom. A long time has passed since our days of innocence and not knowing what the movie American Beauty was, and now she is marrying a very handsome, bearded man. I can feel it now - we’re growing up.

As most egoistical twenty-somethings my age, I sit in the pew and intensely self-reflect, making this moment all about me and asking myself some pretty disturbing questions. I’m having my Aziz Ansari moment from Master of None where I picture myself standing up there exchanging vows with my faceless husband-to-be. Unlike my cousin and most of her seven bridesmaids, I am not currently in a loving relationship with the man I met at the end of high school or the beginning of college. In fact, I’m about a million failed relationships in. Is it possible that I have somehow moved further away from marriage with every shit relationship? I must admit, it’s pretty hard to picture myself exchanging these vows, especially “in front of God”. I mean when was the last time I was even in a church that I wasn’t sight-seeing with the band on a day off in Manila?

The minister is speaking in Afrikaans, and having been living in America for almost 12 years, I’m lost at times in the religious jargon of my native language. My mind wanders to how much the wedding must have cost, what kind of planning must’ve gone into this event. I start to think about how it must be like a record release. You fall in love with an artistic concept and you get engaged to it, you spend a year or so writing and recording it, and then you take your vows in front of everyone with confidence that you will love and stand by this work of art forever - you marry it. Almost immediately I start to feel shame at the thought of comparing a record release to holy matrimony. What is wrong with me?! The tears start threatening my perfect makeup again. Will I never find what these two have? Is my life even fertile enough to cultivate such a relationship? Are my eyes too clouded by the desire for success and fulfillment in my musical career? Am I missing the point? Would I even see the man of my dreams if he was arriving at my house with delicious baked goods and a bottle of red wine? I am selfish. I am dumb. I am fucking this all up. The tears turn from oh-my-god-we’re-growing-up tears to oh-my-god-I-am-the-worst tears.

Between the ceremony and the pre-drinks before the reception (I told you, massive wedding planning, I applaud it), I tell my mom in a bitchy teenagerish tone that she should go on without me, I need to have a cup of coffee and I’ll join everyone when I’m ready. I am truly living up to my standard of feeling like I’m the worst. I sit in the quiet of the cottage rented out for us on the vineyard where the wedding is being held and I sulk for the allotted thirty minutes I’ve given myself. I drink my bitter cup of coffee that I fucked up making and tastes like shit, and I text my friends self-pitying messages. I’m literally staying in heaven-on-earth for the weekend, and I still manage to put myself in some sort of hell. My insecurities and confusion and desires are my undoing in this moment and I can’t seem to stuff them back into the dark corners of my mind where they escaped from.

I wash down the bitterness of the coffee with another glass of champagne that I grab at the pre-drinks garden party. My red high heels are sinking into the soft soil below, causing me to tilt in an unflattering way that’s all wrong for wedding photos. My mom urged me to print some photos from my experiences these last few years to give to my grandparents. The quaint circle is now expanding to a more nerve-wracking sized one as photos get passed from aunt to uncle to cousin to friend to grandmother to grandmother’s friend. Each time the picture of me with Obama is seen I explain how I ended up in the White House for a show I played. I explain the sparkly, artsy photos are the album artwork for my upcoming record - a record that has been at the forefront of my mind for over a year now and will be coming out soon (foreshadowing!!) I felt happy sharing these stories with my family but to be honest, in that exact moment, my “grand experiences” felt a little meaningless. I’ve been gone for so long and have missed so much. My grandfather wants to frame a large version of my album cover and put it up in their house. He’s 93 years old and we’re now getting reacquainted.

The reception starts and I’m sitting between our youngest male cousin, who’s 21, and my mother. My cousin is an atheist and he’s vocal about it. We’re seated across from the minister and his wife, so this will be interesting. The groom’s father gives a speech which thankfully I can understand every word of. His love for his son and daughter-in-law is palpable and it’s moving me. They are two of the most caring people you will ever meet and they’re about to start their married lives together caring for others, as doctors. I find myself reconsidering my stance on helping others - I could do more. He concludes his heartfelt speech to the married couple by saying, “people don’t remember you for what you do or what you say, they remember you for how you make them feel.” The statement simmers in my mind as I drink my third glass of champagne and pray to my faceless, nameless God that I won’t be hungover tomorrow again. People remember how you make them feel.

I have one last dance with my atheist cousin on the pure, white dance floor. We’re dressed in black and are clearly the black sheep. To our absolute embarrassment we end up dancing “the sokkie” with the crowd, a traditional Afrikaans dance. The whole weekend we’ve been battling it out for who is the bigger hipster; I have green hair, I have barista training, I live in Brooklyn, New York. He has a beard, brews his own beer, he lives near Brooklyn, Pretoria. We’re westernized, and while he clearly feels pride in this, I feel a slight shame in inadvertently abandoning my culture. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not acquainted with most of the people here, or because I can tell the guitarist in the wedding band is out of tune, or because I’m feeling a little bit fat in my tight black dress, but I don’t seem to be into dancing tonight. Another family member remarks on how strange that is; being the performer in the family, wouldn’t I be comfortable dancing in front of people? I proceed to have existential crisis #2. I’m feeling very vulnerable and unsure of myself this weekend. Time for a shot of tequila.

My cousin and I stumble down the steps toward the freedom of the crisp, freshly-cigaretted air in the garden outside. He’s had a couple of drinks and so I decide to prod about personal things such as his passion in career and his love life. While I feel sad to hear his tale of game-playing, awkward first moves and the college cock-block only known as “dorm room living”, I also feel relieved to be talking to someone who has somewhat of a messed up love life. “Yes!” I think, “I’m not alone in my struggle!” At one point he recalls a really bad day between him and his lady he’d been courting for a year. He says he was so upset he didn’t go to class the whole day and instead stayed in his room listening to “Boy Boy Boy” by Andhim (the Joris Voorn remix, because he’s trendy af) on repeat. My cousin loves music. Prior to our dancing escapades we’d spent about an hour going through electronic artists he wants me to check out. With each artist’s name he’d pause and describe exactly what he liked about them, giving his concise two-sentence pitch on why I should give them my ear-time. I gaze up at the misty steps to the dance hall and I admire all these beautiful, happy human-beings with their arms in the air, dancing to Daft Punk and singing at the top of their lungs. My phone is lighting up and I have a text from my friend Aaron asking if I’ll record guitar on a track and another from my producer asking if I could check a mix of a song. Art truly is the soundtrack, backdrop, and escape we need for our lives. Whether it’s in the background or it’s your career or it’s as holy to you as religion.

My cousin walks me to my cottage and hugs me goodbye. He tells me he wants to live in New York City one day, he wants to experience something new. He says he wishes to find his passion in life and that I’m lucky that I have mine. In that moment, I know I am rich in so much more than I can possibly see or touch. While I haven’t found the man who I can walk down the aisle towards yet, I have certainly found something that I’m happy to wake up to for the rest of my life. And just like that, it all makes sense again.

It’s Not Linear

One day when I was chatting (more like complaining) to a mentor of mine, he told me that I couldn’t expect my career and life to be linear. In 2014 I’d had my first success in terms of what I wanted to do with music, and I guess I’d had this naive idea in my head that once I’d accomplished something cool that it would be smooth sailing from there. What followed was more of a crooked, ever-winding crackhead drawing of a line that went on and off the page. At the top was my life making sense and me buying rounds of drinks for my friends and going swimming in lakes in upstate New York, at the bottom was me crippled by anxiety of the unknown, crying over Cheetos and vodka while I watched all of King of the Hill for the 4th time. I wish I was joking.

What I want to show in this post is that almost nothing in life is constant, and that that’s okay. I mean let’s face it, I went into music as my career so to a certain extent I had accepted things to be crazy. But even when things have gone so amazingly well, I still find myself at my lowest lows thinking “why did I do this? Am I a disappointment to my family? Is what I’m doing worth a shit? Am I selfish?” I guess I want to say that all these thoughts are real and always creep in, no matter how much I accomplish or don’t accomplish. That seems to be human nature, and I know a lot of us young adults deal with these mental obstacles frequently.

I seem to once again be in a position of “gambling”. I have no consistent job; I’m a free-lance composer and performer, and I’m investing all I have into a new business venture. When I look at the trajectory of the last three years and working for other people, I can see that I always quit when I was on top. This may sound totally crazy, but it has always been this very real feeling of “I’ve learned what I needed to learn and it’s gonna hurt so bad to let go, but it’s time for me to go”. And every time I’ve done this, I’ve done so with no other job lined up. I’m like really smart. But, what always follows is the most chaotic, beautiful “what is this life all about” break-down where at the end of the chaos I am somehow rebirthed into a more fully-formed human as I realized what I truly want. But only after a lot of Cheetos and vodka and complaining to my friends.

For the record, I am that weird person googling “how to quit my job” or “how to tell my boss I quit”, and every time I would read an advice column, it would advise me to line up another job before doing this. The fact is, as a self-employed musician, there aren’t many articles or advice columns dedicated to what to do in our situation. I want to work for myself; I want to be my own boss and lead a team, I want to make my own hours and take vacations one day. I will pay taxes out the butt and private health insurance premiums to by eye-balls, but what I’m not willing to do is work for someone else for the rest of my life. So where do I fit in in the scheme of jumping from job to job? I’m not sure, but this post serves as speculation. Do you play it safe? Do you trust your gut and take a risk? If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried to map out the next three years of your life and how you will methodically achieve your dreams. You have little checkboxes every year and by 28 you’re married and by 30 you have a kid and by 36 a house in The Hamptons. I’m 26, very much unmarried, and can barely pay my rent. So far, I have strayed from the course, but I ended up somewhere else quite wonderful. I wouldn’t trade it for my hypothetically planned-out life any day.

I’ve written a lot of songs in the past year about not having a safety net. They’re mostly about the anxiety of taking a dive and not knowing where I’ll end up, so it’s very clear that I am fearful. I hate admitting this to anyone, but I am a fucking human and I am fearful. The question is whether or not the fear will prevent me from going for what I want, and so far, it hasn’t. It tries to get at me late at night when I lie down in bed alone in the dark. It tells me that I’m stupid and when last did I read a book and what makes me think I’m so special that I shouldn’t lead a more normal life. It tells me that my life will always be this way and that I’ll never have nice things. The next morning I tell this fearful bitchass voice in my head to shut the fuck up because I do have nice things. I have great friends and a supportive family. I have a lot to be thankful for, and you know what, there are bigger things in life than constantly wondering if you’re going to be the song that comes on in CVS while you’re shopping for tampons or if your piece of music will be in the next bullshit-whatever Hollywood movie or if you’ll play on The Today Show this year. 

There literally are bigger things, like love and people. So without getting too hippy-dippy here, I just wanna roll with this train of thought and say that today I realized I need to chill out. I choose to relax and trust fall into what I want to do. Treat your peers with love and respect, be there for people and they will be there for you, and have a little rainy day fund for just in case you need it when it’s a really fucking rainy shithole of a day. You know what else I realized? Just laugh at the situation. Laugh at yourself. It’s not all so serious. Our world revolves around us so it may seem very serious, but it’s not really that serious. Go make art, work your hardest you’ve ever worked at anything, and enjoy the successes as well as the surprises. And I’ll try to not watch King of the Hill for the 5th time.

Wishing you all the best,