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,

Sulene

The Career vs. the Lifestyle

A couple of months ago I was in California for a gig and met up with one of my friends from college. Both of us studied composition and had aimed to work in the same industry, which was film scoring. I had long abandoned the nights and days spent on meeting deadlines for cues, preparing cue sheets, and playing guitars on scores and was trying my hand at being a touring guitarist for the last few years. Alex was even deeper into the film scoring scene than the last time we’d hung out and it led us to a long talk centered around career and the lifestyle you automatically adopt from said career.

When you’re doing a job such as being a touring musician, it becomes very hard to separate your career from your lifestyle, because you’re essentially on the road all the time doing the job. When you’re starting out as a film composer, you’re taking all the work you can get and you’re meeting intense deadlines a lot of the time and waiting for notes on revisions. We like to use the phrase “hurry up and wait” to describe this frustrating cycle. I guess this could be said for most jobs, but so far I’ve only had experience in these two specific fields and so I’ll talk about these a little bit.

What this talk led to was the realization that when we were studying to become composers or touring musicians or songwriters or whatever, that we’d hardly considered the implications of this when it comes to our daily lives. For a long time I think I confused these two aspects of my life - the career and the lifestyle - and I think they’re maybe still too closely entwined, but at the time when I was learning to be a composer, I hadn’t really thought about what my day-to-day really might be like, or my weekends, or the holidays, or the lack of holidays.

Here are a couple things I did discover. In both professions it was difficult to maintain close relationships. They both demanded some level of priority and a willingness to drop things, and it wasn’t as simple as maybe taking a vacation day or calling in sick to get some time off to take a trip somewhere, or make a friend’s wedding, or keep that anniversary dinner-date. Another thing I discovered is that lot of younger film composers also write for other composers, filling the role of additional music or even straight-up ghost writing. I knew that this was a thing that existed, but let’s be real, I didn’t lie awake in college fantasizing about the day when I could finally have my dream job of writing someone else’s score. I dreamed of the day I would write my own score. Sometimes we don’t want to consider the bad staples of being the amateur starting out in a scene, so we tread on ambitiously and ignore the obstacles that are to come. But, that is why I am writing this blog post, because I dove in blindly and I have some thoughts on this now.

When the time came to be a real-life film composer and touring musician, myself along with many of my peers were faced with unforeseen circumstances in our lifestyles that we weren’t mentally prepared for. I missed my friends and my family, and I struck out on relationship after relationship. I lost touch with people who were close to me to the point that when I returned home to New York I felt like as though I was on the outside and maybe even a bit forgotten about. But this is a totally normal outcome of being absent for basically a year and a half. Being in one big sleep-over with all my bandmates on a tour bus for weeks at a time sounded like a ton of fun until I realized that in any scenario I will grow tired of always being in the company of others, even if they’re totally awesome people. I missed being alone and playing my guitar in my room absent-mindedly over a cup of coffee while roommates chattered outside my door and sunshine came through my window. There were all these tiny things that added up and sometimes made me feel sad, but sometimes they made me excited because I was facing a new challenge and it all felt like an adventure. I developed a habit one tour of sitting in the back of the tour bus with all the windows down and letting the air blow on my face while I listened to Travis on my headphones. I learned how to knit because I wanted to be creative without playing music and be able to keep myself occupied in a healthy way. So I’d sit there for hours and listen to the same record over and over while the wind blew and the sun shined on me. It became my new version of sitting in my apartment alone. I started to find ways to fill the spaces in my life that were created by this new lifestyle which was carved out by my all-consuming career as a touring musician.

Now, I’m not meaning to sound as though I’m complaining or ungrateful. Of all the jobs I’ve had, touring is my favourite ever and I can’t wait to be on the road again for many years. But I realized how important it is to be real with yourself. Fuck yeah, touring and composing are great, but it’s okay to miss some of the normalcies and accept that you’re going to have to find new ways to gain stability in your life. A lot of my bandmates use exercise as a way to maintain a balance. Some of them read a lot of books or watch TV shows. Some of them needed to find a Starbucks in every town we got to, not because they love Starbucks, but because it’s familiar. Familiarity became a cornerstone of my foundation on tour; I watch the same TV shows, write a weekly blog post, listen to the same records, run the same amount of miles in the gym, and knit the same scarf patterns. It’s familiar and it’s effortless and it helps me feel like a human.

Eventually Alex and I had gone down such a rabbit-hole of stories about our somewhat abnormal lifestyles as free-lance musicians that we started to talk about how we sort of wish we’d known a little bit more about the lifestyles that are inclusive of these career choices. If you value being alone and you’re kind of grumpy and find it hard to work with others, you probably won’t want to be in a tour bus, standing in airport security lines, or sitting in a tiny green room with your bandmates for several months a year. If you value getting the right amount of sleep every night and eating healthy and doing yoga everyday and only composing when you feel creative, it may be very difficult to maintain this lifestyle if you are a film composer with stringent deadlines. But, don’t take this as a hard-and-fast rule from me, this is just from my experience and the stories of others. There are different ways to make the job work for you. But, there are also some things you really just can't get around.

This is why I recently agreed to do a clinic at a music school for teenagers. I was asked about tour and what advice I’d give about performing or writing. I tried to be as open as I could without being a bummer, but the reality is that the job is hard if you’re doing it all the time, and if you’re successful, you are doing it all the time. Being busy in your career is great but it introduces new obstacles and new challenges for when it comes to managing your stress levels or grumpiness or alcohol intake. Most jobs that include a specialized set of skills are hard because they require a lot of your time and focus, as well as the ambition to always improve. You make your own hours, you act as your own boss, and so you really kick your own ass. You sometimes temporarily sacrifice things you may not want to. You give up your free time and some of your sanity for the gig. You let people down sometimes or you let them go. What’s important is to let the love for what you do and the love for others drive you.

So here’s the take-away: if you want to go into a specific field, I’d urge you to talk to others who are in it and to truly consider the consequences. Ask them about the work, the skills required,  the costs as well as the financial returns, how they got there, etc. But, also ask them about their lifestyle. Are they happy? Do they get to spend time with loved ones? Do they get to go home often? Do they feel healthy? I’m telling you, these things may not seem important in the beginning as you pride yourself on your ability to hustle hardcore, but they sure will sneak up on you one day when you hit a wall. Be starry-eyed with a tinge of realism. It’s easier to believe the good parts than it is to accept the bad parts when you really want something.

And now that you’re equipped with some new information, go out there and be your badass-self and make something awesome happen today.

Love,

Sulene

Quitting to Succeed

Time and time again we’ve heard people say “never quit” or “never give up”, but the reality is that sometimes the best way of propelling yourself forward is to know exactly when to quit and what to quit. One of the biggest issues in my career, and my life in general, has been that I tend to spread myself too thin. Even now, as I look at my iCal with all the things I need to do back-to-back for the next week, somehow my priority has ended up way at the end, shoved into a corner. The fact is that many of us have to spend our time doing things we don’t want to do but have to do, like a day job, and sometimes it becomes really difficult to keep your priority at the forefront. But this post is about those things we don’t necessarily have to do but maybe feel obliged to do or maybe do out of habit. Knowing how to “clean up” your life and use your time efficiently is exactly what could turn your situation around.

It’s been taking me a bit longer than usual to write this post - I keep stopping and stalling and overthinking. It’s because I don’t want to sound like the villain. I honestly do value helping others and contributing to society in a way that doesn’t only benefit oneself, but there’s a time and place for that. It’s also really hard to help others unless you’re cool with yourself. As I get older and I make new friends, have new jobs, and face lots of difficult decisions, I’ve learned that I really do know what’s best for me, not someone else. I’ve written about this before, about trusting your instincts - always learn from others, but trust your instincts. I have quit a lot of things. I’ve quite bands, I’ve quit classes, I’ve quit smoking, I’ve quit drinking (for a period of time), and I’ve quit relationships. This is the ugly truth people usually feel uncomfortable with - if you spend your life doing the things you feel obliged to do, committing to things you are uncertain about, and constantly lending out your talents to others instead of honing them in your own way, then you may miss your stop on this journey of life, so to speak. There’s something extremely rewarding about helping others, I’ll admit. Every time someone asks me if I want to play a show or sing on a song or mix their track, I almost always say yes, because I’m just literally excited for them and I want to be a part of the process. It took me a couple years to understand - after failing to do my part on these projects - that I just couldn’t be in two places at once. The place where I so badly wanted to be was alone in my room, writing my songs. I would feel more badly about this sentiment, except that anyone who knows me even a little, knows that I’ve dedicated a ton of my time to other peoples’ music. I love doing it. But sometimes it’s not always what’s right for me.

In 2014 I quit every band that I was in. I had some sort of melt down in which I realized that I wanted to work on myself as a film composer and artist. I’d had the resolve for many years, but could never make time for it. Because I didn’t know how to balance things, I bailed on everything so hard, and I don’t recommend this. Though it was one of the best things I ever did for myself in the long run, it was also one of the most hurtful things I’ve ever done. It ruined friendships (for a while) and I got a lot of unkind words thrown my way, but I understand why. Going from 100 to zero, so to speak, was an extreme change but I didn't know how else to navigate what I wanted. Now as time goes on, I’m starting to get better at it. But I still feel bad for every project I committed to and then inevitably bailed on when I became overwhelmed by not being able to focus on my priority. It always comes back to knowing what your priority is and managing your time realistically.

Quitting things doesn’t just include things in your career. It also includes bad habits, such as excessive drinking, or smoking, or being late, or trash-talking. Quitting also includes people. You can hate me for saying this, but there is such a thing as a toxic relationship. And while I’ve never intended to bail on someone forever, I have definitely let them know that I needed to step back temporarily and protect my heart. Don’t be afraid to tell someone when they’re starting to fuck with you. After all, the only way they can fuck you up is if you let them. So don’t let them. I’m always working towards maintaining healthy relationships with supportive friends around me. Many of us have conflict already existing in our lives - from bosses or family or others we are obliged to have relations with. Don’t add to the stress by letting a hurtful person continue to kill your vibe. You elected yourself to be with them, so make sure it’s healthy and fun. The best way I’ve described this is that I don’t want to “weave an intricate web of my life”. Confrontation is hard, and I am the fucking worst at it, but don’t be afraid to say what you need or when you need something to stop. Be strong enough to work through something, but also know what your threshold is.

Sometimes things just aren’t good enough, and that can be a sad reality. Our natural inclination is usually to try and salvage something. We’ve all tried to salvage the already broken relationship, believing the other person will see they’re hurting us and will somehow just chose to change of us. But maybe that relationship has served it’s purpose in our lives and it’s best to move on. It’s hard to quit things, even when they’re so blatantly painful. Remember to trust yourself and most importantly, to be brave. Because it takes a shit-ton of bravery to navigate through all the bullshit in our lives and still come out strong. Trust your instincts, know your priorities, and always act through love. Even when you’re quitting.

Wishing you the best,

Sulene