I've been trying to write all day. It's been a weird day, for sure. The last two nights I haven't slept well - having trouble falling asleep and waking up several times during the night. Even waking up in a panic, hours before my alarm is set to go off, feeling like I've missed the alarm and slept in. This is very uncharacteristic of me.
You see, tonight I don't have much on my mind except that tomorrow I hear back about whether I got my Artist Visa or not. "Artist of Extraordinary Ability" visa, to be exact.
So, in this moment, I will be a real person and I will write about what I'm feeling, what I'm thinking, and how I'm so overcome with emotion tonight. I can't hide where my mind is right now. I take pride in putting on a brave face, and many months ago I put any of my visa-related anxiety to rest. I told myself I would give this my best shot, a visa that is known to be very difficult to obtain, and I would let it all play out as it should. I put my trust in the universe and I just kept doing me.
This is all fine in theory, and I've been surprisingly calm through this 6-month application process. But there's one thing tugging at my heart tonight... I want this so bad. My life and career have been in some sort of purgatory for two weeks now. I can't renew my lease on my apartment, I can't spend any extra money because, well, I don't know if I will be able to return to my job next week or not. At first this was an opportunity for an amazing break, a "government-enforced vacation", I like to call it. But now my brain and heart are starting to speak up, going "okay, I'm ready now, please give me the answer so I may continue with my life". Never have I felt myself at such a stand still. After almost a decade in this country, I feel a bittersweet sadness about my time here. I feel scared and excited. Upset and relieved.
I know this is a blog centered on the life and career of an artist and the challenges that come with it. I know not all artists will deal with something like an "Artist of Extraordinary Ability" visa, but then I thought... we all actually deal with this, in some way.
My friend Scarlett, who is one of the most talented songwriters and violin players I've ever heard, came through New York on tour with her highly successful and mind-blowingly incredible band from Texas. Sharing a couple beers with them, a few of the members told us how they either live with their parents or that many don't even have apartments or houses. All their belongings are in storage because as this tour progresses, they will hear news about their future as a band in this industry, and this may change their living situation. It may change how often they're home, if at all, for months at a time, or where they will all move together. They, too, are in the endless in-between, together, waiting on someone to either approve their "artist of extraordinary-ability-ness" or not.
Composers wait on directors to give the go ahead with the demos of the score, to ask for edits, or fear being replaced immediately. Directors, after giving all their time and sometimes a lot of their money, await box office results, articles, reviews, and ratings, on a film I have heard many of them call their "baby". High school graduates wait to hear back about college applications and if they were accepted to their dream school. Many, if they're lucky to celebrate being accepted, await a decision on scholarships, and then on how much financial support that will get. My friends are interviewing for jobs in New York City, savings running out with every passing day, hanging on by what feels like a thread, and they wait for that call or email. They wonder if they will be able to feed themselves next week or not. It seems, in some way, most of us are trying to live up to some standard to obtain some thing, so we can have a better life.
Sometimes I feel so overcome with bitterness, sadness, and frustration at having to prove myself that all I can do is feel the poison pulsing through my veins, destroying me slowly. I drink. I sleep in. I eat badly. I talk badly about myself. I talk badly about other people. I cry.
So here's what I want to say, if there's anything I can offer to the world tonight. Believe in yourself. Believe in your cause. Your dream is not illegitimate. Your dream is not open to interpretation... not by anyone. Carry your dream with you like a badge of honour. Wear it. Share it. Talk about it. Live it. Be excited about it. Be you, just the way you are in your essence.
So that's it. Here we are. As we speak, someone may be sitting down and reading through 300+ pages of my music career... my life. Awards, articles, diplomas, pictures, gig listings, tours, credits, endorsements, the list goes on. They are deciding if I'm considered an Artist of Extraordinary Ability, or not.
I am an artist. I'm an artist in my very being, in every fiber or who I am. I can't escape it, and daily, I cannot shake it even if I want to. Believe me, I've tried to fight it. When I was 14-years-old and had to do my first job shadow, I proudly shadowed a lawyer. As I write this, I will tell you I do not remember a single thing about it. I don't even remember who the lawyer was or what we did. It made no impression on me. I can tell you the name of every instrumental music teacher I've had - piano or guitar or voice or saxophone. I can tell you the name of every theory teacher I had. I can tell you on which side of my first guitar teacher's nose she had her nose piercing - because I have the exact same one, in tribute to her. I can tell you where i was, who was there, and what type of guitar I was playing in my improvisation class in high school when my music teacher asked me "have you heard of a college called Berklee College of Music?".
No matter what someones tells you, or what value system you're being measured up to, all that matters is that you believe in it and that you feel it. I am so incredibly proud of being an artist and I will spend every single day harnessing this amazing light that I feel inside of me. I want to change the world, from whatever country I end up in. That will never be taken away by me, and it will never be silenced.
You see, this is the most beautiful part of the situation. If I don't get a chance to stay here, and I pack up all my things and leave in two months, I will still be an artist. I will still write music and play in a band and write scores and write this blog and build a connection with artists around the world. So in this way, I carry my craft with me where-ever I go - I carry my "extraordinary ability" within me.
It's been a long time in the making, to be waiting for this decision. But no matter what, my eye is on the prize and it always will be.
With overflowing love,