I’m typing this directly into WordPress to keep myself accountable. To be completely honest, I don’t really want to do this, but I told myself I would and I must maintain some integrity.
When I was in high school, after my first summer of drum corps with the Vanguard Cadets, I had a Tumblr blog. I really dove into the drum corps community there, and felt like that was more of a home to me than was my reality in school. I wrote brutally honest posts, and generally painted myself as a victim amongst some teenage boys alongside whom I shared section leader roles in the Drumline. I remember one of them saw something I wrote and responded to it, anonymously. I’ve since deleted these, yet remember the crux of the response being “get off your high horse,” and in many ways, this criticism was right: I was on a high horse, thinking I was excellent because I had drum corps experience, yet not actually demonstrating this in my high school marching band, as I wasn’t performing at the highest level. Honestly, I probably was ticking a lot… likely because I felt the music was easy but didn’t put the time in.
I think this way often. No one directly criticizes me like that anymore, at least not to my face (or screen). The criticism comes from myself and it’s harsher. I notice myself thinking I’m great at something, and going back and identifying dozens of aspects I can improve upon. Yet more often, I’m thinking I’m not good enough, which in some ways is useful towards getting better, but something I constantly need to police and remind myself of my accolades so I don’t dive down the rabbit hole. Every feeling, every thought is vetted on a variety of points and I honestly don’t know what to think anymore. I know I’m not alone in this.
I don’t know if it’s appropriate to write the rest of this post and post it publicly where absolutely anyone can see it. I don’t know if this hurts or helps me. I don’t know if I’m going to sound like I’m on another high horse. I don’t know if those less privileged than I are going to scoff. I don’t know if this will simply reveal I have no thick skin.
I do know that I feel I need to share it.
I do know that I am interested in honesty above all else. I believe in documenting the creative process. I believe in sharing vulnerable things. I believe that others will read this and feel they can relate, so I’m going to make myself do this anyway, even though it doesn’t feel that good. Hopefully, I’ll one day look back and be able to point to how I got to a better place.
So, here goes:
I am not okay.
I haven’t been okay. Not for any period longer than a couple weeks.
This is near the anniversary of Covid, and it doesn’t feel better.
Just so you know, I don’t have a structure planned out. There are just a number of thoughts I want to present in some way. Maybe if I’m in a better headspace I can address these things systematically, until then, I simply need to allow myself to blurt them out.
What always happens in my head when I say I’m not okay, is I quickly feel guilty. I think of the children dying of hunger in Yemen. Or the atheists living in Islamic regimes staying in the closet for fear of their families murdering them. My situation is nowhere near this and I always remind myself of that. This is a very confusing headspace, because on one side I feel awful, objectively, and I compound that with empathy for those in worse situations, and I top it off with some attempt at stifling or bottling my feelings so as not to disturb others, or simply because they are not worthy of being felt, due to this comparison of worst case scenarios.
So, why am I not okay? Or, why haven’t I been okay?
I’ll tell you why I’m not okay right now. Due to loss of work from Covid, like so many other musicians and artists and others early in their careers, I ended up having to move home with my parents. This was not something I did lightly, and I really wanted to avoid it, but I got to a point where it felt like my only option.
At first it was great. The weather’s beautiful, it’s a big house, and not having to worry about paying rent anymore was the biggest relief I had felt since the start of Covid. I even tried to lean in with them – I was curious about their beliefs (political, religious – all the opposite of mine), tried to keep an open mind at least to allow us to have amicable discussions, but this didn’t last.
I thought I had depression, it turns out I was abused, so I have trauma. Seeing them treat another family member the way they did me is a painful experience.
Right now, Fox News was just turned on down the hall. It’s always so loud that I can’t think when it goes on. The views on this platform are so radically against everything I think, feel and believe, it physically hurts to have to hear this every day.
There were so many other points I hoped to hit in this post, but I’m afraid it will be difficult to get to them now. I’m losing my sense of where I was going, and losing focus.
I think it is wise to spare the details of what happens at home. No one is hitting me or locking me in or in any way physically preventing me from living my life, so please do not be concerned about that. It is survivable, I’m just not really in any capacity to create music. Sometimes I do, especially when I’m alone, ideas tend to flood and I immediately get to the piano or my vibe or a drum and start pursuing them. I’ve certainly gotten work done… I have set times when I teach on Zoom or in person and I always show up and give those students the best I can that hour. I had commissions due, and somehow I managed to get them done. Dreamerfly was a massive endeavor just last month that I co-directed, played in, coordinated overseas… (quick plug: we’ll be doing a marathon weekend of virtual premieres April 9-11, look out for that). As I sit here now I’m honestly not sure how I did any of it. I can barely get through this blog post (which frankly lacks the specificity I hoped to convey, but again, I just have to get this out one way or another). I’m not sure how I even wrote that plug, it felt so weird to do. All of it feels and felt incredibly hard in this headspace.
I’ve started driving for Doordash this week and it’s amazing how much happier I am when I just leave the house. I’m not really ashamed of this because it’s normal for artists to need income outside of their art. The pandemic has exacerbated this. I’m also just happy with the feeling of… well, making money, and it being easy. I know I’ll get bored fast (honestly I am already), but listening to podcasts and driving around town, while making about as much as I do from any music-related job, and having flexible (and unlimited) hours is incredible. So I guess there’s a bit of good news at the end of this.
But aside from Doordash and teaching, I need to go tell a few people that I can’t do what I said I would do because my mental health is just that bad.
To those who have never had mental health issues, something I’d like you to understand is that these problems are not just in our heads, they are just as physical and tactical as any other problem. Just because you can’t see it does not mean it’s not absolutely real. What these ailments do is place a metaphorical prison on our thoughts, which are the gatekeepers to our actions. It’s not hard to get out of bed because I’m lazy, it’s hard to get out of bed because I don’t look forward to my day. It’s hard to get out of bed because I’m afraid of stepping outside my door and dealing with who’s out there. I do it anyway, I guess. But I’m gritting my teeth, can barely stand this much longer.
For a musician, wellness means our basic needs. Until we have these I cannot imagine being one and doing the things I hoped to do. These needs are not just shelter, food, and water – they are emotional, they are the feeling of not having to worry about food, the feeling of not having to choose between funding our art and funding ourselves.
Right now, music is not the answer. I’m not leaving the industry, honestly I can’t. I’m too prideful and there’s too much I’ve left to say. Some internal drive has always stated that my place in this industry is important, despite hardships and doubts, and I’m still following that drive, I still think it’s correct. But music isn’t going to solve the issues I’m dealing with. Because I live in a capitalist society, only money will.
I’ve never done this, but if you’re in a position of relative privilege and are interested in supporting me and my work, once it resumes, you can help me via:
Basically, it’s going to help me get back faster. I have some debt to pay and need to be living on my own. I also need to be able to afford therapy again, urgently. There are so many unanswered questions and unclear next steps, and I assure you I’ve been thinking about this, weighing the pros and cons, trying to plan my future, but I realized today that any “next step” decision I make is only going to be made when I’m in the financial position to make it.
I wish my output were higher. I wish I were making a ton of music right now. But some days it just feels like there isn’t a possible way I could be.