I don’t know what this is from or if it means something to the people that know what it’s from, but I look at this image, and for some reason I think to myself, “That looks like the most free a person could ever be.”
Everytime I release a new album, I have fears about promoting it. Maybe it comes from the fact that I release so much free stuff, that the idea of harassing people to buy something is kind of onerous to me. Maybe I just feel like there’s just so much music out there, the idea that someone would even listen to mine, much less pay hard, cold cash for it is a bit unbelievable to me. Maybe I just have a lot of self-loathing and insecurity (it’s probably mostly that).
I honestly hate that money is a thing I have to worry about. I mean, anyone would say that, obviously. But I hate that as the years have gone on, so much of my idea of success and achievement in this thing that I love doing – music – is now so wrapped up in the idea of how much MONEYS I make on it. There was a point 3+ years ago that the idea of getting 100 people to listen to a stupid song I did made my heart sing. Now I sell 100 EPs in a week, and I feel like my career is over and I should start looking for some kind of job. That there’s no way this is sustainable.
I’ll tell you a funny story about myself. When I started working as a lawyer (yes, in case any of you forgot, I used to be a lawyer), I made enough money to put away some into savings every paycheck. And twice every month, I would stash a bit of money away into a savings account, a fund I referred to lovingly as my “ring fund.” I had been single at that point for, god, years? I had no prospects of meeting any new girls, and I was so busy (and so antisocial probably) that it was pretty unlikely that would ever happen. But for some reason, I thought it was important to have the requisite, what is it, 2 or 3 months’ salary in an account in case I ever fell in love. I’d known people who struggled with the cost of things like that, and I thought that it would be important that I not have to wait to take the next step in my life. The funny thing is, I don’t think I even really wanted to get married, per se. I just think the idea of logistics and money preventing me from doing what I wanted bothered me. Maybe I’m a control freak like that.
One day I woke up, and I said “What the HELL am I doing?” I threw most of that money into my “real” savings account, and I am pretty sure I drove to the West Virginia Hollywood Casino (closest to DC) and went HAM on a craps table that weekend. It was weirdly cathartic, and definitely a kind of a wake up call.
When I quit my job to do music full-time, it was the first time in my life that I had ever left the confines of a five-year plan, of thinking about a 401K or Roth IRAs and what I’ll do when I retire. It was the first time I’d ever lived on a month-to-month basis in my life. And to this day, it’s terrifying. You don’t have to go to business school and law school to be inundated with the idea that one day: (1) you will be old; (2) you will need money; (3) if you don’t think about it when you’re 22 years old, you will be utterly screwed. You can see it on commercials, in movies, in magazines, this idea that when you’re old, and you need medicine and hospital visits and respirators and iron lungs, that shit will cost money! And if you dick around like that grasshopper in that fable (was it a grasshopper? I don’t even remember), you will die, cold, alone, and hungry. Thanks for the nightmares, Aesop!
I’ve never understood the concept that you are supposed to work your life away while you’re young, so that when you’re old you can…do things? That makes no sense to me. Look, I’ve never been a senior citizen (being that time is linear…or is it? OH MAAAN I’M SO HIIIGH), but I have to believe that DOING things will be much harder when I’m 65, than when I’m 25 or 30, right? I mean, that’s just common sense. And yet, I spent much of my 20s worrying about future Eugene, that silver fox of a man who will maybe have a boat and be like those old people in those Prudential commercials, living their dreams after working their fingers to the arthritic bone for 40 years. Hooray!
When I quit my job, I left behind a huge amount of financial security for the sake of my own sanity. I do music because I think I’m pretty good at it, and because I always want to make more. I know this rap game (did I just say that?) won’t last forever, there’s no way it can. But I KNOW I can’t be a rapper when I’m 65. I can be one now. I rather enjoy it now.
There’s a part of me that worries that one day, I’ll be a 60 year old bagger at Kroger, scraping together pennies to pay the mountains of debt that I have. I’ll look back on this time with regret and hatred, thinking that I did a big thing and I did it badly. There’s another part of me that thinks that things, they always seem to work out, if, and this is a big if, you can drown out all the noise and listen to what the Universe is trying to tell you. Most people, they spend their entire lives ignoring this clarion call that you stop this thing that’s making you miserable… That you take a few steps in another direction… That you do the thing that, and I know this is a hard one to fathom, makes you happy, or at the very least happier. If I believed in a benevolent God, I’d believe that he wants us to be happy. If I believed in the natural order of things, I would say that, despite how cynical and horrible we can all be, things trend towards “better,” unless you are actively working against nature’s natural inclinations. You fight, you gnash teeth and render skin. But in the end, you can’t help but know that you’re drifting towards “better.” That’s what I believe.
I’ve been working on this massive year-end post, where I catalog everything I’ve done this year. It’s been a long process (I do a lot, apparently), and I have to believe that these things, these memories and moments are the things that will keep me warm, if things do come to be the worst in the future. I look back at where I was, when financial security was a thing that was never a concern, and I look around now, where I stress and pull my hair out over “OMG HOW’M I GOIN EAT?” and no matter how I frame it or rationalize it, there’s no question life is BETTER. This choice led me to some of the best friends I’ve ever had. It led me to have a girlfriend for the first time in oh I don’t know, YEARS (yes, it’s her, in case you haven’t figured it out yet). And at this point, I truly do feel like I’m on the verge of making the BEST music of my life.
So if you bought an EP, or listened to a song this week (or like, ever), thank you. But more importantly, if you’re worrying about your station in life, or you’re worrying about the future? Take a second, turn the wifi off, close your eyes and just listen to what the universe is telling you. Often, you’ll find that it’s an obvious choice. And though it won’t always be easy, it will undoubtedly be better.
Cash that ring fund in, you idiot. Go have some fun while you’re young. Fuck marriage. I mean…you know what I mean.
Year-end Post & song coming soon, and then I am out of here for 2012, like Steve Martin…
Here’s the thing about Cyclops:
He’s not the best. He’s got one superpower, it’s useful under very limited circumstances, and it doesn’t even work right.
He’s not the coolest. In fact, he’s definitively uncool—not even a boy scout so much as a well-meaning martinet. He’s really not even all that interesting.
He’s not good with people, including himself. He’s a dick a lot of the time, and he has the relative social grace of a geranium. He was basically raised in a paramilitary group; he literally has no idea how to function in the real world.
As a person, he’s kind of irreparably broken in ways that go way beyond the brain damage.
He has no illusions to the contrary.
He leads the X-Men—not because he has any illusions about his skills or likability, but because someone has to. He puts himself in the line of fire because that’s what being responsible for people means, and makes decisions that’ll get him hated because they’re decisions that have to be made. He fucks up and fucks up and fucks up, and apologizes, and rebuilds, and learns, and grits his teeth and dives back in to fuck up some more.
He does this in hopes of building a world that will, realistically, have no place for him; leading or working under people whose expectations for him are flat-out impossible to meet and who hold him accountable every time he fails to live up to them.
And he keeps doing it.
And doing it.
And doing it.
That’s why Cyclops is my favorite. Not because he’s cool. Not because he’s likable, or because he’s the boss, or because he’s even particularly sympathetic. Because he tries so. goddamn. hard.
(I will also admit that I’m writing this as a socially stunted former wunderkind with major trust and control issues who grew up in a pressure-cooker environment, married my childhood sweetheart, and now have a job that often hinges on my willingness to make unpopular calls. Identifying with Scott Summers is not a huge stretch for me; we take our metaphors where we can get ‘em.)