4:00AM and the morning mist hovers over the driveway pavement. It envelops the rose bushes and the base of the two maple's next to the cemetery and detached garage with no sign of dissipation. Blades of grass drip with dew. No wind, no rain; just dew. Weird, somehow among the stillness and calm, there is a sense of uneasiness and nervous energy. Perhaps this will fade when the clouds break and the sun warms the earth?
"When will I find out", I thought to myself, anxiously. I'm not sure how this time will be any different than the last dozen or so. The same shtick for the past four decades and no advancement besides the detached one-car garage. "Is this what making it feels like?", I think again. I thought the last time was the greatest achievement. Each one comes disguised in anxious excitement and joy only to have those emotions fade like everything else in my life. A momentary high followed by a crash and silence. Empty, vapid silence. Almost to the point of hearing my own heartbeat without putting a hand or finger on my neck. It's a lonely feeling. Wishing and wanting something greater, only to find out when it's here that it isn't as great as it was made out to be; it was an illusion.
"I thought you were going to the bathroom?", "I was."
"Come back to bed, it's cold out here.", "Give me some more time."
"No sense sitting out here waiting for the call, they said you will know by dawn."
"I'll be in soon."
She could have a point. Hemming and hawing out here won't bring about a decision any faster. It's like waiting for the kettle to boil. She doesn't understand the trials and tribulations of a theatrical performer, though. But who could expect that of her? I've done my best to expose her to my world and me to hers. Baking isn't a performance art per se, however, it does take craft and persistence, I'll give that one to her. But people need to eat, do people need the theatre? Maybe it's a want? Gosh, I'm so stupid. Listen to yourself! It's 4AM and you're going on your existential rant again and all about something out of your control. Roles come and go, if not this one then there will be plenty more, although I'm a bit older than most in this profession. Maybe now is a good time to retire.
I always thought this side of the rainbow would be colorful and filled with riches, prestige and adoration. Wrong. I was dead wrong. They were dead wrong. It's all a facade. It was romanticized and glamorized by everyone and I foolishly bit the bait. It's the only thing I was good at and could do very well. They would applaud and lust after me and it felt amazing. Having that power and control over a room of people waiting to see you do your thing. Curtains would rise and the moment I was recognized that was it; the "standing O". So loud and booming that the roar of the crowd shook my skull; I couldn't hear anything. My thoughts were nonexistent; it was bliss.
Only so many standing O's though before that feeling rushes back again and you're left questioning; why am I here? Did I finally leave my mark? Has an imprint been left on their hearts? Have I achieved the level of what some deem success by my one-car garage and two maple trees? Has my questioning enslaved me these past several years to where I'm now a washed-up talent with barely any accolades? Surely someone would hire me to do a song and a dance once again. I can't imagine why they wouldn't, unless they're placating me to try and make me feel important.
Nope. I'm not playing the role of martyr again today. It's still early, I have time to script something else. "Brrr...", I shutter. She was right, it is cold out here. Perhaps I'll get a call. Or I can take up baking and try it her way for a while; she seems peppy most days. I can learn something new. Or I'll sit here on the porch and wait for the morning dew to evaporate. I don't know...
It happens to all of us in some form or another. Our reactions, however, may be very different.
You meet someone brand new and they introduce their self using a first (and sometimes) last name. You strike up a nice conversation about something you enjoy, maybe music or movies. A week or even a few days go by and you run into this person again, only you have no clue what their name is or what letter of the alphabet it started with. Panic sets in which leads to coming up with crafty ways to get them to say their name again so you can look like you remember. Or perhaps you ask them for their number at which point you play dumb and ask them how they spell their name. "It's Matt...", he replies. "My name is Matt". Dumbfounded, you put your tail between your legs because you've been caught! Sound familiar at all? Not all people react this way or even give something so simple as someone's name much thought. But why is it that names are so difficult for many to remember?
I tend to be open and honest when reintroducing myself by saying something like "You're going to have to forgive me, what's your name again?", which then I follow it up by saying my name as well so they can remember if they have forgotten mine. I've been known to ask people more than 2 or 3 times what their name is. Some get frustrated, some laugh it off, and some even are offended that I didn't remember them! I love psychology and analyzing things like this, which is why I'm writing a blog about it. I have a few theories as to why this happens, the first being that names are a useless means of information for the brain.
A name is useless data for the brain. Unless your specific brain has come across someone or something associated with a familiar name once before, chances are you won't remember it.
The name James ranks number 1 in the USA with over 5.3 million males with the name. Take a moment right now to think about 1 person whom you know to have the name James. Now, if you were to run into a brand-new face and their name happens to be James, you will most likely connect and associate them to someone or something with whom/which you have already had a connection, whether you're aware of it or not. James is a book in the bible, is used in "James and the Giant Peach", a song by Billy Joel, and is also the name of many actors, performers, and musicians. So it's more likely that a name like James won't escape your brain since there is a wide variety from which your brain can pull from like past experiences, prior knowledge, things/people in culture and society and other associations.
"Boran" on the other hand is one of the least commonly used names in the USA, ranking fewer than 1,700 people and is statistically the 49,057th most popular first name. I will have some trouble remembering a name like that if I were to ever come across someone named Boran, although, now it should be easier for me personally since I am using his/her name in this blog post! "Hi, my name is Boran", they said. "Great! I wrote a blog about you"... now I've made the mental connection to his/her name. There is one Chinese singer named Jing Boran, and the name is also synonyms with Boran cattle. Okay, I admit, I had to do a google search to figure out someone named Boran. It will take me quite a while to learn a name I'm not familiar with if I've never heard of it before.
The fact is that it's not our fault nor should we try to play a game to avoid an uncomfortable or embarrassing situation like this. It's understandable as it's part of our biology and wiring as human beings. Some people can remember names quite easily and some have more difficulty. Where ever you fall on the spectrum, just remember that it's okay to not know. I taught high school for 1 year, and by graduation day, I STILL didn't know all of my students names, and I had 55 of them to remember.
I'll leave you with this short, yet comical video from "The Office" (I apologize for the poor quality)...
Statistics in this blog were found using the USA Census and www.howmanyofme.com
"Now goes quickly. See, now it's past!" - Stephen Sondheim
One of the most difficult things I try to practice each day is living in the "NOW". I am a thinker and find that I spend way too much of my day-to-day life just thinking and questioning everything. What do I do with my future? What and how much I'm eating? How is the way I live related to how I was raised? Is there going to be an "ah-ha!" moment when I finally get it? Where do babies come from? Why is the sky blue?... Okay, those last two were just for fun... or were they? (SEE!)...
I'm quite sure there are other people who, whether consciously or unconsciously, have this ongoing dialogue in their brain. How do you stop the constant conversations and not feel like you need to find answers to questions that just will never have a concrete solution? I've found a few things that help.
First thing is to change how you think about thinking. Sounds quite cliché, I know. Try this.
Imagine you're sitting on a bench at the platform of a busy train station. You're not waiting for any particular train nor are you in any rush to move from your comfortable seat. Perhaps you take your phone out and take a selfie, check Facebook, or text a friend. A train approaches the station platform filled with passengers. The train stops and the doors slide open. Few people decide to step off the train onto the platform. A couple new passengers choose to climb aboard. The doors close and the train departs; you choose to sit.
Ten minutes later, another train arrives at the station platform. The doors slide open and a few more people step off of the train. Some take their time and walk calmly, while others push their way through the crowds to make up for lost time. The doors close and the train departs; you choose to sit.
Five minutes go by. Another train swiftly pulls into the station. The doors open and few people exit the train. There is no one waiting to board. The train idles there for ten more minutes with the doors wide open. You wonder if the doors are stuck and if there may be an issue with this train. You decide to stand up from your warm bench to walk over and take a gander. You approach the train and stand on the edge of the station platform. You hesitantly poke your head inside the doorway. There are no passengers onboard. You decide to avoid this train and just let it pass. Returning to your spot on the bench, the doors of the train close and it departs the station platform.
Each train that passes is like a thought. We as human beings have the option to take the train or to remain on the platform. We get to choose which thoughts to entertain and explore and which ones we will let pass us by. Sure, they will come again and the thought may be there. But you get to decide whether or not you want to travel and explore those ideas and conversations in your mind. Some thoughts will have no destination and some will. Some will derail you and others may keep you stuck at the station.
This analogy of the train station, along with 5 to 10 minutes of meditation, has improved how I react to situations at this moment in my life and has reshaped how I think about thinking. It's given me freedom and understanding that I don't have to think to find answers. I just have to sit and watch the trains go by. If I get on one, great! Let's see where it goes. If I keep sitting, then I keep sitting and nothing happens.
Ask any one of my closest friends and they'll tell you I've been a little all over the place for the last couple years. Not sure what I want to do, where I want to go, what or who I want to be, taking and leaving the advice and guidence my parents gave to me as a child, making sense of teachers and professors advice, etc.... Mid 20's are quite a challenge sorting through most of this crap, some of it is great and some can be left at the door. There is one thing though that remains a constant and reoccuring theme that I've been learning as I keep trecking on; and that is that life is a tapestry.
A tapestry, for those who don't know, is "a piece of thick textile fabric with pictures or designs formed by weaving colored weft threads or by embroidering on canvas, used as a wall hanging or furniture covering." (Wikipedia) Or we can reference a quilt as well for this blog post.
Let me explain. I've been the kind of person to look for and pursue the BIG moments. Working at Juilliard, conducting musical productions, losing 150lbs. While these are big achievements and have taken a great deal of time, education and persistance, these moments are only one piece of fabric within the whole stitched together with time and doing. They aren't the end-all, be-all, nor should they be.
I was at the gym the other day and was flipping through the basic cable channels; Rachel Ray was on. She was being interviewed about her life and career as a celebrity and well-known TV personality. The interviewer asked her, and I'm powerphrasing, what she would change or do differently about her past if she could. She said she wouldn't change anything, even the things that were a struggle or that, at the time, seemed to be the worst moment of her life. She said that life is like a quilt and that if she were to change one stitch, it could change everything about the course of her life so far. Which reminds me, it's kind of like those time-travel episodes in Family Guy where if one little thing is altered in the past, it causes a chain reaction of events that can make life very different in the present and going forward.
It's not 2017 yet and I'm not a resolution type of guy. I'd rather set 3-5 big goals to work on for the year and achieve them. I keep learning that life is meant to be explored, evolve and unravel from moment to moment without us as human beings messing with the process and trying to control the direction of every stitch and aspect of our quilt/tapestry. Focus on each moment and enjoy the highs, lows, unsure areas, the scary parts, the happy parts, the confusing parts... it ALL makes up the quilt and tapestry of life; to resist these things is to resist what is and to delay putting together a fullfilling and rewarding life, whatever that means for you.
Try new adventures, make new friends, step outside of the box and attempt things and situations that are interesting, fearful, rewarding and exhilerating without hesitation.
I leave you with my favorite quote:
"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever" - Steve jobs
Life would be much easier if we didn't have to work hard to get what we wanted. Well... life isn't like that at all. If you want something, you have to work hard to get it. For a toned body or to lose 10 pounds, you need to work at it and exercise.
I found it to be quite hard starting out with working out. It's hot, sweaty, sometimes strenuous but can make you feel like a million bucks once you finish. Not a lot of people have time, money or the drive to get up everyday and hit the gym, but once you see progress, then the reward is sure worth it.
I have a few tricks to help you get moving and motivate you to keep going back to the gym:
1. Little at a time - Don't start off doing crazy amounts of weights and hours of cardio when, and if, you start working out. Take it a little at a time. Maybe start with 10 minutes on the elliptical (elliptical is a low impact machine that won't be hard on your joints) for a few days and slowly add 5 minutes to it. Hey, I didn't say this will be a fast process and you lose the weight instantly. Not to mention, losing weight fast hurts your metabolism and your body's ability to maintain a steady weight. You should be losing 1-3 pounds per week at most. Though, once you start, you will see a lot of weight come off first. I like to use the analogy of boats; It takes more fuel to move a cruise ship than it does to move a tug boat. You will be burning a lot more calories if you are heavier and therefore will lose more weight to start. Just don't get discouraged or feel like you have to match the person on the machine next to you to get results. Go at your own pace and listen/be mindful of your body and what it is telling you. If you're on a machine and after 10 minutes you start to feel pain, stop your workout. Pain is NOT gain, pain is your body's way of saying "this isn't right we need to stop!".
2. Track your progress - This may seem tedious but it works wonders for me. I use a FREE tool called MapMyWalk to track my workouts. You can create an account online. They also have apps for mobile devices so if you decide to take a walk outside, you can turn it on and your mobile device uses the GPS to track your distance, calories burned and time. This is a great motivator because it gives you a visual representation of what you are doing and can help you try and top your last workout. I know I try to beat my time at the gym everyday so I can improve on my stats. Not to mention I feel great after a hard workout.
3. Weight yourself once - You all know who you are, you who step on the scale every day hoping that the number will miraculously plummet in 24 hours. Well stop that! You are causing yourself harm by doing that. Scales are a horrible guide to weight loss because a scale can't tell you if you lost fat weight, water weight, muscle weight or if your arm was chopped off. A 5 pound brick and a 5 pound bag of feathers weight the same, but are not made up of the same material, but a scale doesn't know that. It just takes a measurement. So why use the scale if it is so inaccurate? Because, it gives you an idea of the direction you are headed towards. The trick to getting an accurate reading is to weight yourself at the same exact time, ONCE per week in the nude. Resist the urge to do more than once per week. Pick a day that you would like to weigh yourself, my day is Friday, and commit to that time. Write down your weight and track it from week to week.
4. Workout Buddy - Nothing screams motivation then someone else working out next to you. You feed off of each other and sometimes try to top each other which motivates you to push yourself through your workouts. Find a friend, co-worker, family member, fellow gym member and create a buddy system that will motivate you to get moving.
I never said it was going to be easy, but if you are willing enough, these tips will be sure to help you get started and motivated to join a gym or even workout in your own home (which I don't recommend). A gym atmosphere helps to motivate you as well. With everyone there for the same purpose, you wont feel so alone. Happy lifting!
I really love psychology and human behavior. I find it fascinating and love to learn and educate myself on my own about it by reading articles online, listening to audio books and watch people at the mall and other public places.
Humans tend to go to extremes and then bounce the opposite direction (the pendulum swing) or what some call all-or-nothing thinking. We grow up with it as a child, think about the conversations surrounding a child in the Western world: "Good behavior or bad behavior"... "Right or wrong"... "black or white"... "yes or no"... "this or that"... "good witch/bad witch"... "good cop/bad cop"... "smart or dumb"... "happy or sad"... you get the picture. These are all polar opposite examples of what should be a spectrum, and when we aren't careful, can fall into those extremes when talking about anything. Facebook for example.
Many love it, many hate it, some have a love/hate with it and go from "I'm going to delete it" where they write a beautiful farewell status claiming they are jumping ship because they can't take the stuff in the newsfeed, friends getting married and engaged, babies etc. etc. etc... to the "I can't NOT be on Facebook".
How can we find a nice middle ground? Forget the fact that the newsfeed is tailored by Facebook's many algorithms based on who you interact with, what you write, who you like, what you click on etc.... The answer is simple. Observe how you use Facebook and make small, achievable changes.
About 2 months ago, I was noticing how unhappy I was with what I was doing, where I was going and who I've been spending/not spending time with. I also noticed how often I was on Facebook scrolling through the newsfeed and comparing my life with the ones portrayed in the newsfeed. I can't deactivate my account as I use it for gigs and networking with other musicians, but I can't spend hours on it either feeling like I'm lacking something or need to be MORE to keep up with the other people, more or less doing the same crap. So I found a healthy, workable compromise.
Here's what I started to do:
1. I started by deleting the app from my phone. It takes up a little over 600MB which is a lot considering I have 2 weeks worth of songs for my listening pleasure that need the space!
2. I started using the safari app on my phone instead to open Facebook and check notifications with musician and gig groups.
3. I stopped scrolling the newsfeed. How is this possible?! Simple. I have Facebook bookmarked in my safari across all my devices to go to my Facebook page instead of the www.facebook.com page. This way, the first thing I see isn't the newsfeed where it's very easy to get sucked into a photo post, then video, then a status and then 3 hours go by. Setting a bookmark to point to a page that is different than the main page where the newsfeed lives is a reminder to you that you are abstaining from scrolling. I still get my notifications at the top of the page and if ever I need to go to a group of friend page I use the search feature at the top.
Doing this has helped tremendously with not comparing and getting sucked into the void that is the Facebook newsfeed. I still use Facebook for my own networking/work purposes but find that time spent scrolling is time taken away from you.
Thanks for reading and check out my other blog posts on the right!
This blog post is more or less a springboard for an article (see below) that I read over a year ago about the Millennial Generation. Millennials, for those who are unaware, are the generation that was born in the early 1980's to early 2000's.
I found this article by Abby Ellin very spot on and interesting. I won't go into detail about my feelings with the article, rather, I want you to explore and discover what is mentioned with blind eyes.
Click "Download File" for the PDF of "The Beat Up Generation" article. It was publish in Psychology Today and is written by Abby Ellin.
OR you can read it here online - https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201402/the-beat-generation
"Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it."
With the start of summer being tomorrow, I can now say that the past 10 months has been one big roller coaster for me both physically, mentally, emotionally and everything in-between. However, you wouldn't understand the past 10 months unless we venture back in time to age 5.
I've always had something to "go to" since I've been a toddler. Think about it, we all go through this. At the age of 5 we start Kindergarden, or Pre-K (depending on your situation). We attend school till we are seniors in high school. Then off to college we go for 4 more years. Graduate at the age of 22 and head off into the working world without much of a break in-between and work till retirement. Whoa... let's slow down that train!... Too fast.
Now, I understand that this doesn't fit ALL people, but most people I know have followed this path, which reminds me of an industrial assembly line... not the life I want to be living. I decided to go into music education when I was in high school, mainly because my friends were doing that, so I wanted to do it too. The next "go to" step after graduating high school was graduating college.
The plan after I graduated college was to take the year to work towards applying for a masters degree and to continue making money through playing gigs and working miscellaneous music jobs. I had something to "go to". Work was sporadic and unsteady.
This time last year, I was going into rehearsals for a summer production of a musical and had nothing to "go to" once it was over. No gigs. No steady job. No nothing! I felt that I had no other options to "go to" so I might as well teach music. I went to school for it, so I guess that means I have to do it, right?...
Ten months ago, I started a full-time teaching job. I went into it thinking that it was the perfect job with a great starting salary and incredible people, and it was! But from day one I felt something wasn't working. I kept telling myself things like "well, you have nothing else to do so you have to teach", "you're in this job so you can't do anything else." and I felt trapped.
My moment of clarity came when I compared my working relationship with that of a physical, romantic relationship. I knew from the moment I started that I didn't like it and wanted something different. I couldn't place my finger on what it was specifically about the job that I didn't like, all I know is I felt like it's not what I'm supposed to be doing. If you are in a relationship and feel like something isn't working, do you stay with that person and force it to work? Or do you cut them loose to explore and find someone else? Do toddlers try to force the star shape into the square at the doctors office when they are playing with the Fisher Price toy? Or do they eventually learn what shape works better?
We tend to hold on to the things we know we don't work but feel bad about leaving them which keeps us stuck. And the longer we keep forcing it, the harder it is to get out later down the line. So I made the decision to leave teaching after one year. I'm excited, and yet terrified, about what I'm "going to" in the future, but I listened to my heart for the answers which feels so liberating after I made my decision.
I don't regret one single thing about these past 10 months because had it not been for that, I wouldn't have gone through the process of finding out what works for me, as hard as it was at times. We all have the power to change our situations, and it may take time, but are you willing to take a risk and follow your heart? What's stopping you?...