Comrades

A couple of weeks ago I was invited out to a benefit concert that was being held at one of the local venues downtown. The proceeds of the concert went towards the victims of the Orlando shooting that took place not to long ago.

Live music, a good cause, what’s not to love? Admittedly, I was a little hesitant to jump on board.

You see, I hadn’t been to this place before, nor have a I seen this particular band before. In fact I haven’t been to most venues in my local area. “But Mark” I hear you say “You’re a musician, how have you not been to at least a few of the music venues?”

To be honest, live music is kinda intimidating to me.

Why? It’s was because it sort of felt like a risk to me. It meant rubber meeting the road as far as this whole music thing. Actually going out there, even some what regularly to shows, meet new people, connect with musicians was kinda scary. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t totally live under a rock. I’ve gone to a few concerts before. I just didn’t feel very confident as an artist yet. The idea of mingling with people who actually had an idea of what they were doing, well, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

My natural inclination was to crawl back under my rock where I knew it was safe. Where others couldn’t judge me. It’s easier that way. Which is something I really considered.

It was then I had to have hard talk with myself.

‘Ok, so concert coming up. What’s the plan?’

Umm… Ice cream and Netflix?

‘…What?’

You know. The easy way? The not dangerous way? Isn’t this the obvious solution?

‘Ok, here’s the thing. You like music right?’

Yes

‘You do still want to do it as a career?’

Fuck yea!

‘Do you see, you know, maybe a problem with wanted to do these things, and…you know… not going to  them ever?’

…But…It’s scary and different.

‘Most things worth doing are.’

I broke down and gave into the little voice in my head and put the ice cream back in the fridge to be binged upon another day.

I ended up arriving a bit earlier then I had planed on to the concert. So early, in fact, I was the first one there, but it allowed me a good look at the place. It was a part of old downtown, so red brick and long panes of glass greeted me on the front. I followed a narrow corridor to the music hall proper which was thankfully much larger. Same redbrick as the front but parts the walls adjacent to the stage were lined with black concrete and a black floor. Giving it a very earthly tone.

Opposite to the stage was the bar where I claimed a stool and ordered a draft. I looked around and spotted a small group of people at the other end of the bar. They were talking, laughing and being generally merry .

I moved closer and introduced myself. They practically greeted me with open arms. Talking to them I found that they were one of the bands that were going to be preforming tonight. They told me how excited they were to be there, that they were actually originally from Philadelphia and were touring. Heard this was going on and what the cause was for and they were more than happy to help out.

As time rolled by more people showed up, including the other performers. One of them came up to the bar to get some water from the bartender. While he was there I struck up a conversation with him. Finding out that we actually already knew each other. That I had worked with him before.I had actually run the soundboard at one of his prior events.

A few more people walked up and the same sort of thing happened. Talked, found some sort of connection and just instantly clicked. I eventually had a whole circle of people around me. All of us swapping stories and jokes, just like we were old friends despite just meeting.

Even when the show finally started we stuck together jamming out and drinking beer. It wasn’t quite like anything I had experienced before. For the first time in a while I didn’t feel like the odd one out. I did’t feel the compulsion to apologize for being who I was or looking the way I did. I looked and acted perfectly normal amongst this crowd.

In a way I felt at home. Like I was lost and had finally found my tribe. There was no judgement here. No conflict of interest. It was a safe place. Just a group of people who wanted to just listen to some music.

***

So much of the time I feel like I am fighting this up hill battle against the world. Having to shake off judgments and justify why I do what I do. It’s easy to feel alone. Even though the very opposite is true. There are many of us out there. Probably all feeling the same way. That is why moments like that are so precious. To find your clan and build each other up. Because we have enough going against us as artists. Like soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder. In victory or in defeat, we need to get the others backs if we are going to survive this crazy world.

(image credit: wikipedia)

Life Lessons with Daytime TV

So we finally broke down and got Netflix over at my place, (which I guess makes me officially a young adult now) and it’s, admittedly, amazing. I’ve had a ton of fun poking around in the Netflix-averse, and experimenting with different shows to see what I might like.

Though I love seeing what all I can get into on this thing, I also love rediscovering some old shows from my childhood. Shows like Seinfeld, Fraser, NCIS (I was a weird kid, I know), but there’s been one show in particular that I’ve re-kindled my love for, Scrubs.

If you aren’t familiar with the show, then stop reading this and look it up on Netflix, it’s amazing. If you don’t have half an hour to burn then I’ll give you a quick synopsis. Scrubs is a comedy/drama(ish) show that follows the story of a medical doctor, by the name of John Dorian, and his many misadventures he and his friends get into while under the roof of their hospital, Sacred Heart. The story starts with his first day, fresh out of medical school, interning under the terrifying/lovable doctor Cox. Leading up to when he is teaching his own students by the end it all.

The show lasted for about nine years, and, just like any long running series, you really got to know these characters. More then just the people you watch live their lives for half an hour, but it became more like hanging out with a group of friends. You knew these people in the show. They where your roommate, your collage friend, your girl friend, mentor, co-worker. These where people you hung out with outside the nine-o-clock reruns on NBC.

Not only did you know the characters, but you knew their struggles. Heart break, disappointment, failure, and some days, paralyzing fear. However, the thing that always got my attention in all of this, is that they kept going despite all that. Daily these group of friends were looked down upon because of their rank, had to manage eminence amounts of stress, and, sometimes, death.

I suppose the most appealing thing about the show for me is getting to witnessing the journey. That these group of people had a goal to help people and be the best doctors they can be. Some days were easier than others to do that, but despite the pains they encounter every day, these doctors still cased their dream. With more vigor than anything.

In a way I have felt more encouraged in my own journey by re-discovering this series. Like the doctors in the show, I also have a powerful passion, to be a musician and to help people, and, like them, I am going to screw up and learn along the way. No one knows how to shred a guitar or preform a heart surgery out the gate.

The skills can be learned, but the important thing is to find that passion, your reason to do all this before you do it.

You can’t ‘teach’ passion. You can’t attend a ‘dream’ seminar. It’s something you have to discover, then everything else will fall into place over time. We all start out as awkward, naive, interns that have nothing but the bag on our back and head in the clouds. We will struggle, make stupid mistakes, and someday’s have our faith’s seriously shaken. The thing that helps though, is to know that it’s natural to feel these things, and that you’re not alone.

Whenever we do something worth doing, we are going to encounter opposition, and one of the opposition’s greatest weapons is isolation and loneliness. This feeling of that you must be the only one feeling this way. That, somehow, everyone else must have had an easier time making their dreams happen or, that you personally are just not equipped enough to do what you love.

Let me tell you right now, all that shit is a lie. You know what else, I think you know that already.

We all aspire to reach a magnificent goal, but we have a lot of growing to do. And growing, is never easy. The important thing to remember is that it can be done. Others have been in this exact same place and they have come out the other side, and so will you.

It has been done, and you can do it too. Don’t buy into the lie that you are the only one struggling to do great things. Because we’re all dreamers baby, and we all feel the pain.

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

NOTW: Un-certainty is the only certainty

Wait a minute. . . it’s not Saturday. Why is there a new post? What is this madness?!

That’s right boys and girls! We are doing something different this week! May I be the first one to welcome you to a new segment here on the Punk Musical, ‘Notes on the wall’!

“Notes on the wall? What does that even mean?!” I hear you asking. Well for an explanation, I will need to give a little background.

A few months ago, when the not-so-metiphorical shit hit the oh-so-literal fan, I was feeling pretty depressed and lost (for additional background check out the ‘About the Punk’ page). So I decided to do the most cliche thing I could think and wrote myself a letter. A letter about all the good things in my life, and about how generally awesome I was.

Except that I was to lazy to actually even write a whole letter, so I compromised with sticky notes. Sticky notes that I put on a wall adjacent to my bed so that they where in view throughout the entire room.

The thing was though, I was only planning to do a couple of them. Just to be visual reminders that things will get better and I will get out of my slump.

Here’s the thing though, I am up to like twenty five now and my wall is covered. Not only that, but I have them color coded depending on the subject!

I can’t really explain why I kept doing it. I guess it was because I just wanted to try to keep account of all the good in my life, and how it should be cherished.

So I had the realization the other week that I didn’t want to just keep that to myself. I wanted to share it with you guys! Just a few things that either, I have learned to been thankful for this week or has inspired me.

This week I discovered how thankful I am for the uncertain.

Sounds weird right? If someone would have gone back in time and told me that, I would have first asked how they managed that whole time travel thing, and then asked about that whole ‘thankful for the uncertain’ thing to. I guess.

The reason the uncertain particularly appeals to me right now is because, up to a few month ago, I could have probably told you exactly what my life my have look like ten years from them. I was on a steady track up management within the company, and probably would have eventually landed some sort of general manager position.

Sounds . . . fun

But now, I couldn’t tell you where I would be two months from now, let alone ten years. While the uncertainty can be scary, it’s also liberating in a way. That anything can happen!

Who knows what tomorrow holds, could be a cake!

I challenge you guys to find something that your thankful for this week. Though there is always crap in this world, there is also always something to be thankful for. It could be from working that job you always wanted, or that you simply have another day of life.

So, what are you guys thankful for this week? Feel free to comment below with your answer or hit me up on twitter @punkmusical!

(Photo Credit: d.umn.edu)

 

The Grass is Always Greener

So the day has finally come! Yesterday I finished my final day at Gymland. I look forward to putting that painful chapter of my life behind me. Admittedly though, I have mixed feelings about it. Don’t get me wrong, I am over the freakin moon to be done with that particular cesspit, but it was the cesspit I knew and understood. I knew what I was getting into when I clocked in at the beginning of the day. Who to avoid eye contact with in order to avoid being given more paper work to do. What times I could sneak in a break between rushes at the restaurant. I became familiar with it and how it acts.

That is sort of what food service in general has become to me as well. I have been taking orders from customers and making food for about six years at this point. Over the course of those six years I made it my own. I have learned the terminology, the people and personas that come with them, and all the right things to say to customers. I have become the ideal employee for any restaurant in any environment. The problem is this is not where my heart is. I have met people who love the food industry and don’t mind working for a corporation. I have even seen people prosper in such environments, but I am simply not one of them.

In honesty, some days I wish I was. It would certainly be much easier for me, considering my extensive training in the area. I have even been told by a boss that if I wanted too, I could probably make it to being a General Manager of a facility in just a couple of years. If I got lucky and went back to college, I could probably make it as a district manager within five years. That’s an enticing offer that I have certainly considered. The problem with all of that is I just can’t put myself behind the job like I can being a musician.

I have always struggled with my desires to play music professionally. Such creativity was never fully encouraged in my household. ‘Playing music and writing is all well and good, as a hobby, but you better make sure you figure out an actual profession to pay the bills.’ This was the general consensus in my home regarding such passions. It was never completely discouraged, you just need to be “real” about it. To always have your “back-up” ready, a.k.a. your “real” job to pay the bills.

This is a real defeatist attitude. That the only “real” professions are ones that can be measured out and written down. The ones that you go to college for x amount of years or joining in a corporation are the only “real” professions that can be depended on. Admittedly some of that is true. You can be given an estimate on how much you will earn if you stay with a company for so many years. You could also be told how much you can earn with a certain type of degree after you graduate. The question is, where did those nice, predictable jobs come from? From other nice an’ measurable job positions? Did two ideal positions get together one night, and after nine months, make a nice little corporate house hold? No. It came from someone, or a group of people, taking a risk. That there was either a need or a dream that needed to be fulfilled, and they did it. I am not going to sit here and pretend that I understand the complexity there is behind corporations and business as a whole, but what I do know is that it all started with a dream. Even the almighty Gymland started with a handful of fat guys wanting to curl something other than a twinky.

I can say all of this now. I can say that I have got corporate and business all figured out and convince myself that I am just trying to give you all the truth behind it all. But in truth, I have no idea what I am doing. Not to mention I am scared out of my mind. With leaving my old position, means leaving all that I know behind. I am leaving it all behind for something that I keep telling myself will be better. That it will be all okay now that I am following my dreams and telling the haters to suck it. But doubt does still regularly try to creep in and consume me. Making me feel like I am making the biggest mistake of my life by putting all my effort into my passions.

There is a story in the bible that talks about how the Israelite’s were once, long ago, slaves to the Egyptians for hundreds of years. That everyday the Israelite’s were enslaved they would cry out to God to save them. Eventually he sent a guy named Moses to free them and lead them away from their bondage to a land of ‘milk and honey’, Jerusalem. He was successful in liberating them, but before they could reach Jerusalem they had to cross a massive dessert.  During that long journey, you could imagine they started having doubts that this whole things was actually going to happen. Some even started begging Moses to let them go back Egypt to be slaves. Enslavement was the only thing they knew and they wanted something that they were at least familiar with. Land of milk and honey is great wish but when it involves long days of walking in blistering heat and long sleepless nights, it turns into a risk that not all of them wanted to take. All they heard were promises but saw nothing but sand. After about forty years of grueling work, the Israelite’s finally made it to the promised land.

Whether you believe this actually happened, or if God is real, is irrelevant. This is still a great example of how that whenever we undergo a big change that is still under progress, we start to doubt. When we start letting doubt take control, we start to look at how things were and reconsider how bad it may have really been.

Was working food service really that bad? At least I had a steady paycheck. Even if felt like I was living a lie.

Was being unhealthy really that bad? At least I was comfortable. Even if the doctor said I may develop Diabetes.

Was working sixty hour weeks really that bad? At least I had my mind occupied. Even if I never got to see my family.

Was living with an abusive girlfriend really that bad? At least I wasn’t alone. Even if she hit me.

Was being a slave really that bad? At least it was predictable. Even if I had no free will.

Yes, yes it was.

I am terrified right now. There are days when I wake up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat wondering how I am going to pull it off. I am cutting my paycheck in half and going full tilt into becoming an artist. I have no idea what I am doing. I am not even that great of a musician or a writer. All I can do is learn and hope. Learn my craft to the best of my ability, and hope that people will find this somewhere and someday join me in my fight. Until then I will keep honing my skills as a musician and writer. When I reach the other side of this journey, I will look back and see their grass wasn’t so green after all.

It’s Nice Outside

Life seems to be a constant struggle to maintain balance on some imaginary tight-rope. Not only trying to maintain balance but juggling different objects, on a unicycle, that’s on fire. Fun to see at the circus but a bitch to do in real life.  Job, kids, family, money, and trying to throw some free time into that mix some where. Though through practice we some how manage to make it work everyday. We have even become pretty good at the act at this point. Which is not necessarily a good or a bad thing, it is just how our world is these days.

Especially with how small it has become through media and social media. We are always connected and always communicating. Which is an amazing thing! It’s because of it that things such as blogs can exist! You also can’t help but for it to get a little draining too. While technology is a huge blessing, it can also quickly become our greatest downfall.

I have always been a person that has had a hard time sitting still for a long period of time. I have always felt that if I am not constantly doing something productive or trying to overcome a new challenge, that I am wasting time. Because of this I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed with all that has been going on. From trying to maintain sanity at work, to building a YouTube channel, and building my skills as a musician, it can turn into a serious plateful. Especially for someone like me that has a hard time letting a challenge sit unattended.

Today I had a good reminder. To just take a second to catch your breath and relax. To unplug from the world for a bit and just do what recharges you. It doesn’t mean that you are thankful for a new job or new opportunities and it doesn’t mean that you are lazy. It simply means you are human and need to recharge. For me that often involves the outdoors and being with nature for a bit. So I stopped what I was doing and looked outside and said “It’s nice out today”. I put on some shoes and went for a brief walk. Then after about half an hour went back to what I was doing.

Going on a walk may not be the answer for everyone. Maybe listening to some music, reading a good book, or just simply being still may do it. It’t not that you need to do it all day long either. Just taking a step back even for just half an hour or so can be enough put things back into perspective. The important thing to remember is that though we may work with technology all day long, but we ourselves are not machines and need a break. There is nothing wrong with that.

So I encourage every one who is reading this to maybe take some time today to look outside, and realize that it’s a nice day outside.

No one ever said it would be easy

The past couple of weeks have been an entertaining to say the least. Filled with just enough drama to remind ya of the good old days of high school. You know, the good old days! The good old days of when you just finished that project that you spent days slaving over, knowing that it will be worth it because its going to allow you to ace that class (especially because you put all of those big quotes from famous dead people in your power-point). However when you wake up the next morning, a bead of cold sweat falls on your brow when you realize that you completely forgot your English four book report on ‘The wrathful Fahrenheit of 1984’ That is due that very morning! Its ok though because Mrs. Burnsteen is cool and will probably give you till tomorrow morning to turn it in. Which is all well and good except that you have a party tonight with Megan and she will be so pissed if your not there! Ah yes . . . who couldn’t miss those days? Not only the drama but also how you felt that it would all be worth it in the end because you are going to go to college and get that great job.

At least I thought that I had a plan and knew all of what to do. That if I study this for this long, and take these classes in this order, that it will all just click into place like some sort of massive jigsaw puzzle. Of course that is not true. There is nothing that you can really do in school to be prepared for the actual world. You can have the highest honors in college and get straight A’s in all your industrial design classes, made the best projects, aced every test, but once you leave that campus there is no telling where you will end up. There are no guarantees that you will get that great job that you have been studding for since high school. Honestly it seems that most people don’t, at least right out the gate. The great ‘American Dream’ of going from high school on to college, onto that great job, onto starting that ideal family with a wife and 2.5 kids is flawed. I think a lot of us know this at this point, but if we do why do we keep comparing ourselves to it?

I suppose the point I am trying to make here is that I was kinda hopping that things would just fall into place. I had the plan that I would work and save money. Then use said money to support myself and my study of music. After studying music for a while and ‘mastering’ it, I could start teaching it. That way I could still work with music, which of course is my passion, and get paid for it. Maybe play a few gigs on the side and maybe even get discovered.

This was my thought process at least. Simple, straight forward, easy, stupid proof right? Of course not.

As everyone on this little blue marble we call Earth knows, there is no such thing as simple, straight forward, or stupid proof. The best plans and even the best intentions get warped one way or another whether you like it or not.

As I have stated in the prior post to this one, my goal for this blog is to journal about my experience to peruse my dream to become a musician and an artist. There are of course questions that bubble to the surface. Many of them are fairly easy to spot out the gate. Such as music doesn’t pay a lot, how am I going to pay the bills? What will others think? What will my Mom think? How am I going to get the experience I need? Where do I even start? Most of these questions I don’t have answers to yet and that creates difficulty. Not to mention anxiety that would need to be over come due to completely shifting my focus away from what I have been doing for years. It doesn’t make it any easier but at least these are things that are expected to be encountered. The expected can be planned and maneuvered around. Take the ideal ‘American Dream’ that I was referring to earlier. You take these classes at this time and gather this amount of credits by this time you can graduate. Then get the good job that will set you up, because you worked hard through school and deserve it. You meet a challenge, form a plan, and over come. Life being the challenge, the plan being the ‘Dream’, and the overcome is succeeding at life. However what is life without a little kayos right?

What I am essentially doing is turning a new leaf, and in doing so it is often the beginning that is the hardest part. It starts with taking a long look in the mirror and discovering that you need to change. The hardest part is then acting on that. One needs to face their past before they can hope for a brighter future. There is no plan one can make for that.

For about two and a half weeks I was suspended from my full time job. The reason for my suspension is that I had an employee that was convinced that I was out to ‘get’ him and complained about me to the higher ups. My bosses were forced to do an investigation on me due to the complaint. Of course the investigation turned up with nothing because I am of course not out to ‘get’ this individual, when in reality I don’t think about him much at all. I was ultimately allowed to return to my position. Which is fantastic, but now I went two weeks with no pay and no compensation for the bogus suspension.

‘Well that sucks, but you have some money saved to keep you afloat right?’ You may be asking. Well . . . no. I was not wise in my savings in the slightest. I had to pay off people for the money I borrowed and proceeded to get things that in reality I didn’t really need at the time. The pay wasn’t much to began with and my spending wasn’t helping. Now the floor fell out from beneath me and I have no safety net. I can’t blame anyone else for that but myself in honesty. Now I have to leave my two room mates to pick up the pieces as far as the bills for the month and I am left feeling awful. It is a good lesson and certainly one I won’t forget soon but it does lead to strain at home.

As if on cue I then find out that I am going to have to get my wisdom teeth pulled out as soon as possible otherwise I could develop a terrible bacterial infection that would destroy my molars. Truthfully I should have had them removed when I was a teenager but there just never seemed to be the money or time to do so. Well here are the repercussions of that particular decision. Thankfully I have decent insurance but it still won’t cover the entire procedure and I would still have to pay some money up front on the day of the surgery. Money that I don’t have. Thankfully though I have some friends that were willing to throw some money in the ‘Remy doesn’t want to lose all of his teeth’ fund.

I have good friends to help me through these difficult situations but stress and anxiety can’t be helped but to creep in to cause doubt and fear. Being a victim of depression, anxiety has been something that I have always wrestled with. Sometimes it feels like a loosing battle and when everything is up in the air the way it is, It just makes it worse.

The thing is with this profession that I have fallen in love with is that there is no set template to follow. I can’t go to college for X amount of years to obtain X degree and get a great job afterwords to obtain lots of money and proceed to just generally win at life because of it. Even for those that do have a ‘template’ it is not easy either. To pursue anything that is worth fighting for there is going to be sweat and tears shed for it (Hopefully not blood, if so I would ask you to possibly re-evaluate your life’s calling). Its also going to take time. More than likely months and years worth of hard work before it probably turns into much of anything.

Also life is going to throw everything at you. The world doesn’t owe anyone anything and it will not pull any punches, and there is no way to plan around it. All it does, though, is it make it that much more worth it in the end. It will just make the victory that much more sweet when it is achieved. I am saying this as someone who is going through it right now. It sucks. Its hard. Sometimes it is difficult to sleep at night because I worry about how to pay for everything and how I am going to accomplish this seemingly impossible goal.

I KNOW one thing though, it will be worth it. The wounds will heal and the tears will dry and I will, we will, be on the top of this mountain some day, looking down at the long winding trail that we traveled. The trail that was full of jagged rocks that cut us and dangerous animals that sought us harm, and smile when we remember that it is all behind us.

Until that day, I fight. I stumble. I learn. I grow. I get stronger. I will succeed