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)

…Fuck It

Six months ago I worked in a restaurant as a manager

Six months ago I was on the steady track to ‘success’

Six months ago I had a plan

Six months ago I was miserable

These past few months in my life have been some of the most incredible and growth filled of my life, and to think It all started out with my ‘awesome management’ job being taken away from me for reasons out of my control. Then deciding to follow this crazy, irrational, dream of mine to become a rock star. Since then, I have met a guitar master, whom I’ve gotten to study under, bought a website, met all kinds of colorful, inspiring, loving people, met my personal hero and since have had several exchanges with her, and most of all, discovered myself.

For the first time in my entire life I feel alive. Before now, every new year filled me with dread, because it just felt like having to do the same year all over again just with a new digit slapped on it. Not any more. For the first time I feel excited to simply be doing what am doing, and seeing where it takes me. For the first time, I feel hopeful.

And none of this happened because I had a plan.

I’ve been making this shit up every step of the way. Don’t get me wrong I certainly try to have a plan. In fact, I was even under the impression that I had one. To keep my head down and keep plugging away at my music till I became some sort of master…

NOPE

I have recently been given a new job in a music store that has, seemingly, been the answer to a lot of prayers. A music store where I can work closely with music and musicians, and get discounts on much needed equipment.

Not only that, but I have met someone. Someone who has been changeling me and making me face some old demons.

All of these are beautiful, amazing things. All of which I needed and all of which weren’t according to plan.

We can make all the plans we want, but ultimately, life is going to take you wherever the fuck it feels like. Our entire lives we are standing in an open field coated in fog. Most of the time we find ourselves just standing there, in the one spot, trying to plan our first move. All the while lying to ourselves. Telling ourselves that conditions will get clearer and then we can move, but the fog will never lift and the conditions will never clear.

Eventually we just need to say “fuck it” and take a step forward. Even though we may not even be able to see the ground in front of us. It’s a risk and it’s scary. That first step may land you in a lake or a tree but it will be a step worth it all the same. I know my first step was off a cliff. No job, no money, seemingly no future, and totally worth it.

Today I am just making by

Today I face demons

Today I have no plan

Today I am finally alive

(Photo Credit: Ian Furst)

NOTW: Something is Better Than Nothing

“Something is better than nothing” What a cop out. Because that phrase implies you are settling for something less that the ideal, less than best. Which seems stupid to me, for you see;

I am a junkie for perfection.

I don’t necessarily always seek perfection in circumstance or in the people around me, but in exclusively myself. I am always trying to find ways to stand out from the crowd and I found that, being a perfect person, would do that. If I am ever preforming less than optimally, then, in my mind, I’m a failure. Even if the product of my labor is average or meets expectations, it’s still not good enough, because I know it can be better.

This is mind set rings especially true in my work (being my music or this blog). From the beginning I have been near obsessed with trying to make THE best content. Which is a good goal, but sometimes a lofty expectation to put on ones self. Especially when first starting out.

You know the funny thing about being a perfectionist? Is that you never win. Simply because there is no such thing as perfect in this world. There is always something more that can be done, something to overcome, something to learn. We may progress forward, but we never really ‘arrive’.

The perfectionist syndrome really seems to start when we start a new project, one that we may feel particularly passionate about.

For example, when I started this blog. I had never blogged or done anything quite like it before. I had known about free blogging site, but I wanted to be taken seriously! Not be some other schmuck on the internet! So I did hours of research on domains, RRS, web hosting, and general blogging. Then, equipped with my new knowledge, I found a decent web host, put in my information, then got hit with the price tag. It was a few hundred dollars more then I expected.

I was a little devastated. I felt like a failure before I had even started. Then it occurred to me, that it wasn’t that I was a failure, I was just expecting way to much of myself to start with. You don’t expect when a baby is first born to be able to talk, or a person to preform heart surgery after reading one medical book. It is all about taking the first step, then continuing to walk, then run, then fly, but first you need to crawl.

That is why it is so important to just put something out there, anything, that will progress you forward. Because If you just fixate on making something perfect every time, you are never going to pass the planning stage. Many times, that means settling for less than perfect.

These days, I am just a another schmuck on the internet. However I am a schmuck that works hard to progress everyday, and sometimes that involves being less than perfect.

How about you? What is something that has inspired you this week or that you have been wrestling with? Maybe something you are thankful for? If you feel like sharing, hit me up on Twitter (@PunkMusical) and we’ll talk about it!

(Photo Credit: Flickr.com)

Faith and Fear

I am not used to slowing down. I find myself more often then not, either working or thinking of a new project to work on. Stopping, is not a thing I do often. Not because I would be opposed to taking a break, it’s more because of all the change happening in my life and my desire to keep up with it. In a way, running along side the change to see where it leads me. I’m a dreamer, it’s how I operate.

But dreamer or not, you can’t evade reality forever. Bills still need to be paid, people still need to be tended to, and life happens. Every time, completely throwing you off your rhythm. Often these things happen in spurts, and sometimes, all at once.

That is where I am right now.

Next year, in January to be specific, is the time I plan to start playing open mikes at local venues. January is also the time I am hoping to leave my delivery job. Due to restaurant management completely falling apart, and possibly causing the entire branch to be closed soon. It also turns out that January may also be the month where my housing situation may get a bit more complicated. Not to mention that same month, is already going to be incredibly financially tight due to the holidays.

All that to say, I’m feeling pretty fucked.

This feeling reminds me of looking at the beginning of a sand storm. The moment when it hasn’t hit yet, but it is just this wall. An orange wall of dirt and rocks, all hurling towards you at nearly triple digits.

Then there is that moment. That moment when the world slows down and the severity of the situation really hits you. You realize that you can’t out run this thing, you can’t hide from it. There is not a thing you can do to prevent this thing from hitting you.

That moment where there is no plan or prevention to be made. No words to be said. You are completely powerless.

We all have sandstorms and some of us may even be in the midst of one right now. Many probably more severe than myself. Regardless, when we face these storms you have two choices. A) Worry and freak out about what will happen, or B) Accept the situation, buckle down, and maintain hope.

I may not have been on this earth as long as many people out there, but I have figured out one thing. Worry gets you no where. The amount of energy we put into being anxious over one thing, a thing we probably can’t even control, is ridiculous. All that time meditating over the issue, dissecting it, begging for a solution, for what? Nothing. Nothing other than probably an ulcer.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t be afraid. It’s ok to be afraid, that is a natural reaction to seeing an endless wall of sand barreling toward you. However, don’t let that fear control you. Instead choose to hope and to have faith that this hell will end. Because the storm will end, but it is up to you if you are going to come out stronger, or let this storm destroy you by worrying so much about it.

The clouds will eventually pass by, and there probably will have to be rebuilding. However you will ultimately make it through the devastation. The rebuilding may not be easy either. It may even take years, but it will end.

Until then, choose to have faith. Choose to have hope. Because if you choose to worry and grow anxious over this thing you can’t even control, it will destroy you.

In complete honesty, I have no idea what my life will look like in a couple of months after this storm hits. How I will pay the bills, if anyone will care for my music, or where I will even be sleeping. I know one thing though, I will pull through this stronger, and so will you.

(Photo Credit: pixabay.com)

 

Feeling the Burn

I have found that people who are physically active typically gravitate toward a certain form of exercise, or at least stick to one area. Typically because they want to build themselves a certain way. For example, one could be craving to bulk up, get stronger, lift harder, literally rip their shirt every time they even look at a weight. Alternatively, a gym goer could desire a more lean build, built for speed not so much for comfort.

Typically I try to strike a balance between the two, but more often then not I find myself the camp of the latter. For a few reasons, but primarily because I have fallen in love with running.

Ah yes, running. The wind rushing through my hair, blood racing through my veins, makes me feel like I am some sort of super hero every time I finish a five mile. Of course, I didn’t always feel this way about my preferred form of exercise.

“What the hell?! It’s only been five minutes!” Is what you would have caught me saying about four years ago during one of my many attempts to conquer the spinning conveyor belt of death.

“Ok…ok I need to take break…catch my breath…not die” I recall saying while jamming my thumb on the down arrow to the speed till it reached a more reasonable pace. Then, I would do just that, take a break, try again for five minutes, break, so on. Every time feeling like my heart was about to leap out of my chest and do a jig in front of me.

Funny thing is, though I felt completely miserable at the time, I couldn’t help but to love it, even then.  Maybe I was just some sort of masochist, but there was just something about it that fascinated me. Even though ever time I did it I was convinced I was going to die and was sore for days following.

Maybe I became addicted to running for the sheer challenge it gave me. Maybe, it represented some barrier in my mind that I was determined to overcome. Maybe I was just fixated on becoming a healthier me. Maybe, I did it for the rush it gave me, the thrill of pushing my body to the limit every time I ran. Or, maybe, I really am just some sort of masochist. Either way, I was determined to make this thing happen one way or another, because I was in love with it.

As we go through our journey in life, we eventually find these thing that we can’t help but to fall head-over-heels for. Writing, photography, gardening, sports, cooking, we all have passions. Sometimes our love for them grows so strong, we even make the decision so presume them seriously.

That’s when the honey moon ends.

Like running, I have fallen deeply in love with music. Not just music as a whole, but the idea of being a musician. The thought of being the person who births new music into this world, excites me to no end. I have made it my goal in life to becoming this creative individual. Which is a great first step, but between here and our end goal, there are many steps to be taken.

These steps will include, excitement, disappointment, loss, gain, joy, defeat, intimidation, failure, success and so on, probably until the day we die. And even though it may be our life’s dream, there will be days when we just straight up don’t feel like doing it. Not because you don’t love it anymore, it’s just that you are starting to feel the burn.

As any physically active person can attest, during long period of exercise, especially if you are working a particular group of muscles, you will start to feel very fatigued in those areas. AKA the burn. That burn comes from your muscles being torn apart during exercise, so that they can be rebuilt stronger and tougher.

It’s natural, it hurts, and it sucks. Especially when you start feeling it during the middle of a work out. When, you know, there is still another half to get through. This is the point where you have to make the decision to, a) give into the pain and quit, or b) keep moving forward, despite the pain and difficulty.

There is an old saying that sums this up pretty well, Anything worth doing is never easy

When you do anything worth doing, you are, 100% guaranteed, going to meet difficulty. The kind of difficulty that will bring any sane person to their knees. But you know what the beautiful thing is about that? Your aren’t sane. You are in love with your passion. You are committed to her and love her with all your heart, and would, never in your wildest dreams, let her go.

But, just like in a marriage, crazy shit is going to happen along the way and a lot of hard lessons learned. You will have to learn about her. Her good sides, her bad sides, strengths and quirks. Some days, it will feel impossible, and during that time you maybe tempted to give up.

When you start feeling over whelmed like this, and thinking of leaving your passion behind you. Stop. Take a breath, and know what you are feeling is temporary.

You are probably feeling worn and tired, even crazy intimidated. That’s ok, It’s only natural to struggle. The important thing is to remember that you will pull through this. You will finish this race, stronger, and more prepared for the next challenge.

In sickness and in health, till death does you part, you will chase her to the ends of the earth, and nothing, will get in your way.

Back to Basics

BEEP BEEP BEEP

Who said it was ok for people to wake up this early?

Shit, I am already running late, need to get going.

Shit, I’m going to be taking the late shift today too?

Shit, why did I take that?! What time is it?

Yep still running late. Thought that would change for some reason.

What else do I have today?

Shit, I have to do some work for the channel today, on the video that is already a week late. That HAS to get done today.

What, I need to find time to work out too, you know, get out the anxiety?

I should stop requesting for late shifts at the deli. But I need money. fuck money man. hate money. why can’t I just get paid for what i love doing already? why does it have to be so complicated? shit still running late! need to eat or something. why do i care i hate this job anyway. need money though. why can’t the things i work on make money for me. how is this going to  work going to be late need to get up earlier but have to get stuff done but i am tired but need to push out new projects otherwise bad stuff need to get going

Now, I feel like the act of categorizing one’s self is a stupid thing to do. We are all different and unique. Any ‘test’ that you take either from a psychologist, or on the back of magazine, could never accurately describe who you are as a whole. However, they may be able to give you some guidance about a trend that you follow or have a tendency towards (maybe not so much the magazine, but still). That being said, I resonate a lot with certain personality type called a type ‘A’ personality.

A type ‘A’ personality stems from the theory generated by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and R. H. Rosenman back in the 1950’s when they conducted a study on heart disease. They wanted to see what kind of personalities have a higher tendency to develop heart disease and complied their findings into two opposing categories. A type ‘A’ personality, typically being people who have a tendency to have a constant, powerful, drive to do something and to make an impact. Then the contrast, type ‘B’ personality. Who have a tendency to take a more relaxed approach to things and tend not be be as competitive about everything.

Not surprisingly, they found that the type ‘A’ tends to be more prone to develop heart disease and die in an early grave. Probably because we are convinced that we are superman, and can bench press a bus with our shear will power.

This isn’t a particularly new development for me though. Ever since I was a kid, I was always trying to think at least a couple steps ahead of the game. Either when playing a game of ‘Yugioh’ with my friends or even when ‘playing pretend’, I always made an effort to plan ahead so I could divide and conquer. Not to mention I knew for a fact that I could bench press that bus if I worked hard enough and planned it correctly.

I don’t believe one personality type is necessarily better than the other. It’s just two sides of the same coin. Either way is a valid form of work as long as you balance it a little. (i.e. Type ‘A’ takes a break every once in a while, and type ‘B’ gets their lazy ass in gear sometimes.)

However, when you have a tendency to want to take on the world, you will be quickly, and easily, overwhelmed.

In a constant battle for supremacy and control of my own mind, with millions of voices and theories racing through my head at once. As you saw, it can turn into a serious struggle.

The other day, I was planning through my day for the third time: ‘Ok, go to work, hopefully have enough time to grab lunch, back to work, work on website… Ok sounds good, oh wait. I’ve got to fit guitar practice in there some where too…’

I stopped myself.

I’ve got to fit guitar practice in?

I was saying it like I had some appointment to check my prostate.

Type A, B, D, personality regardless, the day I say “I’ve got to” when speaking of the instrument I adore, is the day something needs to change.

How about “I get to play guitar” or “I have been blessed enough to go play an instrument I love.”

Recently I went to a book signing with my roommates, but before the signing, a group of authors hosted a panel discussing their very first works they had ever written. It was an incredibly inspiring experience, especially for a small time musician and writer such as myself, to hear these veterans discuss their humble beginnings and how far they have come as novelists.

At the end of the panel the group of authors took a few questions from the crowd. One of the questions asked was “How do you know that your book is ready to publish?”

One of the gathered authors replied with another question. “Why be so worried about it?”

Of course was met with some confusion.

She explained (and I am paraphrasing) “You know, everyone is always so obsessed over when the book is ready to throw out to the masses. ‘When can a I publish this? When is this ready to go?’ An important questions sure, but hardly the point. It’s the process that matters, not the product.

This sentence will forever echo through the caverns and crevices of my mind.

It’s about the process, not the product. It’s about doing it because you love it, not because you just want to make money. If you are doing it for the money, you will be quickly disappointed.

Money, fame, fans, likes, subscribers, all of it is fleeting. It will come and go. When you discover your passion, chase it because you love it. In fact, don’t even expect that your book will even make money, or that you will be the greatest rockstar known to man. Just do it because you are madly in love with doing it.

I have been so distracted by entertaining the thought of creating content for the sake of content, I’ve missed the point of why I do all this in the first place. To create music and art that may encourage people through their own hardships and struggles. Not to be some sort of think tank, that solely exists to push out more and more content till I am used up and withered.

I love being a creative person. I love writing music, working on my blog, and making goofy videos on the internet for the world to enjoy. I would love to one day make a living off of doing these things, but that’s not the ultimate goal. It’s about enjoying what I get to do in the the first place.

Through the Fire and the Flames

What is fire?

According to dictionary.com it’s “A state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.”

Well at least in a literal sense, sure. What about a more . . . metaphorical meaning. What does it mean to us?

Fire is something that is neither good nor evil. It has no agenda or alignment, and because of this it can mean many things. It can be a curse or even a gift.

Though often we may associate fire with negative things. I think the most common association with fire may be when it burns down a building. When it comes and takes everything away from you that you have ever possessed and worked on because someone didn’t put out their cigarette.

This of course is a terrible tragedy, but it is not fire’s fault. The fire did not intended to take everything away from you. Though it’s not even capable of thought, yet fire does so much. Not only to harm us, but to help us. To build us up.

For centuries fire has been a great tool for man. From lighting, to cooking, to keeping warm on a cold night, fire has been our friend. It is even safe to say without fire, there would be no mankind. Many times though, fire doesn’t always feel like such an ally.

Sometimes, fire can take the form of a challenge.

As my journey in the life of a musician has continued, my daily challenges and struggles have only increased. This is happening because I am pursuing something that is most defiantly not the norm, and because of that I am always meeting a lot of resistance. I have found whenever you are chasing after something worth doing, there will always be complications. Sometimes these complications come bearing at you like a freight train.

Any time we try to do something good and creative, or even something new, there never fails to be a difficulty standing in the path. I am not even referring to the things that you can see coming a million miles away. No, I am talking about the stuff that goes wrong at the very last second.

One example could be, if you are a just starting to make your own podcast over something you are incredibly passionate about. You are super jazzed about it and are ready to go! You boot up the program to record on your computer and are about to start talking into your brand new microphone, but you notice something. The little record light on the mike isn’t glowing even though it’s plugged in. After fiddling around,  you come to the realization that your new expensive piece of equipment is faulty and you need to get a replacement. Thus delaying your new project by that much longer.

Or if you are a mechanic and you have just assembled your next car. After months of work and research you finally stick the keys in the ignition to start her up. You may have even tried this five times before to no avail, but this time it has to work. You have after all, put so much work into it. You turn the key . . . and not a sound.

These are the flames from the fire, and they are something we all have to deal with at some point. Much like fire, these are things that you can’t always predict or control. Not to mention they will always be there. Something will always be something going wrong, no matter what you do or say.

So what do you do?

The hard cold truth of it is, there isn’t anything you can really do to prevent it. You will be hurt at some point, even devastated. Not everything you do will be a success and there probably will be many things that will go wrong on your next project. It is inevitable and you can’t prevent it no mater how hard you try.

What you can do though, is don’t let the fire defeat you.

Don’t let it get to you and bring you down. Believe it or not, these flames are not here to necessarily hurt you. Like fire, it is only natural and will always be there. What it is doing, however, is making you stronger.

When a blacksmith is working with a fresh piece of iron they first have to make it malleable and soft. To do so they have to place the metal into a burning hot furnace. Into the flames. Then pull it back out to shape the piece of earth, and then put it back in again to repeat the process. This is called forging and right now, we are in the iron in the flames.

We will be forged and once again put back into the fire to be forged more. It’s not the most comfortable process, but it is one that will allow us to withstand anything. Soon we will be shaped into something beautiful.

Until then, don’t let the flames get to you. Remember, they are only little flames, and they will only make you strong.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)