Thursday, September 12, 2013

You Helped Me Become What I Am

“Keep all your passions in play.” I made a name for myself writing books. Ask most of the people who know me, and that’s what they know me for. But music was always my first love. My original healer. My earliest container for mystery and meaning. Since the age of twelve, writing songs was how I metabolized my life. It was the closest thing to god I ever had. The problem is, once I started writing books for a living, I became so busy with the profession of writing that I lost contact with the passion of writing. At the peak of my career, I was only composing a few songs a year. Not exactly prolific. Eventually, I reached a point where I had built up too large of a debt to my artist. And I knew if I didn’t find a way to reconnect to the joy that made me a musician in the first place, I was going to regret it. Right around the same time, I went through a pretty messy breakup. Which, as devastating as it was, conveniently inspired an entire album’s worth of new songs. And it helped me realize what I was missing. And I vowed never to lose touch with something I loved so much ever again.

"You helped me become what I am." When I could have stubbornly avoided change until I absolutely had to initiate it, you surprised me out of my routines.  When I could have rested in yesterday’s definition of myself, you encouraged me to live larger than my labels. When I could have rested on the laurels of my perfectly ordered identity, you challenged me to become more than what I was known for. When I could have held onto a version of my identity that was familiar and comfortable, you ignited the parts of me that were not yet illuminated or seen. And when I could have let the third act drag on for an extra forty minutes, you helped me feel complete about this part of my journey. Aquarius may be a fixed sign, but thanks to you, I've never felt more mutable. For entertainment purposes only, my ass.

"I was a man of jagged risings, my life was alarmless." Identity fascinates me. Who we are, how we work, why we do what we do, these are the elements of the human operating system I find interesting. People’s engines and values and passions and horizons. Personal branding, on the other hand, frustrates me. It’s too limited, assuming we’re all supposed to be one thing in life. It’s too compartmentalized, shutting off the meaningful parts of our personalities that aren’t related to work. And it’s inadequate, measuring only a fraction of our whole person. But the other danger is, people love to keep us in our lane. And if we stay there too long, our personal brand can become a false self we can no longer comfortably inhabit. So identity, not branding, is the better word to focus on. Identity is enough to hold everything we are. In fact, it comes from the Latin identidem, which means “over and over.” Because it's all about the person we are, over and over. The person we were meant to be. Not the person we think will help our career the most.

"For me there is no vacation, if my eyes are open, I’m working." Once upon a time, I read books just to read books. But when I became an author, reading turned into work. If a book was open, I wasn’t just reading the words, I was trying to figure out the architecture and opportunities around them, every second of my existence asking myself, can I do something with that? Kind of exhausting. Like learning how to play the drums and never being able to listen to music the same way again. But as a writer, I suppose that's my life sentence. No pun intended. It's just hard for my brain to resist snapping into work mode when confronted with beautiful language. And accept that about myself. Meanwhile, I started reading a lot more fiction. Books that transported me to another place where I didn’t have to work. I could just relax and let the words wash over me. And by doing so daily, it creates a space where I don't feel obligated to do anything other than just soak it all in. Thanks for the inspiration, Greg.