As if sensing my discomfort, my interlocutor quickly offered a suggestion. “I’ve always seen you as creative, and also innovative...” he said, which, again, took me by surprise. Not so much the first part; as soon as people find out I’m a musician they immediately smack the label “creative” on me (not that I’m complaining, though there have definitely been some bite-my-tongue moments e.g. “Oh well, I’m not creative, like you, I’m much more, like, organized, and, you know, practical!” “Oh thanks, here, turn around so I can whack you upside the head with this bat.”), but more the part about my being innovative.
It’s true that it is an aspiration I have: to somehow affect or alter (and in a positive way) the conversation, or at least its timbre, about what it means to be here, human, participating in this life experience, in the world, at this time. I suppose that’s innovation in some way. But, I mean, I didn’t invent the tablet computer, or re-define string theory, or even come up with a particularly new and unheard of sound musically. I’m pretty standard regarding aesthetics, harmony, and narrative. Innovative? A dream right now. Let me make a difference, a positive difference, a real and practical difference on this planet. Just a little brighter for my having been here. Who knows? I keep at it.
But I continued to give thought to the original question. And I came up with something that I’m feeling like sharing, for no apparent reason: I want to be what I mean, and mean what I am. This is the person, no, more basic, the “is-ness”, once you strip away all the “do”-ings and machinations, that I wish to be. There is, I realize, a single word that encapsulates this: authentic. To be someone who is authentic. And this is fine, but the word authentic feels a touch overused, a touch “yoga journal”, for my palette right now. I could give a shit about whether it’s via connecting to one’s higher self, or by sitting around masturbating to porn: I just want to mean what I am.
Maybe that’s why I went public so quickly after getting diagnosed; hiding the news just didn’t sit right. And maybe that’s why I did it the way I did it: angrily. I was feeling those feelings then. And I’m feeling a little anger now. Anger at myself mostly. Not so much at the world, I realize. Maybe some anger at some people. Yeah, it’s in there. It is what it is, and I’ll get over it. Teachers who were dismissive and cruel. The folks in my life who were violent or physically abusive. Children who were bullies and referred to me and the other “brown” kids as “cowpat” (i.e. cow dung). Hurts a bit to think about. But I’ll get over it. Because the other option is to not get over it, which doesn’t make any sense to me.
So the way I start to get over it is be mad. Be what you mean. Stop trying to be a fucking hero all the time. I finally got smart last year and told myself, “You’re not going to yoga and meditate your way across the muck and the shit. You’re just going to have to wade in, deal with the stench, and do your very best to get through it.” And, yeah, btw, I talk to myself. Like, all the time. I think it’s awesome. Smart conversation guaranteed. In any case, last year I wrestled my way through one big fuck off swamp. E and I both did. We fought fear, together, a pair of lions refusing to go down. We fought it to a draw we like to say, and we’re still winning on goal difference (those who don’t know soccer get with the program and globalize), and we plan to keep it that way.
But the being mad is only part of the process. There’s also the part of me who looks back at that little child who only wanted to bring light into the world. He was an idiot, for sure. I remember some of the things I used to think and say when I was a kid and let’s just say I’m glad I was a child before social media existed. But beneath the idiocy inherent to being a child who is male was a little boy who wanted to bring light and beauty and happiness and joy into the world. I know this for a fact. And what this boy needs is for someone to look at him, and hold him, and support him, and say to him, you got it kiddo, and you can do it, and have him really hear it, hear that love, and that support, in some way, in some cases for the first time in his life.
So I do this. For him. For me. And it’s taking time. And it is here where sometimes the anger at myself can enter in. I see the years pass by, my twenties become my thirties, and now rounding into my late-thirties, and I start thinking about what it is I am creating, at this point in my life very much in private. I know it is worth something. The songs, the stories, the body of work as a whole. I know that it has the potential to bring in that light, that beauty, all those things I wanted to bring in from when I was a boy. I know that when it is heard, really heard, really sensed and appreciated by an audience that’s finally ready to hear it, ready to experience it for real, it will change lives, and bring light into whomever it touches. Such is my commitment.
Yet, I fear. I worry. I judge. If only you were stronger, my judgment says, if only you weren’t so broken, you would have the confidence to go out and be heard, right now. You’d be more successful. You’d be famous, just like Ben Cumberbatch, and Norah Jones, and all the other household names you went to school with. Maybe so. But I can but be who I am, and I am doing the best I can. So fuck off and get out of my head. Get out; you don’t live here anymore. And it fights me. It makes me feel horrible, a failure. And I cry. And I smile. And I scream. And eventually, I release and it is gone. And then I make music, art, story, some more. This is why it takes time.
Because the most important thing to me, I’m realizing, right now, is not to win some award, or to top some chart, or to win some political point, or to receive some praise or accolade. What I want is to be what I mean and to mean what I am, whatever it is I happen to be “doing” at the time. I want life to be about what it is about, and not about something other than what it is about. And so every step I take from hereon in is to move me in the direction of this path. Music, art, story, enterprise, philanthropy. What is it all? To me, it must be an outpouring of what is felt, what is seen, what I Am, inside. If it is not, then to me it is worthless.
Wisdom? Sure. Why not? But first... I’m going to dare to be me.