“So it turned out that power was the quality of knowing what you liked. An odd thing for power to be.”Eve Babitz
I read a lot of Babitz, my first time reading her work, during the beginning of the pandemic and became enthralled with the chaos and desire and the no fucks given. The one quote above enters my head nearly everyday since reading it in Eve’s Hollywood. I think a lot about how I don’t have an opinion most of the time, or maybe I do, but I’m just not the type pay attention to them. I’ve had to grow my confidence in them, and continue grow that confidence. The never-ending Rainbow Road of tweets makes me question my inner dialogue. There’s so many opinions already out there, why should anyone give a fuck about mine?
Most of the time, I feel alien in a world that capitalizes on instant hot takes. As a result, I become irrationally anxious. How can I write anything if I don’t have an opinion? Is it that I don’t care? Is it that my brain forgot to develop that portion of cells? But after, reading Babitz, the notion of taking a stance felt less enigmatic. It’s as if Babitz is describing self-understanding and acceptance. It’s still daunting, but understanding ‘what you like’ as power is a refreshing, even exciting sentiment. If I wanted to take hold of that power, I would have to choose to. And from what I understand about power, it shouldn’t be frivolously raised, and it shouldn’t be abused.
There is power in knowing yourself—one might call it confidence. In knowing what you want to invest your time in and choosing to do so because you like it. And when it’s 2020 and your locked inside, you become precious with time. Yes, you might have more of it, but less energy. The planes of existence are fragile. One’s purpose becomes flattened. But even after the noise of the outside is shushed to a silence, knowing yourself and adhering to a small fraction of that is enough to make it through the day.
Sooooo, my roommate’s mom (this blog’s one fan) noticed I haven’t been posting recently. I suppose I’ve been doing a fair amount of writing, but I’ve never been able to nail the strict schedule down. I feel like this is the part where I wax poetic about my zodiac sign and how it fits in with my lack of stability. Well that lack, one might think, might be a quality that would be good for a sudden pandemic. I will admit that I’ve become more gentle with myself, not putting pressure on getting things done cause who the fuck can get things done right now? But I’ve always been flexible, too flexible, bending at the whims and perceived desires of others. And although I might be miserable half the time, at least I have bars and friends and shows and such to distract from that unsatisfaction.
Now, I just have my new elongated room and lots of books. This I can’t complain about, but so much free time has allowed me to obsessively compare myself to others and how I think they’re doing during this time. At first I found alcohol to distract me from myself, then its was various tv shows (Succession has my heart, although all those characters will certainly go to hell if such a place exists). And then over time, I’ve realized there are things that make me happy and as much as I try to withhold myself from them, this past year has been a long practice at relinquishing myself to them even when my anxiety overwhelms me.
See, to put it plainly, writing and music, has become at times a chore. I still love them both but for the first year of freelance I found myself indebted to constant pitching, pitching ideas that I thought editors might like, and then feeling miserable after I published anything. For someone that chose a career based on intrinsic fulfillment instead of monetary value (and being privileged enough to do so) feeling self-hatred 90% of the time was not part of the plan. Freelance writing majority of the time can make me feel like zombie walking through limbo. It’s pretty clear that mentorship is a myth, either because most people have social anxiety or are to busy trying to barely keep afloat in their own careers. And although I’ve met incredibly talented people over the years and have had wonderful opportunities, I feel I’ve missed my chance or not had the right questions when the chance to ask anything presented itself. I’ve managed and grown over the years, but I can’t help but fear I’m plateauing.
Although its been extremely isolating, there are lovely people, genius people, and kind people in this industry. Also, maybe it’s because I’m person that never asks for help. When I gave myself second degree burn a couples weeks ago across my whole hand (like a silly turd. Always move pans with towels even if the stove isn’t on!) I was crying and in the most gruesome pain I’ve ever felt. Even then, I refused to let my roommate finish cooking my dinner for me. She graciously would pop her head in asking how I was; I was chugging white wine. I’m fine now. I’m healed. Similarly, I’ve also grown a lot from a year ago when I was laid off from my dream freelance job. You get burned and you learn sometimes there’s know logic to these situations. You can’t rationalize with time; the past has already made up its mind. That being said, I’m learning to ask for help more often, but it’s taken some time to accept that.
And so, I covet this space. I want to confront my anxiety about getting to the page (lol so lame). But for me it’s like working out. I have so much anxiety in anticipation, but once I get there everything fades away. I’m not getting paid for this blog, so sometimes there might be a waterfall and a drought at others. I don’t want this to be a drag. But, I also want to challenge myself. One day I will hopefully find a way to balance. Or maybe I won’t, maybe that’s the mystique.
Alas, this post initially started months ago about feeling alienated from music. A fear that one day my brain will brake and I’ll feel nothing towards melodies and tritones. That I won’t cry and shake my fist along with Lorde’s “Writer In The Dark” or helplessly get lost in the voices of Amy Winehouse, Elliott Smith, or Lux Interiors—voices that transport.
Here’s that bit from April:
Do you ever get the fear that you’ll just one day wake up and not want to hear music? Music has become weird for me lately. Definitely as a result of pursuing freelancing, but also as a consequence of corporate mood playlists, of constantly being told that I’m allowed to discover new things. Is it discovery if someone delivers it to you? Is it a revelation when someone figures out you’ll like something before you’re even aware of what ‘it’ is?
Another question I’m struggling with is how music’s comfortability factor is radically changing when I’m in my apartment 24/7. Ever since I was a kid, music has mostly helped me get places. It has helped me dissociate from the stress of family disruptions. It’s helped me get through severe anxiety on attending school when I had a test, or had to run into someone I hoped to avoid post-fight or post-hook up. It has helped me move through the world, making each step after the other more confident. After I moved to New York, music seemed to be even more ingrained within my own rhythm and routine.
So how does music function for us now that we’ve stopped moving? Aside from an occasional walk outside or to the grocery store, most of my album intake has been forced to be still. Maybe this upending of music and momentum in the city has made me anxious or maybe I’m depressed that I won’t be able to go to a concert for at least a year.
I hope that the silver lining to this change in dynamic is that I will become a better close listener and that I will become more comfortable not multi-tasking with music in the background. I’m not going anywhere right now, I only hope this solitude won’t isolate me from what I love but gives my ears a revolution.
When I wrote that, I felt it was an incomplete thought. And as the release of music has been nonstop and the PR emails invulnerable, I’ve tried to be realistic with music. Do I really like this? Would I listen to this on the bus if I were in fifth grade, avoiding every living soul that stepped into its stale air? In a way, I’ve tried to Marie Kondo my music. And not necessarily in the way of ‘Does this make me feel joy,’ but does this make me feel anything?
I’ve come to realize that maybe 80% of music has been a way to isolate myself. It’s been a way to make feeling or being by myself okay. It’s made me enjoy my own company. My thoughts might flicker across my brain’s surface, but I can sink into the music and let it wash over me or amplify something that I’ve experienced. Maybe it’s a new crush or maybe it’s a customer at work that was being an endless hole of misery. This is great and it’s led me to enlightenment about myself and a wonderful path in music writing…but during pandemic when I’m the most alone I’ve ever been, outside of my control. It’s like when you’re a teen and you refuse to leave your room for a few days over a test or a botched conversation with a love interest and you slowly lose your insanity. I’m great at being by myself, but this is one of the few times in my life where I don’t want to be left alone. Hell, I’d love to be in a crowd even if I was forced into public speaking.
Listening to music, whether with headphones or blasting from speakers in my room, has always equated to isolation. More and more, I find myself reading with no music, in hopes that when my roommates come home that we’ll chat. I’ve left my ears open as a way to be more open to the limited human communication and contact that I have. In fear of losing touch with humanity, I’ve come to fear the loss of my relationship with music. Most of the time, I know this fear is irrational. There’s too much joy and melancholy to bath in via music. But I’ve come to appreciate the silence, which I hope is a kind of maturity, or maybe it’s my eardrums crying for reprieve. Maybe it’s the realization I don’t need to seek out new things to like constantly. I can have confidence in what I already do like, that that’s power, and not be overwhelmed by that power. Liking things is a power, but it’s not your entire person.