Anybody who knows me personally may have noticed that a few years ago I succumbed to a sort of melancholy as a result of what I suppose was a “quarter-life crisis.” I chose not to use the word “depression” as I hadn’t seen anybody professionally and I would hate to misuse a term to use a recognized medical condition.* One of the outcomes of working my way out of this melancholy was a general sense of wanting to better myself. I stopped drinking for about a year and started jogging and meditating. I developed a routine in which I would either jog or practice music after work (depending on the day), then meditate, write and for about an hour before bedtime, read.
These don’t sound like terrible practices, do they? Over the course of the past few years I’ve written several short stories and started work on a couple of novels. Recently I switched to working on a screenplay as that’s really what I took my degree in media studies for in the first place. I’ve been recording albums for the RPM Challenge every year since 2012. I’ve had no commercial success with these projects but that wasn’t really the point yet. I wanted to practice my craft. I’ve had lesser success with keeping my jogging and meditating routine, however when I’ve gone through spurts of keeping the routine regular I have noticed benefits from both activities.
However, even with all of the meditation I’ve been stressed out. I’ve felt like I’ve lost a sense of myself when it came to my creative endeavors. Most of all, I haven’t really enjoyed myself consistently. I’ve noticed things about myself and the way that I interact with others both socially and at work that don’t feel right. When I thought I was being productive I was losing sense of myself.
Finally it all came to a head when I recorded this most recent album over the past month. I said before that I realized two-thirds of the way through that it wasn’t the type of album that I really wanted to do. A Shadows of Immurement album would have felt more right. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad that I had the experiment. However, the results that I take away from it don’t have anything to do with techniques in making music. Something finally dawned on me once I finished recording the album and made it public.
This whole time I was trying to better myself I was doing it wrong. I don’t mean that focusing on writing, music, exercise, meditation or reading more were bad ideas. (I have decided to work on music less, but that’s a different topic that I’ve covered—and probably will again—in other blog posts.) But this whole time I’ve been focusing on trying to be something akin to what I perceived a well-rounded person, or perhaps maybe an intellectual, should be.
The truth is that by trying to better myself, I was trying to become somebody else. What I should have been doing this whole time was trying to become a better version of myself.
I don’t think I’ve lost sight of myself completely. My little nerdy obsessions kept creeping in, for example. But anytime I wanted to buy a comic book or video game I felt like I had to justify it to myself. I felt worried that such diversions would keep me from getting any work done.
But even then, my creative work wasn’t all going in the direction that I wanted it to. I kept berating myself for not something writing more “artistic” or “intellectual” works. I feel more at home making dark and weird stories but I kept trying, and failing, to write something that I thought would be more highly regarded by academics (as if they would ever read something that I write in the first place).
Then I tried making an album that wasn’t Shadows of Immurement. The lack of direction didn’t bother me at first nor was it the problem. But I kept trying to do things that I shouldn’t have focused that much time and effort on, instead of just getting them out of my system (hence the lyrics on “Blinded By Sunshine”—I bet listeners think that one is about a person). I came to the realization that while my root cause was good, over the past few years I’ve been trying to be somebody else.
I guess this is the point when I lay down the resolutions that come of this. Part of me doesn’t want to. Isn’t “be myself” enough? Well, what is myself? That’s something that comes naturally and I’ve been stifling that for a while. But I think I have some general ideas that I could go by here.
First of all, if I can’t write an “intellectual” book then I should write the best kind of book in the style that I specialize in. I’d rather write about bizarre monsters, nightmares that leak into reality and the occult. There can still be meaning in that. I’m not talking about escapist horror stories, anyway. But I have to let that come naturally instead of racking my brain about what I think would appear in The New Yorker. Besides, that isn’t to say that I’m less intelligent. I can still read and understand more “serious” works even if I write something differently. That just means that my intelligence is applied in a different way.
Secondly, I’m only dedicating myself to music on a part-time basis, and the majority of that time to Shadows of Immurement. Popkin-Salvador still exists but it looks like we’ll only release the odd song here or there. Due to the nature of the Internet there doesn’t seem to be a reason to do anything else. The nature of Shadows of Immurement doesn’t require great technical skill. I will still need to practice but not nearly to the extent that I have been before. I don’t need to push my limits anymore in terms of playing ability. Music is my tool to express things that I don’t to express elsewhere.
Also, I’m not going to berate myself for giving in to those “nerdy obsessions” that I mentioned earlier. Today I should have been working on the screenplay. Instead I spent an hour or so playing Super Metroid on my Wii, without kicking myself. You know what? It felt good. I’m not going to slack off all of the time but once in a while it’s good to change things up for a fun diversion. I’ll probably start dedicating more time on this blog to such things as well, without a guilt-ridden introduction like I’ve written before. I also need to finish my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book collection. It’s not like I’m saving for anything big right now. Why am I so tight with my money?
The jogging and the meditation won’t change much. But I will severely cut down on my drinking so I’m better at both. “Going out” on Saturday nights only meant a change of scenery when drinking. I wasn’t being very sociable. I want that to change as well.
To that end, I’m not going to hold back anymore when engaging others. I’ve been doing so to avoid confrontation at work or saying the wrong thing in a social setting. It’s getting me nowhere. Not only am I not being productive in those areas, I’m stressing myself out by not being myself.