Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reflections in Black and White #1: So Long, 2012! Part 1

So Long, 2012! Thanks for the Memories! Part 1

I’ve always loved New Year’s Eve. No, it isn’t that I’m always going out and getting blasted. I’m a boring person in that respect. I can’t stand the taste of alcohol and I don’t smoke tobacco or anything else. I may stuff myself silly and ingest copious amounts of sugar, but that’s as far as I’ll go. New Year’s Eve – other than your birthday – has always been the final day to shake things off and enter the next year with a brand new slate. That’s what New Year’s Resolutions are about, aren’t they?

It used to be that whenever I’d reach this time of year, I’d look back over the things that happened and say “Thank God that’s over. Last year SUCKED!” Then, my mind would briefly rehash every crazy, bad, dramatic, ugly, WTF moment that I was so eagerly looking forward to distancing myself from and burning away with the Bayberry candle. My mantra on every December 31 used to be “The New Year can’t possibly be as bad as this last one!” At the end, I’d look back with relief masking what was really anger, bitterness, and frustration at all the changes I failed to make in my life.

The problem was simple: I felt I had not accomplished anything in my life.

Now… To be fair, that was not true. I knew it wasn’t factually correct. Look at my curriculum vitae. Intellectually knowing something and emotionally knowing something are two different things. It’s that emotional thing that gets you.

Music has always been a part of my life. I knew since my first piano lesson that it was what I wanted and intended to do with my life. I had challenges, primarily economic and logistic, but that wasn’t enough to dissuade me. Yes, I figured even then I was going to perform. The rest of the world either 1.) patted me on the head, said that was nice, snickered, and walked away saying you better have a plan B or 2.) berated my perceived lack of skill, background, and talent and strongly recommended I go into something else like this mysterious plan B. So, yes, for those of you interested in music: the entire world says you suck and need to go into another line of work. Harsh truth, I know, but it is up to you whether or not to listen to them.

Well, I had a Plan B and it blew up in my face. So did temporary Plan C. Then, my house caught fire for the 2nd time in my life, my brother died, the family had an extremely difficult period of readjustment, and everything that already wasn’t wonky went wonky after that. Plan B by that point wasn’t even a viable option.

And you can BET that every year on 12/31 during this time, I would say “Thank GOD that’s over. This past year SUCKED.” I won’t lie; it did suck! I had put what I wanted to do with my life on hold, first for the sake of my education in preparation for the ever-elusive “Plan B” aka academia and then in order to help out my family. Yes, it was eating me up alive.

It isn’t easy. Money is a constant issue. There are other logistical issues I deal with on a regular basis. There’s the social isolation, particularly when you have been repeatedly told to your face about your failure, irresponsibility, and wasted potential. (Yes. I have heard all those words. After a certain point, I just plain refused to talk to people about what I did.) Straight out, the various job prospects pretty much are only fine, provided they are actually supplementing full-time work with its own benefits. Otherwise, meh.

I’ve worked with a number of people in a number of situations and capacities, learning so much on the way. I got to do things and meet people (many of whom I consider friends) that I wouldn’t have otherwise. In the process, I’ve discovered things that I was really great at and honed things I didn’t get much practice in. There were times – many times – where my qualifications or my competence were called into question. There were times I got burned, insulted, lied to, disrespected, and subjected to different standards than others.

At one point, I got completely fed up. I stopped everything but my primary job and backed away from everything else I was doing. It wasn’t the most “practical”, “responsible”, or even the most “professional”, but I did it anyway. After years of saying “someday”, I looked at how I was spending and valuing my time and recognizing the reality that when it came to what I wanted to do with my life, no one gave a fuck but me.

A little simplified, I know, but that’s how I felt at the time. Year after year of being overqualified, undercompensated, and held in low regard brought me to that point… and I was the chief culprit! I had no one to blame but myself that my life was slipping away. There was music sitting in my bedroom unheard and unplayed for going on a decade. (Most of it still hasn’t seen the light of day.) I was tired. I was burned out… and yet, I knew that if I didn’t set everything aside and start, it wouldn’t happen.

And that’s how my debut album Reflections in Black and White was born.

Okay… Sure, it took massive family support, carving money out of a tight budget, and putting my car up as collateral to see it through to completion, but that was how the idea was born. I wanted to record and release an album and didn’t want to waste time waiting for other people to make it happen. So, I did it and let nothing get in the way.

2011 actually ended up being a double whammy. It started off with the conversion of my garage into an office/studio. Something I dreamed about for years! In June, UPS delivered my first album – which had been plotted, plodded, and scraped together over 2.5 years – to my garage studio. My family helped make both these things happen, which made that much more special for me. At the end of that year, I couldn’t HELP but feel a sense of overwhelming gratitude for those things coming together! If you could have a year like that and emerge at the end with no appreciation in your heart whatsoever, then something is utterly WRONG with you!

In fact, while pulling this blog entry together, I got curious and looked at Facebook to see what I had written. On December 31, 2011, I wrote on my personal Facebook page: “Accomplished some great stuff in 2011. Looking forward to 2012!”

And then on my woefully-neglected Artist Page, I wrote…

“Kareem on New Year’s Resolutions:

I’ve noticed that I seem to have the same resolutions pop up every year. I’m tired of that. Don’t get me wrong; I accomplished two major goals this year. My album is recorded and out. My home office is finished and running. I’ve wanted those two for YEARS and finally have them. They WEREN’T on my New Year’s list, however.

I have decided that my one and only resolution for 2012 is to approach every day with a spirit of gratitude for the blessings in my life.”

I wish I could say I succeeded every day, but that would be a bold-faced lie. We all have our ups and downs. More often than not, though, I believe that spirit describes my overall orientation toward life. It’s the way I’ve chosen to feel and my intention is to carry it with me as long as I walk this world.

That isn’t to say that I don’t acknowledge certain less-than-ideal conditions in my life, but I choose to look at them in terms of challenges and blessings. I look at any form of progress as groundwork laid for my next step and appreciate from where I came and all the work and “luck” that came about to make it happen. To that I say:

(Suggestion: Atheists please feel free to replace “God” with a nonsensical word-phrase of your choosing, such as “Banana Pudding” or “Bilbo.” The crazier the better. No, it won’t change what I mean or what I’m doing, but at least you might get a good laugh out of my thanking something you find ridiculous.)

Thank you, God, for 2012! Thank you for another year with family and friends. Thank you for the lives of loved ones you have called home. Thank you for another year of doing what I’ve been called to do. Thank you for bringing more people into my life and gathering an ever-expanding community to encourage me, push me, and help to make me a better man. Thank you for opening my eyes to new opportunities and challenges. Thank you for not letting me call it in when I thought it was over. Thank you for moving that pesky little mountain out of my way. Thank you for lighting the way for me to take my next big step. Thank you. Thank you! THANK YOU!

            As I happily look toward 2013, I have absolutely no idea of what’s coming or whether the moves I’m making will bear fruit. Will this be the year I get my **** together? God only knows. Again, I approach the coming year with appreciation for everyone and everything in my life and yet to come. I pray that regardless of what happens I emerge at the end of 2013 a stronger, wiser, and better man.

           Oh… and less broke wouldn’t hurt, either.

To everyone, I thank you and I thank God for you being in my life. I would not be the man I am now if not for you. (For the record, I’m going to assume that means I am a better man for having known or been acquainted with you. If not, then what does it say about YOU that you are acquainted with me?)

I wish nothing but the best for each of you and that 2013 is as full of “magic” and positivity as it is going to be for me.

All the best,

1 comment:

  1. I just bought your CD and can't wait to hear the greatness in my ear drums!