Posts tagged control
Making Art for Art's Sake or: How I Learned to Give Up the Agenda

When my band broke up last year, I found myself in an uncomfortable but interesting place. I’d been in bands for almost my entire life starting shortly after I first picked up the guitar (six months after, to be exact). From that time in 1996 through 2011, the longest stretch of time when I wasn’t in at least one band was no longer than a few months. It’s always been something that felt right to me, that feeling of being an important part of a small, tight-knit group of like-minded musicians creating new and exciting things. But here I was after a six and a half year run with Shaimus: bandless, lost and exhausted.

In so many ways it was like getting out of a six year relationship; just the thought of starting a new band was enough to make me feel worn out and frustrated. Along with this (and many other feelings) came a sense of melancholy freedom. I had been obligated to go to rehearsals or meetings on Monday nights, Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings for years. I couldn’t take a trip out of town without consulting five other people. It was a sacrifice I was more than willing to make and had no regrets about, but now I suddenly had a huge chunk of my personal life restored. Yet I was back to the beginning: we had not quite made it to the level in our career that would have opened doors that could ease the transition into my next musical project. It was either join a band that was already at that level or start from scratch again.

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The Self-Help Delusion

I think it’s time to get over this whole “self help” thing. There is an entire industry based around telling us that they have the elusive secret to happiness, that if you just read this book, watch that video or do these exercises you can become a better, fuller person. I’ve read a lot of stuff like this, and even though I appreciate good advice, I’ve come to almost resent the whole idea of “self improvement.” I resent it because it tricked me into putting my energy towards trying to find something that I had all along.

You know those cheesy maxims that say you’re already perfect the way you are? It turns out they’re right. And if they’re right, that pretty much negates the whole business of helping you improve yourself. How can you improve on perfection? Thing is, you’ll never be satisfied if you’re bent on self-improvement. If you’re anything of a perfectionist, you’ll never be good enough. How can that be healthy? You’re not a work in progress. You’re a human being living a life in progress. You don’t have to work toward being a complete person, hoping you can achieve that fullness someday. You have it now. You just have to make the decision to recognize that.

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The Death of Deadlines

Birthdays are a lot like New Year’s Eve in that they're often a time when people reflect on the year that’s past, how they’ve grown, what they’ve accomplished, mistakes that they’ve made.  Some people fret about another year that’s gone by and how much shorter life seems after every 365 days.  Other people don’t think about it too much at all and just use it as an excuse to party.  I think I’ve done all three at one point or another.

But usually I spend at least a little time reflecting on all the things that have happened and how much I’ve changed over the course of a year.  I assume the average person goes through about as much or as little as I do in any given year, so I rarely find the need to openly share things I’ve learned or accomplished.  But as you reach your mid and late 20s, I think it’s only natural for a lot of people to start feeling like their youth is slipping away more and more quickly as their age rises.  I’ve certainly felt that before, but I’m finished with it.

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