“I’ve got a story it’s almost finished, now all I need is someone to tell it to. Maybe that’s you.”
So… what was that? Amirite?
I had officially passed the year mark since I made that bold leap – taking an indefinite break from Visual Effects, the industry I uprooted my life to join, to attempt a stereotypical artist’s life of passion. It was over a year since I took that important step one, but I had failed to progress to step two. I had nothing to show for it.
One of the biggest reasons I couldn’t achieve my goals concurrently with a VFX career was the lack of remaining time and energy it afforded. I had managed to secure the necessary survival jobs to keep a roof over my head, at once distracting myself with four at a time, but I hadn’t done any of the things I set out to do once I secured those jobs. I had essentially created the same problem to replace the original problem – and the original problem paid better!
I was stuck.
I justified overcommitting to my survival jobs as “working out a solution”, which is not entirely false, but I would come to realize that another reason was to literally give me something to show up for – something someone else relied on me for. Someone who I didn’t want to burden as a result of my current state. (Using my guilt to my advantage – verdict’s still out on if it was a particularly healthy strategy.)
I couldn’t show up for myself, so I created a solution to show up for anything. Otherwise, I was going to find it harder to resist wallowing in this low.
I was misdirecting my efforts. I was failing. Even worse, I was actively failing with my inactivity. I spiraled further – all this begging the question, did I actually make that leap over a year ago, or did I just give up? Did I really want this or did I want to want to do this? Did I even care, anymore?
“I’m in love with the ordinary.”
I’d like to think it was entirely synchronicitous that their music has become meaningful to me at the exact moment I needed to hear it (similar to my eventual appreciation for 30 Rock long after it was off the air), but truthfully I’m probably just making up for lost times when my indie cred wouldn’t allow me to fully embrace something with the commercial edge of Bleed American.
(That so-called indie cred in jeopardy, of course, being enforced by no one other than myself. Why did I care so much? Absolutely no reason. Flash forward to The OC’s Seth Cohen existing and ruining this for me entirely. Yes, musicians, please don’t reach wider audiences with your art for me personally, because I need to feel… cool? … or something? Oh, the unnecessary drama of youth!)
By this point, my appreciation for Jimmy Eat World had grown well beyond Futures. I had even given into the can be seen as trite, but only because it’s true, positivity anthem that is The Middle. (Everything, everything WILL be alright, alright!)
And it’s only because I finally seem to be coming out of it, I can admit that during this darker time, in anticipation for their newest album (wait, they’re still a band?!!) and the show I’d be seeing on the album’s tour, their discography was all I could listen to. Their music was the only think sparking anything in me. I don’t say this to claim I was experiencing some sort of deep, spiritual connection with it, not that I don’t believe that can’t exist, but more so to make apparent just how low I was feeling. The effort to play a song of theirs became the jump start to many a morning (Okay, okay. Sometimes it was afternoon/evening) – a literal reason to get out of bed.
In the midst of all my current failure, it seemed all too appropriate that their music would be the heartbeat of what was to come next.
“It might seem like a dream but it’s real to me.”
I had to still care. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be hanging on to all these ideas – ideas I had been swimming in, but living solely as ideas they were becoming overwhelming. I needed to DO something. Anything.
The concept was simple. It was harmless. And maybe most importantly, it was achievable, even in my current state. I wasn’t going to make a big deal of it. I wasn’t going to announce it. I wasn’t going to put pressure on it to mean anything or try to define it.
Going back to my roots of blog post catalysts and perfectly crafted away messages, I was going to post lyrics to a different Jimmy Eat World song each day coinciding with a 23 day countdown to the show. (You see what I did there with the 23? I know I said it didn’t have to mean anything, but I can’t deny me some silly symbolism to make the experience a little more meaningful.) What song I’d feature and how many lyrics I’d choose to post would be determined by what I was feeling that that particular day.
Like I said, simple. As long as I posted at least one lyric from a new song each day, I would have accomplished what I had set out to do. At least on the surface. And I made a vow to myself that doing this alone was all that was necessary write this off as a win.
Below the surface, of course, I was hoping for more, though. It wasn’t that ridiculous of an expectation. When I was younger I could exhaust a song, listening to it on repeat for weeks straight, meditating on it, if something about it seemed to speak to me. Maybe surrounding myself with the creativity of others would inspire some creativity of my own. It’s worked before, it could work again.
And if nothing else, you just quoted a bunch of song lyrics. Big deal.
“It doesn’t seem there’s hope for me, I let you down. But I won’t give in now, not for any amount.”
It’s no wonder the “project” (does quoting song lyrics qualify as a project?) was a success, but it might be surprising to know there were times it looked like I might fail. It was met with opposition by more than one party (I swear, not just me taking myself too seriously), all completely unrelated. I realized we are quick to try to label something we don’t understand and when we can’t, it’s hard to accept that it can be a “good thing.” (Does it have to be anything?)
More than doable already, knowing the impressiveness by which I’m able to fail while in one of these lows (hindsight doesn’t allow denial), I even set myself up for success. Anticipating my apathy, I created a pool of lyrics I could pull from if something didn’t inspire me that day or some outside source had me debating giving up – a lifeline I did admittedly defaulted to more than once. (Really, Angella? You can get THAT lazy? Why yes, depression. Yes, I can.)
I have a hard time admitting it, still do, but the reason the opposition bothered me was because it made me aware of what my actions “looked like.” A cry for help (maybe, sometimes it was), giving into my cheesiness (The Middle was appropriately featured on the hump day of the endeavor), they’re not your words (Who really cares? You’re not pretending they are and why abandon the potential that they could inspire some of your own?) – excuses.
I’m not hating on these seemingly negative outcomes. We’re all entitled to our opinions, and the fact that the opinions of others had any factor on me following through on something so easy, is actually even more ridiculous for me to admit. With some self reflection, I’ve realized what bothered me about the unanticipated backlash, however, is that it mirrors my own self judgement in my creative endeavors. If I don’t have a clear direction, it’s not ready. I have an incredibly annoying tendency to sit in the comfort of fear masquerading as my ideas, my voice, my artistry, my authenticity, myself not being “good enough.”
“We’re only just as happy as everyone else seems to think we are.”
Despite this and other internal obstacles, however, I did successfully complete my objective. And as I hoped, it did get some gears turning. Just as music has inspired before, it inspired again. I quoted at least one lyric for 23 different songs, each day leading up to the first of now three shows I have since attended. (I’ll admit, it’s starting to borderline on a bit of an obsession, but it continues to yield results, so I’m not about to argue with the method.) A victory, though seemingly insignificant, but in actually Project (sure, we’ll count it) #jimmyaday was an even bigger success than I could have anticipated.
It served as a definitive beginning to some overdue first, second, hundredth steps – including ideas sparked during this reflection. (Oh yes, the selections were absolutely revisited during this experience.)
It identified projects I could tackle now and those that need a little more experience under the belt to best fulfill their potential. It helped me see other ideas from different perspectives, helping me recognizing that reworking a concept, doesn’t discredit the original idea to begin with or categorize it as a failure.
It took an idea that has only been living in my head and started to make it tangible – if done right, it could be my personal crowning achievement of 2017. It helped me develop a game plan to a larger story of mine that I think is finally itching to be told and, if all goes well, will be in 2018.
The actual order of the songs, the frequency with which I’d post in a day, the particular lyrics I found myself drawn to (not always coinciding with ones I thought I would be), also proved telling to my mental state during the process.
Maybe most importantly, though, #jimmyaday reintroduced the importance of follow through. Simple in theory, a little harder to actually carry out. Because sometimes these things take us out of our comfort levels, sometimes they’re silly – they have you feeling self conscious. But in doing them, by following through on them, you’re following through on yourself, you’re choosing you. That alone is significant and makes the experience worthwhile.
I am once again finding joy in the essential “work” component of a work-in-progress, and while I can’t guarantee this feeling will last forever and this strategy to get out of creative rut will work every time, for now I am grateful to have found some semblance in that feeling when it had been seemingly absent. And hey, I got a pretty fun playlist as a souvenir.
What are some of your power songs? Share in the comments. I’m always listening out for musical muses!