The What Now (Take 2)

So I started writing (another) one of these long-winded, evasive posts about some unimportant thing or another, and I realized that I was only delaying the inevitable follow-up to the three-part “(Re)Branding” manifesto I posted just about two weeks ago.
[In case you missed them: The (Re)Branding Part One, Part Two, and Part Three]
Now, I do realize that over the years I have been prone to making bold proclamations re: big projects, and then abandoning and/or moving on before ever really getting started.
So this is my attempt to hold myself accountable for moving forward: a recap of what I’ve actually been doing over the past two weeks, and what’s coming next.
And then– when that’s done– I may start just writing “slice of life” essays and memoir again. Because I find all of this other stuff sorta tedious, and probably so do you.
The Recap
Ok, here goes:
#1: I started learning HTML and CSS (and even JavaScript). Both to improve my control over my online presence, and to obtain at least one “practical” 21st century résumé skill.
#2: I bought my first MacBook Pro in six years. (Well, ever. I didn’t buy the one I’ve been using for the past six years.) I figured this was a reasonable investment in my future– and a better use of funds than spending ~$1000 on a 3 day yoga training. (Which I would still love to go to, but the computer is far more important investment, because…)
#3: I downloaded Logic Pro X (music production software) and signed up for a 14-day Lynda.com trial (to learn how to use Logic Pro X)– which I’ve actually been using.
Lest this list sound like a whole bunch of spending without earning…
#4: I started working (part-time and remotely) for my favorite summer camp in Hudson Valley, NY., and now I can sit in a cafe or under a palm tree with my laptop and my cellphone and my earpiece-microphone-thing and feel very, very professional.
#5: I just led a “Mindful Judaism and Yoga” class at Stanford University (which I suppose I’m uniquely qualified to teach), simply by being in the right place at the right time (thanks to traveling aimlessly).
 Hmm.

Why am I writing this post again?

Sorry, I’m in a sort of weird headspace right now.
Still stalling… still stalling…
OK, screw this.
I see this project encapsulating three different phases– or “books”– which I suppose makes it a trilogy of sorts (even though each “book” might really be a “section”… whatever, not important right now).   
(I’m switching gears, in case you didn’t notice.)
Book One basically covers the bulk of my (sometimes crazy) existence through, say, January 2014. I think a good name/ section heading for this phase might be my old favorite: Brilliant Disaster.
Book Two would then start in February 2014 (about ten months ago), concurrent with my climb out of a serious funk (which will forever be immortalized in the archives of this blog), into the realm of relative calm and cohesion that more or less characterizes my life at present. Even though I still feel a bit in limbo and it might be too soon to make any bold proclamations, I would call this book/phase Life After Crazy.  
Which means that Book Three will cover a phase that I’m actively attempting to transition into– a period of immense creative flow coupled with calm confidence and sustainable self-sufficiency. I think I’d call this section Make a Sound, as that’s what I intend to do (in the realm of music and beyond).
To clarify: this third part will chronicle the actual production of the project, as well as my reflections on transitioning into the life I’ve both dreamed of and deferred for way too long.
Anyway, that’s enough of that for now.
Yeah.
It’s time to switch things up a bit over here…

The What Now

My Friends,

I’ve been writing this blog for one year and one month. (By far, a personal record.)

Looking back, I can see that what I’ve created here is not exactly what I set out to create, but it’s been a pretty good experience, nonetheless.

I was hoping to create something a little more interactive, a little less “personal journal-y.”

That hope did not come to pass.

On the other hand…

The act of writing this blog (and attempting to act on the things I write about) has undoubtedly propelled me out of the reclusive, “personal journal-centric” headspace I’d been (somewhat miserably) living in, into a far more engaging and interactive actual life.

And that’s been pretty good.

And also pretty weird.

And also pretty painful in ways I hadn’t expected.

For example:

Imagine waking up one day.

Imagine feeling pretty good that day.

Imagine not feeling the crushing anxiety and depression and frustration and sleep deprivation and anger and self-doubt and rage and dread and irrational fear and pain and so on that you’d normally wake up with over the past, say, fifteen or twenty years.

Imagine what it would feel like to have this immense weight lifted from your heart and your brain.

Imagine the freedom.

Now imagine the flash-flood rush of thoughts streaming in to fill the void.

The disbelief.

What. Just. Happened? 

The regret.

Twenty years– down the drain.

The embarrassment.

How could I have let this happen?

The anxietydepressionfrustrationangerdoubtragefear–

No.

Not really.

Just…

The pain.

The pain of loss.

The loss of days/weeks/months/years. Of time that you can never get back.

The loss of opportunities.The ones you had… the ones you could’ve had.

The loss of relationships… of friends… family… romances that were, or could have been (if maybe you hadn’t been so anxiousdepressedfrustratedangryfearfuletc…)

The loss of money.

Money you had and recklessly spent… money you didn’t have and recklessly spent.

Money you could have earned (if you could have held a job/ if you could have found meaningful work/ if you could have dealt with the cognitive dissonance of holding a job that wasn’t meaningful long enough to save at least something…)

The loss of youth.

Of innocence.

Of faith.

Of hair.

Loss and loss and loss and more loss.

What have you gained?

The future.

I guess.

Or– more precisely– the Now.

What’s done is done.

Now what?

I’ll tell you “what now.”

Hit “Publish.”

Start again.

(Because this isn’t at all what I was intending to write today. Nevertheless.)

Start again.

I Guess This is Growing Up

Dear The Internet Brain:

May I humbly solicit your honest collective wisdom?

This Off the Mat “Advanced Leadership Training” in Ojai (click here and scroll down) is flustering my Zen, for real.

It’s like, I want to let the whole thing go, but…

MAN!

It seems crazy that I’ve been accepted into the training and I’m already out here in California, ready to go… and I just can’t.

I just can’t seem to justify putting myself under the financial and psychological strain of paying full price for this thing. (Or continuing to ask “my community” to foot the bill).

[In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I submitted an online application for the training as well as an online scholarship application, which they say they never received. After getting accepted to the training, I inquired about the scholarship, only to find out that they'd already distributed all of the scholarship funds. I asked if there was any opportunity for partial scholarship, work-trade, etc. to defer some of the cost... they said no, I'd have to pay full price.]

Anyway, I suppose what it really comes down to is that– maybe for the first time in my life– I’m learning what it means to manage my (admittedly self-limited) resources.

I’m learning what it means to have allotted money for some other seemingly-important thing earlier, at the expense of saving it for this thing, now.

And I’m learning what it means to sacrifice this seemingly-important thing now for some other important thing later (instead of just charging both things on the credit card).

Yeah, this is probably something most of you learned in your teens or twenties.

I don’t know what to say. (Other than, “I didn’t.”)

Who knows… maybe learning this core life lesson in the Very Now is more important than whatever I would have learned at the OTM training two weeks from now.

Whatever.

I’m still a bit irked over the whole thing… but it’s pretty obvious that I’m still a fortunate fellow.

Is it a terrible thing to not “get my way” once in a while?

Alas.

As the pop-punk poet once said: “I guess this is growing up.”

What do you think?

Yoga, Music, and Travel– Together At Last. (Sort Of.)

My friends–

The cosmos has aligned and– for the first time in a long time– it is clear to me what I’m supposed to be doing with myself in the very Now:

Yoga and music.

(i.e. teaching, talking, writing, workshopping, creating, connecting, breathing, brainstorming, etc., etc.)

What is not so clear to me in the very Now is where I’m supposed to be doing all of this. (i.e. in the long term).

Hence, the travel.

And then there’s always the possibility (probability?) that I’m meant to be doing the yoga and music stuff while on the road… at least until I receive a clear sign from the Universe that it’s time to throw down the anchor and simply chill in place.

Look, I’ve tried the reverse of this the past two fall seasons (in Pennsylvania, and at other times, such as when I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and in Park Slope, Brooklyn), with pretty much disastrous results.

That is to say, I spent a lot of money (on multiple occasions) building a mini home studio, and a lot of time recording all sorts of musical fragments and snippets, only to lose my mind for some reason or other and abandon the project and run off to some far away land.

This time, I’m thinking of trying something a little different.

I’ve been having a surprising amount of fun composing song fragments on this iPad my dad lent me, and I realize that having access to all of the technology in the world doesn’t really matter if you don’t have any good songs to record.

So I’m thinking about getting myself a little travel guitar (my last one, a Martin Mini, basically exploded last summer thanks to that NY humidity), and– ready for this?– just writing some good songs.

Man, I haven’t done that in forever.

What about the yoga?

Yeah, I can teach that now, can’t I? I mean, I haven’t officially gotten my Yoga Alliance certification, but I did finish my teacher training.

If I put a little effort into teaching some yoga while out on the road, then this could all happen.

If only I had a clever approach to distinguish myself from every other yoga teacher out there…

Oh, wait. I do.

I call it “Shaloha Yoga,” and I’ve spent the entire year developing and refining this down-to-earth, minimally-pretentious, non-mumbo-jumbo-y, totally practical method for circumventing anxiety, depression, and stress (at least in my own life), and building a stronger and fitter mind, body, and spirit.

Am I talking about some top-secret magic cure-all that no one’s ever considered?

No.

It’s just good old fashioned yoga and meditation, with an “Evan twist.”

Anyway, I should have mentioned that this was another one of those “write for an hour without stopping” exercises, and my time is just about up.

I’m gonna close this out with the vision that’s becoming clearer and clearer in my head:

My mission right now is to link my yoga practice (and teaching) with my creative self-expression projects– to write about that process– and then to offer classes and workshops to help other people attain that same fusion with their own variables in their own lives.

I’m talking about a truly holistic and interdisciplinary approach to self-awareness and personal and professional fulfillment.

If I can pull this off, it’s gonna be (in the words of one of my yogi-surfer-world traveler role models, Eoin Finn) pretty freakin’ awesome.

The (Re)Branding, Part Three

For Part One, click here.
For Part Two, click here.

* * *

A quick recap:

I’m trying this new thing of setting aside an hour for free-flow writing time, and publishing the result, whatever that may be. So far, it’s been a very useful (and somewhat successful) technique for honing in on what I actually want to say.

Yesterday I wrote two posts (click links above) in which I

a) reaffirmed my (somewhat suppressed) identity as a musician/songwriter

b) expressed my not-so-secret desire to find my true voice and finally learn how to sing with confidence

c) revealed two major components of a somewhat-ambitious creative project that I’ve been brainstorming for the past several months… those being a book-length “inner travelogue” (a.k.a. the poor man’s Eat Pray Love… on account of my lacking a $200,000 publisher’s advance), and a concurrent music project (which I will describe in greater detail soon).

So, today’s post will forgo any philosophical meanderings* and/or justifications for pursuing said project and/or second-guessing my ability to pull off said project and/or any other sort of distractions from the primary task at hand, namely: What exactly do I need to do in order to make this thing happen, from start to finish?

*[Editor's Note, after the fact: there might be a few philosophical meanderings.]

Because– yes– merely finishing this project will be a grand triumph in and of itself.

The trick is to move faster than my inner critic.

Therefore– moving on.

* * *

Half an hour to go.

What needs to happen RIGHT NOW?

I need to get organized.

I’ve already confirmed my commitment to the project– now I have to make sure that I’m spending more time actually working on the project than talking about it.

So the first thing I need, then, is to create project time for myself.

The good news is, I have lots (and lots) of free time right now, from which to carve out some serious project time.

The down-side of my Right Now is that I’m somewhat lacking in the money department.

Yes, a stereotypical “artist’s predicament,” if ever there was one.

Nevertheless, I’ve come to a crucial realization over the past year– a year, I should point out, that’s been filled to the brim with travel and yoga and personal growth and very, very little income– and that realization is: Not having a ton of money doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things because we are all going to die.

Now, this is definitely not meant to come across as some sort of anti-capitalist glorification of the starving artist life.

I can tell you with 100% confidence that (all other things being equal) having more money is better than having less money.

(At least in my life.)

Because (at least in my life), more money buys more time.

Ok, yes, it also buys other important stuff that I could definitely use, like food and shelter and bicycles and MacBook Pros and musical equipment and so on.

But as far as this project and my current lifestyle is concerned, having a little bit of money in the bank serves as a psychological buffer between “willful minimalism” and scary-as-hell homelessness.

Because– let’s name it–

I am technically an unemployed vagabond right now.

This is not to say that I don’t work, mind you.

I’m just not working under the employ of an individual or an organization that gives me money in exchange for my labor.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

It’s probably a bit of both.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve just spent the past month “couch surfing,” living partially off the meager resources I’ve saved from working literally non-stop for two months at summer camp, and partially (i.e. mostly) off the absolutely incredible generosity of my friends who have been hosting me in New York City, Denver, Berkeley, and San Francisco. Without their kindness (and shelter, and shared food, etc.), I could never have pulled off this amazing adventure.

And it has been amazing. To reconnect with old friends, to make new ones, to do my yoga practice on and off the mat in some of the country’s most beautiful places… the experience is priceless. The inspiration is priceless. Finding the faith to live (as much as I can) in the present moment– this has been perhaps the biggest challenge in my life, and the greatest victory of my current travels (as compared to many other travels of years past).

I think I’ve possibly gone off on a tangent and the clock is ticking. Two minutes…

Right.

Time and money.

Listen, my friends– I’m trying my best to make the most of what I’ve got, and I’m nearing the time when I’ll need to make a much greater effort to earn some more of the latter. My greatest concern (from past experience) is that I’ll end up exhausting myself chasing a paycheck in a job I don’t care enough about to stick with for very long… and then I’m back to the same old cycle.

Well, we now live in a world where digital entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to sustain themselves and pursue their art+lives without having to go crazy in the process. I suppose this, too, requires a tremendous leap of faith, and a mature and honest relationship between artist and consumer/patron.

OK, I’m out of time.

Sixty minutes of writing meditation… I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.

Let me just end with this one thought: I don’t need anything more right now in my life. I’m actually OK. I want certain things, but– if this is all there is– it’s OK. I created this reality. Sometimes I think it’s all turned out to be a “brilliant disaster”– other times I’m actually kind of proud of myself for taking a risk and charting my own path.

But here’s the one thing I know for sure– I can’t do it (i.e. life) alone, and I don’t want to. We’re all in this thing together. Compared to all humans who have ever graced this earth, we– The Breathing– are the current lottery winners. And as I alluded to before– we can’t take any of this material stuff with us when we go. (And unless science gets on top of this pronto, we are all going to go.)

So, what is this life all about? I guess everyone ultimately has to answer that for themselves. My way is maybe not your way, and vice versa. But we are in this thing together. By putting all of this “inner” stuff out there, I hope that I’m contributing something at least vaguely interesting to the Collective Human Experience.

Thanks for reading.

The (Re)Branding, Part Two

If you missed Part One, click here.

OK. Here’s how this is going down:

I’m giving myself sixty (additional) minutes to get out more stuff from my brain to the screen, without stopping (too much) to edit/ censor.

I have to tell you– I feel a pretty strong (and sad) sense of deja vu; I’ve definitely been here before.

This is not the first time that I’ve announced my intention to make a serious return to making music (and learning to sing); I’m definitely in one of those “Boy Who Cried Wolf” situations.

So I’m naming it right here and now.

OK?

OK.

First chances, second chances, tenth chances… if you’re still breathing, you’ve still got another chance to do your thing. Right?

Right.

So now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about what’s different this time.

Well… everything and nothing.

I mean, nothing is really different, on the surface– I’m still the same person I’ve always been– only older. (Which, in our youth-obsessed culture, conceivably counts as a “strike.”)

On the other hand– something is decidedly different in my life this year.

Thanks in large part to the establishment of a consistent and focused mindfulness/yoga practice, I’ve been able to reign in a great deal of the destabilizing thought patterns (and concurrent behaviors) that have– for better or worse– shaped my existence over the past two decades or so.

When I talk about “re-branding,” I’m not using that word lightly.

So much of my “old” ways of thinking, being, and doing no longer serve me; so much of my “old” persona no longer reflects my current way of being and worldview.

For whatever reason, though, I’m still carrying around all of this excess baggage; I’m still dragging around this duffel bag (so to speak) filled with unnecessary crap and it’s totally slowing me down.

The other day I started playing around with some web design stuff, and I was confronted with these seemingly-simple questions that I had no idea how to answer:

* What is your website all about?
* Who is your target audience?
* What do you want your viewers to get out of your site?
* What actions do you want them to take as a result of visiting your site?

These questions made me profoundly uncomfortable, and it took me a few minutes to figure out why.

For all of my ramblings on this site, I’ve never really asked myself those questions, or the precursor that would probably make answering them easier:

What am I actually, really, truly all about?

Or, in design-speak:

What is my brand?

Time out.

I realize this monologue could go on for God knows how long, and I only have a half hour left in this writing session.

So let me switch gears and get back to tangible, practical matters.

Let’s imagine for a moment that I don’t actually need to unpack all of the philosophical stuff right here, right now.

Let’s imagine that I actually know all of the answers to all of these questions, deep inside my heart and my soul.

Let’s imagine that– in this very moment– I could move from philosophy into action and start living my brand.

What would that look like?

Why, thank you for asking.

It would look like everything that I’m about to write about from this moment forward.

* * *

The project that I’ve been quietly working on launching over the past several weeks is called– for lack of a more apt title at present– “Life After Crazy.”

This project will consist of a few different parts, which I’ll briefly touch upon now and flesh out in later posts. (On account of 13 minutes left.)

First of all, there’s the book.

Let’s say for now the book is also called “Life After Crazy,” and it is essentially “The Poor Man’s Eat Pray Love” (a.k.a. How Evan Got His Groove Back.)

OK, so the tricky thing is that a lot of what I want to write about is still playing out in present time (or hasn’t happened yet), but I have a LOT of insight (and material– check out the “Memoir” section of this blog) regarding my triumphs and challenges in the general realm of “finding sanity in a crazy world.”

I don’t have enough time right now to flesh out the whole concept, but the book is basically the glue that holds the whole project together.

(There’s also going to be a companion website, but we’ll deal with that later.)

Second of all, there’s the music.

So… let’s see if I can explain this in five minutes…

The book is going to chronicle my effort to essentially (re)build the life that I (once upon a time) imagined for myself… after, like, twenty years of struggling with my own worst enemy (a.k.a. me).

And the music is the project-within-the-project– the thematically-linked concept album/ electro-rock opera or whatever that I’m going to write and produce in an effort to face and transform old demons, to celebrate my renewed creative spirit, and to reclaim my destiny.

(Two minutes over time… final thought…)

This is happening, people.

This is the “what next.”

(Stay tuned for Part Three, wherein I outline the logistics and potential parameters of the “what next.”)

The (Re)Branding, Part One

There is no time to stop and think. There is only time to write from the heart. I’ve given myself a time limit of 60 minutes to say what I have to say, after several weeks (and/or 20+ years) of self-supression. I am a musician. There you have it. Two minutes and thirty seconds. Well, that’s not all I have to say. For as long as I can remember– literally– my entire life– my (inner) world has revolved around the consumption and creation of (popular) music. [Let's be clear-- I don't care that much about classical music, or even jazz. There, I've said it. Sorry.] When I say “for as long as I can remember”– I’m talking about memories of being two, maybe three years old and carrying a stack of vinyl record albums (Barry Manilow, if you must know) around the first house I ever lived in (on the Overbrook Hills side of City Line Avenue, bordering West Philadelphia.) I remember being six or eight or ten (or whatever) years old, huddled under the covers in my bedroom in the next house that I lived in (deeper into Overbrook Hills, on the Penn Wynne border)– writing song lyics in my head, and fantasizing about performing on stage in front of thousands of people. I remember writing pop songs and (sort of) raps– I remember that indescribable feeling of creative freedom as the words somehow descended from the ether into my young, receptive brain. I remember the stucco ceiling in the moonlit darkness. I would stare at that ceiling and my head would swirl with rhythmic rhymes. Yeah, I can remember being that care-free, innocent, hopeful kid– but I can’t quite grasp that that kid would grow up to be me. It’s like waking up from a weird dream. I don’t know what the hell happened. (Pause. I’m getting ahead of myself.) I remember being around ten years old– wanting to play the drums. My parents got me a practice pad, but no drum kit. A practice pad isn’t fun. I would set out a bunch of hardcover books on my bed and bang along to my favorite records. I remember Genesis, Invisible Touch… Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet… El Debarge’s “Who’s Johnny” from the Short Circuit soundtrack… Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” from the Karate Kid 2 soundtrack*… Miami Sound Machine… drawing a blank. (But, yes, Miami Sound Machine.) *I would also wear that iconic black and white Karate Kid bandana (that Daniel-san wears in the movie) while playing my “drum set.” I was IN THE ZONE back then. I remember (a few years earlier) learning “Axel F” (from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack) on piano, and otherwise wholly rejecting the concept of piano lessons. (My Suzuki teacher wanted me to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” five different ways– I wanted to play Bon Jovi’s epic “You Give Love a Bad Name.” I was ten. I’m painting a rough sketch in broad strokes. I could go on for hours and hours. Every memory I have is linked to the soundtrack of my life. I remember playing “Skate or Die” on my Apple 2GS (look it up), while listening to UB40’s “Red Red Wine” in 1988 (or 89). My aunt Sherrie gave me that CD along with Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction” for Chanukkah… and my life was forever changed. (On account of G’N’R, not UB40, in case that wasn’t clear.) I remember getting my first electric guitar (also in 1989) and just absolutely mangling Warrant’s “Heaven” and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Well, we all have to start somewhere. In any case, it wasn’t too long before I could play some passable “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Paradise City” licks… before I could pick out random bits of Jimi Hendrix and standard classic rock tunes and slog along with some local kids in a rockin’ garage band. (I’m guessing we were terrible.) I remember the pinnacle of my guitar-playing days– performing my (oddly capable) version of Steve Vai’s “For the Love of God” (along with the track, I must admit), at my sister’s Bat Mitzvah in (I think) 1991. Thirteen minutes left? What?? Time to cut to the chase. My high school/college/post-college musical memories/endeavors will have to wait. Here’s the important thing. For pretty much my entire life, I remember not being able to (or, as a kid, not wanting to) sing (or even perform) in public. (Maybe for fear that I would make a fool of myself, or people would hate me, or whatever. Not important why, at the moment. Just important that it’s always been the case.) This goes back at least to my 5th grade class play, when I was a “soldier” in some George Washington-themed tedious bit of nonsense. While I quickly took to “method acting” (by repeatedly rolling down a steep dirt hill to get filthy and look the part), I flat out refused to sing in the chorus. All though school– K – 12– I refused to sing. Especially in school chorus or music class. Of course, this proved problematic in my teen years and beyond, when I actually wanted to sing (i.e. like a rockstar), and absolutely had no idea how. It always strikes me as odd that I can play a number of instruments by ear (i.e. I have an obvious awareness of tone and rhythm), but for whatever reason I’ve never been able to easily harness the instrument I was born with– my voice. In the interest of sticking to my hour-long writing session, I’m going to cut right to the chase. (I thought I’d be able to cram a lot more into this hour… now it’s crunch time, and the rest can wait.) It’s time for a personal (and professional) re-brand, my friends. I am a musician. I am also a songwriter. (Albeit in recent years mostly a frustrated, blocked, unproductive one.) And now– I am going to sing. (Well, not right now. Soon. In conjunction with renewed music-making. Hmm. Maybe that doesn’t sound like such a big announcement to you. I can assure you, it a huge announcement to myself. I’ve been procrastinating for weeks (months/years) about this. For whatever reason, I have some deep psychological stuff that’s prevented me from just going for it over the years. That’s no longer an acceptable position, as far as I’m concerned. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of this past year– during all of those hours honing my mindfulness practice on (and off) the yoga mat– it’s that I am not capable of turning my back on my deepest Self for very long. Lord knows I’ve tried. Lord knows I’ve done everything to suppress that voice deep within me that’s yearning to come out (i.e. both my singing and my songwriting voices.) (Why have I done this? Doesn’t matter right now.) The point is– My sixty minutes are up. I’m giving myself another sentence to close this thing out: No more excuses– it’s time to find my voice and make my sound. (To Be Continued)