I originally wrote this sometime in the autumn of 2013. I rediscovered it today and happily found it to still resonate with me. I hope it does something for you, too.
On January 1, 2012, I woke up with a lump in my throat.
The night before had seen yet another night of hard drinking at my friend’s annual New Years Eve party. I stumbled over snoring lumps and made my way to his kitchen sink, picked out what appeared to be a reasonably clean glass, and very nearly inhaled the water I filled it with.
The sun was just rising. I sputtered. Residue of Glenlivet, single malt. Ugh, I thought, Can’t ever sleep when I’ve drank… Not that I could ever sleep, anyway. My usual moderate insomnia had worsened as of late. It was six months to the day since I hurt my wrist. Six months of wading through Berklee, half-asleep, trying desperately to find a new path for my life. My old one was gone, inflamed.
The lump in my throat didn’t leave.
The silence of the living room made me uncomfortable, so I braved the cold and left for home. The silence of the road was just as bad. The freshly plowed highway was empty save for the standard way-too-many-cops-for-such-a-small-town looking out for the especially hard partiers who would be driving drunk along side me. Thankfully, the cops didn’t have much of a job to do. Like they ever do…
I was tired of Indiana, as usual. By this time each year, my friends would all be back at their respective college campuses, each about two hours away, give or take. God, I can’t wait to get back to Boston. But why? What was there for me? My spring schedule was full of guitar classes I couldn’t play in, and the way my fast-track degree was going, I’d be out in the so-called “real world” by September of 2012. If I somehow managed to miraculously heal and finish my degree at all. Without my livelihood, my love, the only thing I’d ever wanted…what would I do? My future looked as empty and grey as the highway, but I had no choice but to keep driving.
Little did I know that in exactly a week, I would opt out of the Spring 2012 semester at Berklee College of Music. I would stay home, depressed and scared, wearing braces on my wrists to sleep every night, painfully dipping both my forearms in ice water three times a day, going to intense physical therapy twice a week. I would get a catering job that depressed me even more but hardened my resolve to return to music and make a life for myself that I could stand to live.
Little did I know that my best friend of twelve years would die in just 43 days, two weeks before her birthday that came only once every four years. That I would demand on being present at her death so she wouldn’t have to go it alone, and that I would, for the first time in my life, understand that “crying yourself asleep” isn’t just a melodramatic saying.
Little did I know that over the next four months I would rediscover a love of orchestral music, of film music, of story-telling in general. That in three months I would befriend the conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and in three and a half would be wakeboarding, something I thought I’d never do again. Little did I know that in just two months, I would lose the use of three of my four limbs (instead of just my two arms/wrists) for five weeks due to the removal on my one-day-going-to-probably-be-cancerous mole on my toe. I would hop around on crutches, hurting my wrists even more, building up a reservoir of anger to unleash in the gym once I got walking again.
Shivering in my car at 7:30am at the start of a new year, I couldn't know that my little vegan experiment two months away would change the life of one of my best friends forever. I didn’t know that the horrible news regarding a musical employer of mine that said now-vegan friend delivered to me just four days earlier would hit the internet in two months. As he said, “The shit hit the fan.” And oh, what shit it would be.
I quietly shuffled inside my home, taking care not to wake my sleeping parents. Their car was gone. Right…Sunday…church…I didn’t know that on the same day of my dog’s death, I would talk to my mother about being an atheist, and she would finally be mostly/sort of ok, but would still curiously maintain that “you have to believe in something.”
I stripped and let the hot water do its best at washing away my hangover. It failed somewhere between “splitting headache” and “ALEX NEED SLEEP,” but I left the bathroom light off, so that helped. Reveling in the warmth, I had no way of knowing how fun my upcoming summer break would be, about all the dating I’d do (and the subsequent songs written about my failures), about the friends made in the fall semester, the extent to which I’d push myself farther than I ever had before. I didn’t know about the amount I’d learn of production and composing and about what I wanted and didn’t want out of a musical life. I had no way of knowing that I had a voice inside that, with a little brushing-up, could entertain some peoples’ ears…even though it still pained mine.
Hungover in the shower, I definitely couldn’t imagine that in just six months, I’d be jumping out of a goddamn plane.
While ravenously munching down an English muffin (covered in extra crunchy peanut butter, of course), I didn’t yet entertain the idea that my creative idols could disappoint me, and that I could come to love musicians whose music I was just so sure I hated. I didn’t understand the depth to which I would come to love former acquaintances and lose faith in old friends.
And while drinking my coffee, I had no idea I’d actually start enjoying the process of writing just as much as the final product of having written. Or that in a year I’d have enough scoring projects to feel comfortable putting together a reel and hopping on a plane to LA next spring break. Or that I could learn about something as seemingly foreign as the insides of computers.
I didn’t know that I would be typing this on my laptop’s keyboard instead of my ergonomic one that looked like it belonged in the Millenium Falcon. Sure, the pain would still be there, and it always will be to some extent. But it would be my pain, and I would own it, control it, reel it back in when it became too much.
At that quiet moment in time, scared shitless, I had no way of knowing that I was exactly where I needed to be. I could not have possibly understood that all the pain I would go through over the coming months was just what the doctor ordered. That life, in its mysterious, chaotic, crazy way, was putting me on the right path, and that in just 21 months, I would look back on that morning and smile, truly understanding how much a life can change.
I type this from my new home of Los Angeles, California, with a lump in my throat. Tomorrow I begin the next chapter of my life, starting at the bottom of the ladder (this time, as an intern). A freshman, of sorts.
So now I’m off to not sleep again (my usual moderate insomnia, you know), but first, cheers to the things I don’t know yet. Cheers to the life that still is yet to happen. Glenlivet, single malt.