I’ve wanted to start a blog for a while, but between juggling university and jobs I haven’t had a lot of time for myself. Now that this is all behind me (and graduation is coming up, meaning uni was a roaring success!) I find I have a lot of extra time on my hands. Before I would come home from uni or work and think about the essays I had to write or the research reports I had to finish or the databases I had to update and the thousands of other education-based things that were nagging me for attention. While this is a very pleasant change it has left me with too much free time, which has left me listless and directionless. This is always a bad place for me to be in as I tend to retreat into myself and get absolutely nothing done, leading to general feelings of disappointment, which leads to sullenness. So to fill in my time I have some things I’ve decided I want to do and I’m going to try and steer away from laziness. While I was studying the laziness was my relaxing time: watch Doctor Who, play some video games, read a book. While these things can be worthy endeavours within themselves, too much of them leads to wasted days.
- Write a letter to your future self, dated today’s date next year and write to yourself about the upcoming (and, as yet, unknown) year.
- Select a Word of the Year
- Pick one thing to do this year, write it down. Then write out bite-sized steps that can be taken to achieve that goal
Initially this seemed like a little lovey-dovey waste of time, but I think that perhaps by getting it down on paper it might help to make what I want to achieve in this coming year (my first year of freedom in a long while!) clearer and less intimidating. Plus it can’t hurt.
So I thought I’d share my responses to the three above. It’s quite long, but (a little surprisingly) I feel all the better for it.
TASK ONE: THE FUTURE LETTER FROM THE PAST
13 Jan, 2014
How’s things, kid?
It’s been a hectic year – and you though your final year of university was crowded! At times it was difficult but you worked hard and although I know you think that this is nothing special you must try and remember that the ability to put one foot in front of the other, consistently and without fail, is what makes you strong.
There’s so much that I did this year, what with two (count them: TWO) overseas trips, as well as my work with the webseries Nerdfighters: The Musical (which was AWESOME by the way!) and – the crowning glory – the reinstatement of my mad guitar skills. After slaving away in laboratories and over math equations for years I finally had the time to sit down and recapture the faded talent. Studying science made me realise just how much I miss music. Not just miss – need. I don’t play because I love it, although love it I do. I play because I need to. I sing because I need to. I sometimes will be overcome with the need to sing or play and if I can’t I can feel it boiling over inside of me with a ferocity that is both awkward and thrilling. I spent so much time looking for where my passion lay, spent so many years listening to negative words from people who didn’t quite understand where I was coming from. You see, you’ve got to remember that not everyone is like you. They don’t feel things like you; they don’t see things like you. To them, music isn’t colours as well as sounds. To them it’s not a journey and a story and an adventure. Music may be sounds that roll together which sound pleasing to their ears, but that might be as far as it goes. Perhaps the complexity of time signature changes or the pleasantly unexpected notes played in the bass line don’t delight them. Maybe listening to a complex drum beat doesn’t make their day. It could be that they don’t care for music for music’s sake or the over analysis of musical complexities or the laying back and washing over sensation, how it pumps you up, drives you mad, brings you to tears, repairs your soul. They may never have experienced that lingering song hangover, where you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve just undergone something life altering (like the time you heard that one song and realised it was the song you’d been trying to write your whole life). All of this is ok. They don’t see things the way you do: you’re sensitive (sometimes overly so), you’re a thinker (sometimes overly so) and you’re timid (sometimes overly so). But this year I managed to overcome my overly-so’s and gather these traits together into something directed and powerful. This year the fear and caution and negativity that you held inside yourself was released (well, I won’t lie: partially released. It’ll take a little longer to change something this big, but I’m certainly on the way there!). You should be proud: it’s a difficult and scary thing to change your way of thinking. You did good, kid.
My guitar playing is far, far better; back on track to where it needs to be. At first it was difficult to force myself to practice. I was so used to not having the time that I would continually push it aside at first. But dreaming about proficiency doesn’t lead to proficiency and quick enough I got into the rhythm of it. Consistently. I feel as though I start so many things and never finish them. Once the manic mood fades I lose interest and whatever I was doing is left to collect dust for some other interesting and extremely important endeavour. But getting back to and beyond the point I was at after music school was important. It still is. Every time I hear good music (and despite the belief of some, it is there in abundance), particularly every time I hear awesome guitar tracks, I used to have a voice that piped up and told me how terrible I was in comparison and how I would never be that good and I’ll never achieve any of my dreams. I gagged that guy, strapped him to the wind and sent him on his way. The new voice inspires me, tells me that if I practice hard and put in the hard work I can be just as good as the musicians I admire. The new voice tells me that if I work on learning more (after I’ve finished rocking out!) that I can be just as awesome. The new voice tells me that if I just start and keep putting one foot in front of the other that eventually I will get to where I need to be. I’ve tried to adopt the pace of nature; that of patience and constant movement (how very hippy!). At the very least I won’t be standing in one place, gathering dust. Yes, the dream has taken longer to get going and I feel like I am so far behind schedule that it’s embarrassing, but put that aside. I am not afraid to be mocked. Or laughed at. Or cut down. I put one foot in front of the other, as is my nature. The difference now is that I finally am sure of my direction. I may change my mind down the path, and that’s a-ok, but for now I’ve found a certain sense of control. This is surprisingly liberating. I still feel like the awkward teenager I used to be – in ways I still am. But I have far too many kilometres under my belt to let awkwardness become overwhelming any more. It took time, but finally I’ve become direct, demanding, determined and certain. Keep on keeping on, kid; it’s going brilliantly. Other people may not see the struggles, but that’s ok. Take the struggles for what they are, hold onto the good bits and rework the less helpful parts. Due to this, my music has flourished. I’m less afraid of criticism and, more importantly, I’m less afraid of praise (strangely, my biggest fear). It never used to be good enough but now, while I still strive to be better, better, better, I can take the complements and feel good about them.
Japan was amazing! It was so much like coming home it wasn’t funny. The people were absolutely lovely and while my travel buddy was stocking up on Lolita dresses I got to stock up on Japanese music. Suddenly CDs didn’t cost $50 just to get into my hot little hands! My mind has been furthered opened to the intricacies of Japanese rock music and I’ve been able to get my fill of the outrageous and visual elements to their music. While this was something I had my own little private spaz about, the trip as a whole amazing! It helped me to open up and find that impulsive, care-free, daring individual that lies just below the surface. It’s surprising how easy it was to find and the more I found it, the less daunting it was. Put me on a stage and I’m happy to be the centre of attention in front of whatever sized crowd you like. But I’ve had a strong shy streak running through me for a few years now and it’s been liberating to cast that layer off.
Following that was Europe. My word – such sights!! That I could be immortal so as to explore and learn forever!! I met so many people, so many brilliant people, the occasional fool, people from all walks. So many more like-minded individuals than I thought were out there. Before the trips I thought I understood at least a little of human nature, but these two trips have changed my opinion of humanity for the better. It was shocking at how hard the lessons in humanity hit – I was so pleased to discover that Terra was occupied by some brilliant, beautiful, kind, loving creatures. There’s hope for us yet, little one.
Never forget these initial explorations, though I have a feeling that these will stay with you for life. I hope they do because despite whatever happens, no matter the setbacks, no matter the pain, remember those times. I promise you’ll smile happy smiles. Life is good and the people you share your time with make it better. The mind you use to access it will make it awesome. So keep it positive, keep it open, keep it daring and keep it moving forward. You’ll make it, no matter what ‘it’ turns out to be. Stay positive and, like a TARDIS, will always take you to where you need to be (‘Doctor Who reference?!’ I hear you say. Don’t worry – thankfully, you’ll never stop being a nerd).
No matter what has happened this year be proud of everything you have achieved. A healthy dose of narcissism has been the best think I ever gave to myself. You are a beautiful, talented, amazing individual and you are loved. So feel deeply, work hard, dream big and fly free.
And just remember: keep putting one foot in front of the other.
All my love,
TASK TWO: WORD FOR THE YEAR
My word for the year is POSITIVITY
“Your life is your garden; your thoughts are the seeds
If your life isn’t awesome, you’ve been watering weeds”
My word for 2013 was chosen because I feel it’s the main characteristic that I need to encourage to drive myself forward. While I try to look for the best in life and the situations I’m in, occasionally I can turn into a negative nancy. The “I’m not good enough”s and the “what’s the point”s and the “I want to hide from the world”s. I do a lot of self-bashing and not only is it unproductive, it’s unhealthy. This is the year I plan to change my outlook on myself and, by doing so, I’m sure it’ll make life seem brighter. My perception will be shinier. My happy eyes will deliver more positive images to my friendly, debonair brain which will process them with a sunnier disposition. The inner workings of my brain will be more efficient and more content.
I made a picture on a Post-It note and stuck it to my desk where I can always see it. I thought that might be a waste of time but already I’ve had a couple of bumps where it’s pulled me out of my melancholy mood. May not work for you but even if it only works those few times, it’s been well worth it.
ONE THING TO DO
Improve guitar skills. Short, sharp and shiny.
- Always keep the guitars in reach
- Always take care of your instruments
- Have a plan written out and stick it on the wall
- Try to learn a new song every week (but take the extra time if you’re not proficient)
- Listen to new music – ask friends what bands they’re currently listening to and investigate
- Learn scales, modes, theory – understand the music on a deeper level
- Don’t forget to always be technically proficient – your hands help drive the thing and using the correct technique will help more than you can imagine
- Make time every day. Every. Single. Day.
- Write your own music, even if you think it sounds ridiculous – the more you do it, the better you’ll get
- Share the music you write – even if you don’t like it – and get feed back from different types of people (musos, music lovers, music haters, stray cats)
- Start jamming causally with friends
Ok, so my list here isn’t really all to flash or directional. But the general idea is for me to make time for it every day so that it becomes habit. If I were trying to, say, get a new job I might have more time-based steps. But for now I’m going to stick with this. I may do a post in the future related to guitar and perhaps tips for starting up (not so much things to learn, but points on what’s important and what mindset is required, maybe a basic plan seeing as I skimmed over that point above).
Additionally, to help with this One Thing To Do, I’ve purchased Rocksmith. As someone who has played guitar for a long time I’m hopeful that I can quickly pick up some new songs in a semi-directed game setting. Plus I love gaming so I’m hoping it’ll suit me to a tee. Sometimes having all the information at your feet makes it more confusing than limited resources. It’s been recommended by some friends so once I get some songs under my belt I might be able to utilise the last point and jam with some mates. Once I’ve played around with it I’ll do a review on it, seeing as it holds a niche as more of a game for musicians than a game for everybody. But I’ve given myself this one task – surely I can try to keep my hyperactive mind on it!
So this is my start to 2013. Hopefully it is filled with all manner of good things and I can have as good a time as this post predicts! If you think this might help for you and you want more information, check out Michelle’s site! It has a lot of tasty information that you can use if you feel like you’re in a bit of a rut. Or, should you need stronger inspiration, here’s a short documentary on the amazing power of the human mind. Chad Jones was a talented sportsman in the US who sustained a terrible leg injury in a car accident (there are a few shots of his leg which might be disturbing to some people but which I feel make the story all the more compelling). The documentary takes you through his injury and his recovery and demonstrates just how far you can go with the right support, the right plan and the right frame of mind.