What the hell is my next step?

2015 was rough.

Don’t get me wrong. It could’ve been much worse. I still have all my limbs but, damn. I finally left a job that did nothing but dig myself into a rut that I saw no way out of. When I was free, I thought I knew exactly what to do but I was just as lost as I was over two years ago. I found myself asking, “where the hell do I go from here?”

But it was a blessing. It was a kick in my ass to finally finish my grad school application and now, I’m two weeks away from another first day of school.

This also got me thinking of another hurdle I’ve been trying to tackle for the last few years—my struggles with anxiety. I’ve been accused of acting hermit-like but I’ve defended it as a form of self-care. The few people that I’m comfortable with understand my limits and don’t push me beyond those limits. Yet, what if those limits are meant to be broken? At what point does self-care become a self-imposed prison?

I’ve never had a real resolution but I resolve to find the answer to that question this year. When does my self-care start to inhibit my growth and how do I fix that?

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Free Passes: Solange Knowles

I don’t consider myself a stan of anyone besides Britney but there are a few people who can do no wrong in my eyes. Today, I will focus on Solange Knowles.

There is a story to this. Don’t you worry.

After I graduated college in the summer of 2012, things slowly started to unravel for me. My panic attacks, which had subsided for many years, returned with a vengeance and I found it hard to leave my apartment.

That fall, my sister graduated college as well in Florida and my family was going down to celebrate that and Thanksgiving. I’ve flown to Florida several times but this time was different. In what clocks in as my longest panic attack to date, I spent a solid 12 hours in a constant state of nausea and crippling fear.

My only saving grace were the little TVs that JetBlue provided (this was the only time I flew JetBlue and I still regret that I couldn’t fully enjoy the idea of watching TV on a damn plane). At a point when I diagnosed myself with 100% organ failure and was praying to every respective deity to crash my plane to end my misery, the music video for Solange’s Losing You came on. It was 4 minutes and 22 seconds of relief. I don’t know why that specific song affected me in that way but in those moments, I was free of my anxiety.

Of course, my respite was short-lived but that song has always brought me great peace since then.

Full Disclosure: I was also going to talk about how watching episodes of Dog the Bounty Hunter on the plane also helped but I forgot he used the n-word a lot and his free pass was revoked.

 

Sensory Memory: Billy Joel and a very public past life regression

On Thursday, I was finally able to check something else off the bucket list: seeing Billy Joel live. I knew when he announced his residency at Madison Square Garden that my stars were finally aligning. After years of just missing his incredibly random and sporadic tour dates, my friend Aubrey got us there.

The entire night was an exploration of my youth starting with Gavin DeGraw as an opening act. Although I felt like the only person in the arena who even knew his name, the first chords of Chariot brought me right back to junior year of high school when the most important thing in my life was trying to find whose bedroom closet I was going to sneak shots of incredibly cheap vodka in that weekend.

But Billy Joel brought me back even further. Further than the time I sang Uptown Girl at a musical revue in high school and notoriously cracked on the final lines even though I requested to adjust the key down another half step. Further than when Mrs. Van Vliet used We Didn’t Start the Fire to teach us history in 8th grade and I assumed the Rosenbergs were Holocaust survivors because, as I said aloud in class, “how could they not be Jews with those last names?” (I wasn’t allowed to speak for the rest of class)

It brought me to being a toddler listening to River of Dreams with my father and pretending to play the congas on whatever hard surface was nearest. It was the first tangible connection I had with my father that I can remember. To this day, though we disagree on a lot, we will always have common ground in the music of Billy Joel. To be brought back to a time when that’s all that mattered was worth the price of the ticket.

Oh, and seeing him sing Uptown Girl to Christie Brinkley was pretty cool too.