New Year, Old Me

After a month long hiatus, I’m back to blogging. In the past, after having taken a long break from blog writing, I’ve always come back to it with some grand declaration and a clear goal to enact (e.g. I’ll blog everyday, release a song every week, etc…), and I am tempted to do this yet again. We are after all still within the window of opportunity for me to tell you all about my multiple new year’s resolutions! I’ve asked around, and it seems like most of my friends are not as enthusiastic about the idea of new year’s resolutions as I am. Personally, I love to make resolutions. It feels great to set big goals, and dream of what my life will look like when I’m living as my peak self.

I’m also certain I could squeeze out a whole blog post simply by talking about the what, why and how of my new year’s resolutions. I’d feel great about myself and all my ambitious plans, and yet you the reader might actually feel a little bit worse. The best case scenario is that you’d get bored and just stop reading. The worst case is that you would think “Wow, Lucas sure is going to do some awfully cool stuff this year! What am I going to do? Not much. I suck. I hate myself. You know what, I hate Lucas too.” Look, I don’t want you to hate yourself, and I especially don’t want you to hate me, so instead of talking about all of my goals and (hypothetical) future achievements, I’m going to try the opposite approach and talk about some of my past shortcomings. Because a little dose of schadenfreude does a body good— it’s my New Year’s gift to you! You’re welcome.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve carried two (mostly subconscious) desires that have motivated much of my behavior: the desire to be liked, and the desire to be the best. In many ways, these desires have served me well in my life. I think I’ve generally behaved in a well-mannered, somewhat delightful way, and a lot of people have liked me because of this (or in the least, they’ve not disliked me). Additionally, I’ve put a lot of effort into being really good at things like music, sports, and school, and as a result I’ve been a relatively high achiever in these fields. And yet, for the past decade or so, as I’ve sought to create, sustain, and grow a vibrant musical life, I’ve discovered that these motivating desires have provided more hindrance than help.

Consider this: one of the best ways (if not the very best way) to improve at playing music, is to play with musicians who are better than you. Here at NYU, and in New York City as a whole, I am surrounded by musicians who are more experienced than me. I have ample opportunity to play with them in both impromptu and organized jam sessions all over town. And yet last semester, I consistently avoided these opportunities, because I have this desire to be one of the best in whatever realm I enter and it feels very uncomfortable for me to be one of the very worst. But if I really am serious about improving as a musician, I’ll quit ego-tripping right now and start getting comfortable with playing with people who are far better than me.

Ultimately I also wish to compose my own music and release it in to the world, and it would be a dream come true if I could earn a living by writing original music. Although it is a relatively rare livelihood, I don’t even think it is all that far-fetched. I know that I can write music that sounds pretty good, and I see numerous outlets for original music: movies, TV shows, video games, advertisements, live performances, or sold directly to an audience (who knows, maybe even old-school aristocratic patronage will come back into fashion). Yet success in any of these realms requires at least one common thread: the willingness to put my music out into the world. Sure, I’ve done this on a small scale— I’ve written some original songs, made some home recordings, and put them up on sound cloud. That counts right? No, not really. The stakes are too low. I’ll never truly know if people like it or dislike it, and that is the hurdle that I am hesitant to jump over. For I have this crippling desire to be well-liked and approved of, and I am afraid that if I put my music out into the world and really try to sell it, people just won’t like it. Yet the fact is, no matter what, some people will not like my music. It’s impossible to write universally loved music— go ahead and try; you’ll end up writing elevator music. If I really am serious about making music my livelihood, I’ll accept that many people are not going to like my music, and just put it out into the world anyway.

Yes, I’m a scared little piglet everybody— I’m afraid of not being the best and I’m afraid of not being liked. Yet I have some virtues as well. In the least, I have an awareness of my fears, and the gall to confess them to you all. I’ve shared these shortcomings with you because I want to move beyond them. As Louis Brandeis said—guys, wait, listen, I’m not going to act like I knew who Louis Brandeis was before I wrote this, I was just vaguely aware of this quote and so I looked up who said it. Anyway, as Louis Brandeis said, “publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Well, this blog is my publicity, and you readers are the sunlight, here to help me clean up my act. Thanks for reading.

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