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  • Michael Engdahl

No More Band Aids

In the months since my last post, I've slowly come to the realization that what has made me feel discontent is that I've put myself in this box of who I should be and have been unable to accept my true self and share it with others. I created an image of myself professionally and have always tried to live up to it. By watching my idols and conceptualizing what they were actually like, I did myself a disservice by not exploring who I really am. Who I am behind closed doors and who I am in public just never seemed to line up and it has caused me so much unnecessary suffering. Unless you were close to me (there have been only a few over the years) my truth never really came out. It's hard to be authentic, especially in music, if you aren't true to yourself. Like I said in my previous post on why I left social media, I have curated myself to fit a certain mold that I believed would be accepted the best. But that measurement is arbitrary and doesn't mean anything. All it meant for me was that I suffered silently behind closed doors, would make empty promises to myself that I would let my 'true self shine' and be ok with not being super polished all the time. Resistance would always find a way to step in at the right time to stop me in the form of jealously, insecurity, and resentment. My revolving door of self-loathing went something like this:

My situation sucks, I never have enough time, I don't have the right gear to do what all these other great artists are doing. Oh man, look at that guy/girl! They sound amazing! Man, I really suck. I have so much work to do. THAT person released an album!? Why haven't I released one? They did a video on that topic!? I could have done that.

But, I didn't. And that is the cold hard truth between myself and my heroes. Ideas are great and all, but they are nothing without execution. And I haven't executed practically any of my ideas this year. Resistance has beat the living hell out of me.

I read something recently that said that there is a Season for everything. There is a Season for work, for rest, for reinvention, for contemplation, for doing nothing. It's unfair to expect any one of us to be 100% all the time. We(I) are/am so focused on the outcome and final product that the journey is overlooked. The process, the most important part, is dismissed as if it will just magically happen. As most writers know, the hardest part is sitting down to write. Same goes for musicians, artists, and creatives alike. I've been riding the coattails of my previous 'successes' for the last couple years without anything new to show for myself. Sure, a video here and there, I remade this website, but for how little I've put out and completed (keyword: COMPLETED) over this span of time, it's pretty dismal and disheartening. Pandemic aside, this year would have been a great opportunity to grow even more. Perhaps that was the point of getting off social media - to force myself into facing what's really going on, what I truly want (and don't want) and accept the skin I'm in. Because frankly, I have more to be grateful for than I readily admit. My default is to dwell on the things I don't have. What a waste of energy.

I should feel more relief that I'm not the same person I was 2-5 years ago. That Michael served his purpose for the time and place, but alas, I am now in a new time and place and whoever that guy was doesn't have the answers now. What worked in 2016 isn't going to cut it now. Trying to be this 'serious' musician and giving off the appearance that I am 'serious' is fucking stupid. You can be serious about your craft without taking yourself too seriously. I have absolutely taken myself too seriously. As if somehow, my contribution (or lack thereof) is the end-all-be-all of my existence.

Boy, Please.

There will always be someone better, smarter, younger, luckier, harder working than you. But they don't have YOUR story. And if you don't know your story, well, no one else will. Only you have the key to figuring out what it is exactly you're trying to say. And forcing yourself into a box of 'my story can only come out in the form of this style' is bullshit. Music is music is music. Sure, genres help to better understand what the artist is doing, but my god some of the best albums I've heard cross so many different musical boundaries and have no rigid rule to what they can and cannot use.

It's liberating and terrifying to begin to realize who you're really supposed to be. You'll lose people along the way. Some people may not understand. But what you get in return is so much more important than being liked or accepted. The second you decide to be honest with yourself and with others and own it, you're free. I don't have the answers to get you there, but I know it starts with being kind to yourself. Forgiving your past self (and present) for all the stupid shit you have done and keep doing. And if you're anything like me, that's where most of us get stuck. I take solace in knowing (but not always accepting) we more control over our situation than we realize. I'll Be the first to tell you from experience, it's so much easier and comfortable to blame others and situations as to why you haven't achieved your goals.

Truth is, I'm lazy. I'm not consistent. I care too much what other people think. I'm incredibly insecure in myself and my playing. I don't think I'll ever be good enough. I lack conviction for my visions. I blame my situation for why I haven't done more. I'm jealous of my friends and grow insecure seeing other people succeed. I'm terrible at saying No. I worry about others too much.

I don't have to live this way. Neither do you. I've been willing to ride shotgun in my own car despite having the keys in my pocket. Trying to make grand declarations and sweeping changes hasn't made a lasting difference. Hell, even deciding to make any changes hasn't had a lasting effect. I've been slapping a band aid on a bullet hole hoping that it would take care of it and heal properly. Maybe the answer resides not in focusing on a solution, but rather accepting the cold hard truth. I can't pretend that there isn't a problem, or turn a blind eye, and create this false reality that it's all these external situations that are responsible for my failure. Life is going to keep happening. Life doesn't care if you rise to the occasion or not, because as far as we know, the world will keep on and either you're along for the ride or you fall to the wayside. It's time to be honest with yourself. It's time to be honest with myself. And whatever that truth may be, odds are it's going to hurt. A lot. And it should. It should shake you to your core and make you question everything. And once you're done fighting it, denying it, trying to make it seem less severe than it really is, you can do something with it. You can accept it. Let it wash over you like a shower after a hard workout. Embrace it. Embrace your failure. Embrace your shortcomings and ugly truths that you don't want anyone to know about. It's in those truths that you'll find yourself. And maybe you don't like who you are right now once you've accepted those truths. That's ok. Now that you know what you're working with, you can do something about it. You must acknowledge that there's a problem before you can make it better.

No more band aids.


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