This year has been the most unexpected year.
I knew something was going to be different about this year – I could feel it in the way my family gathered for the holidays as if this would be the last time in a long time. Staying up until 2 or 3am each night exchanging dreams and music with my cousins, aunts and uncles. Our greatest wish for each other in 2020 simply being having good health, and nothing more.
My grandmother on my mom’s side wasn’t doing well. For several months, she had been struggling with her health and her eyesight, going more blind each day and becoming more frail. An important surgery she needed wasn’t available, and she was put on a waiting list. Since October 2019, my family sat at the edge of our seats anticipating her health. She finally got her surgery scheduled for the 26th of December.
This last Christmas was a blend of joy and anxiety. For the first time in over 10 years, we got my mom’s entire side of the family to come home for the holidays. My grandma got to see all 4 of her kids and all of her grandchildren together.
It was brief. We all knew she would go into surgery the next day, and I could feel the nerves, the unspoken fears and anxieties. I struggled to be happy during this time. At her age, this was a high risk surgery, and doctors feared infection. My grandma didn’t show any fear though, and didn’t appear nervous. She expected to be home in time for the new year.
But as anticipated, the surgery wound got infected, and her oxygen levels began to drop more and more. She didn’t come home for New Years. My family still gathered, but we took shifts at the hospital and had her call in from the hospital for the countdown. My family has a tradition of voicing our goals and well wishes at this time. Everyone wished for health.
I had a hard time keeping it together. I was so invested in my mom’s side of the family, I don’t think I gave my dad’s side a fair shot. I went to a dinner with them, and just burst out crying before I could even order anything and wound up just going home. I felt guilty. How could I be celebrating anything with my grandma in the hospital?
Each day we held our breath. I kept being told that she was getting better, but she wasn’t coming home. New Years at the hospital extended in two more weeks into January in the hospital. I took off a week at work to stay a little longer, but I didn’t get to see her come home. I would fly back to Chicago, leaving my mom in Mexico to wait for my grandma to be released.
What does any of this have to do with music, or 2020 in general?
This experience has definitely influenced my approach to life and music immensely. This was December/January of 2019, and I had just released my first album, Love Notes in December. Though I had cause to celebrate, I felt like my album release got buried with everything else happening (and I have no angst or ill feelings around that at all). It was lucky really, that my album was out. My mom told me that when I was gone, she would play my music to my grandma so she would fall asleep.
My family was curious about my album and wondered about what came next for me. And I really wanted to be optimistic about the future. I wanted to shake the past life I had and forge a new one – a creative life where I could be living creatively. I kept saying 2020 was the year.
I wanted to move to New York this year. I wanted to make better music, and start writing a musical. And my cousins joked with me, reserving their vacay time in advance to visit me in NYC when I was settled. Dreaming about this was a kind distraction.
What this all taught me was that life is really brief, and that you must have your health in order to live this short time to the fullest. But that you must also have great people, great love, great community.
I came home a little shaken and unsure of what was next. I started saving money to move once the school year was done and my tutoring responsibilities relieved. But I felt lost. The music I was writing was incomplete. I didn’t feel like I was growing.
Then two things happened almost simultaneously. I decided to join a music mentorship to invest in my career as a singer songwriter and people were finally taking corona seriously and we got put into a lockdown.
I couldn’t help but think about the holidays when the lockdown started. I was deeply upset about people’s responses around mask wearing and their careless attitudes, wanting to continue to live life as if there wasn’t any danger. Deeply confused that health was being treated as a political issue, baffled that people even believed that covid was an elaborate hoax. Thankfully, my grandma did heal and did come home, but there is no doubt in my mind that if covid got to her, that would be it.
But similarly to the holidays, music was on my side. Jamming out on my uke with my uncle in Mexico is one of my favorite memories from last year’s stress, and my mind goes to that when I start to worry about my grandma. I have wondered if I’ll have any more moments like that.
This time around, I had this new mentorship. As time passed, I disconnected with the outside world and my tutoring job as I made room for this new world of music, poured my heart into this community of invested musicians. I learned what production was, started writing better music, learned the rules of the sync industry, and best of all, got a whole new family of musical friends I now work with and hang out with every day.
And the lessons I learned in the past holidays prove themselves over and over. Life is brief, and you must have great health, great people, great love, great community.
Perhaps this mentality is truly what pushed me to quit my day job in July and to really try to make a life out of creativity, out of music.
I’ve learned that in addition to health, people, love, and community – you must also trust your self and believe that you can make the best decisions for yourself.
I have since done a lot of different things. I have started my own podcast called The Anthem Project, which is a result of my custom anthem writing business. I have relaunched my Patreon, and begun to do monthly zoom concerts. I have collaborated with other artists, released some music and gotten rep deals with a couple of different music libraries. And just when I think I can’t do anything more, when I think I’ve run out of ideas, the energy to keep going, to keep trying surges from my community of friends. As a result, I am also now on twitch and tiktok (though I’m not yet active (tehe!)).
Is this what living on the edge is like? Am I living like the characters in films that just act on a whim, perhaps carelessly? Maybe. I have many unanswered questions, much student loan debt, and a hunger and thirst to live life to the fullest.
As an a singer songwriter, naturally I want to document this period in time. I have begun working on my next album – In This Moment. I am hoping for a 2021 release, hopefully within the first quarter. But who knows.
Perhaps 2021 will also be amazingly complicated.