Trying

I've been thinking a lot lately about value, and self-worth, and how we measure that for ourselves. Mostly because I have (by choice) been living without a permanent address since August last year, something that has been both liberating and subtly exhausting. It used to be a major transition to go on tour, a letting go of all the comforts of home and a return to digging through my suitcase like an archeologist in search of some artifact, in my case a matching sock. A bizarre game for me on tour used to be to unintentionally wake up in the middle of the night and try to figure out where I was. The first question was usually, "house or hotel", and then I would kind of narrow it down from there. That hasn't happened for a while, and I think my body and psyche have just gotten used to a state of groundlessness, where they just accept that where I am is where I am. It's funny how much your world changes when you don't have a point that it revolves around. 

The reason that I have been thinking about value is that I feel like the choice to live this way is taking a toll on me, in that when I look in the mirror I think I look a lot more tired than I used to. I see more lines on my face and a weariness that doesn't go away just from sleeping. As a practicing hypochondriac, I also can't fully rule out the idea that I have some undiagnosed terminal illness that is eating me from the inside out. These are the places I go, I can't help it. I think I have always placed a lot of value on looking younger than I am and being relatively attractive, and I feel like I can't count on either of those things the way I used to. What's terrible is the way it can steal joy from any situation - I find myself avoiding daylight and brightly lit spaces, and when I'm in them I can't help the feeling of pervasive self-consciousness that rises up in me like a destructive blush. 

So what is it that makes us valuable? I know a lot of people would say that we just inherently have value, or that our value comes from how we contribute or what we do for others. In my mind those are great concepts, but it's really hard to connect in meaningful way with the idea that we are loved simply for being. And what is love, anyway? I wonder. Is it just affection, is it the actions we take, or is it simply a feeling that if a person wasn’t alive that our world would be somehow diminished? Sometimes as a performer it’s hard to see the quantifiable worth in what I do - I know that it very likely does some good, helps people and adds meaning to the world. But the career trajectory of an independent singer/songwriter is fraught with ups and downs, and to base your worth on the quality of your last performance or your proximity to the elusive specter of success is to resign yourself to an existence where you have no center.

As a performer I have developed an almost pathological instinct to try to win over people. Doing a show is like flying a plane, where you’re constantly making small adjustments to stay on course; you develop a kind of 6th sense about stages and rooms and people, where the show is going, where it needs to go, and where you would like it to go. Many times I don’t feel like I have a lot of say in all that - all I can really do is show up with what I have to offer, and hope that people are receptive. Mostly they are, but when they’re not it can hurt deeply in the way that having the best of you rejected hurts.

In spite of all of this, I still feel this impossibly strong sense that this is what I was meant to do, and I have always felt that since I was old enough to wrap my fingers around the neck of a guitar. For better or worse, I do not have and have never had a plan B - the only plan I have ever had is to keep trying, and trying, and trying, and hope that when I look back that I came close to doing the right things. That I stayed true to a dream, that I steered my heart in the right direction when I could, and that I never gave up on that small but discernible voice inside stubbornly repeating it’s simple, persistent mantra: Don’t. Give. Up. Yet.

2 comments

  • mayagwen
    mayagwen
    I admire your spirit Namoli! I am nomadic about half my year and I am not always sure how I can continue to the next show, the return home is what gives me strength. Maybe sharing your music is a home that exits in many places, and always with you. Try on, Maya

    I admire your spirit Namoli! I am nomadic about half my year and I am not always sure how I can continue to the next show, the return home is what gives me strength. Maybe sharing your music is a home that exits in many places, and always with you.
    Try on, Maya

  • JD
    JD
    For what it's worth, your music has been an inspiration for me through the ups and downs of the last few years since leaving home. Black Crow was my CD of choice my senior year of high school and my first year of college. It got me through the trials and triumphs of beginning my journey away from home, coming to grips with my gender identity, and those songs held my hand through my struggle with faith. Since then I've gone out of my way to listen to as much of your music as possible and I hope you know that you are a beautiful human being. Don't ever give up, because people like me need you. I hope I'll get to see you in concert or bump into you in person someday. Until then, know your music has changed lives. And as someone else who lives a nomadic lifestyle I can affirm that it does take a lot out of you. I got into the habit of writing myself notes to remind me where I'm at when I wake up.

    For what it's worth, your music has been an inspiration for me through the ups and downs of the last few years since leaving home. Black Crow was my CD of choice my senior year of high school and my first year of college. It got me through the trials and triumphs of beginning my journey away from home, coming to grips with my gender identity, and those songs held my hand through my struggle with faith.

    Since then I've gone out of my way to listen to as much of your music as possible and I hope you know that you are a beautiful human being. Don't ever give up, because people like me need you. I hope I'll get to see you in concert or bump into you in person someday. Until then, know your music has changed lives.

    And as someone else who lives a nomadic lifestyle I can affirm that it does take a lot out of you. I got into the habit of writing myself notes to remind me where I'm at when I wake up.

Add comment