I’m appreciative of my health. I know it’s something that can change overnight or with a freak accident, but I’ve been extremely lucky so far.
I can run 10 miles and it’s no big whoop. Hiking is rarely strenuous and my body allows me to experience just how amazing nature is. It’s not uncommon that I’ll walk 2 miles to go do something instead of being lazy and summoning a car.
To be fair, I’ve developed habits that help me maintain this privilege. I make it a point to be active and I’m not afraid to get a little sweaty or have my hair looking less than perfect. I don’t eat complete trash all the time and I value sleep that helps me recover instead of following the ill-fated advice of “sleeping when I’m dead.”
Still, living in a big city you see people in wheelchairs, people with missing limbs and elderly that can no longer even stand safely on a city bus. I’ve got to be thankful for what I have now because it may not always last, but at the same time remember that much of it is still very much under my control.
I want to start building a habit of appreciation for what I have in life. It’s a miracle that any of us even exist. Think about it. There’s this planet that is somehow habitable to life in a universe that is mostly empty space, amongst what may very well be an infinite number of universes. Humans had to evolve to a point where they didn’t just get killed by other animals. One of millions of sperm had to beat out the rest to reach one of a finite number of eggs. Many things could have gone wrong after that. There are far more than twelve things I’m thankful for, but I hope that these entries will help me not take so many things for granted. Maybe it will help you treasure what you have too. Here goes.
I’m grateful for not having any food allergies. I’m sure there are foods I’m sensitive to, but nothing that’s going to instantly alter my health. I have friends that can die from eating a peanut and others that will break out into nasty hives from delicious citrus fruits. I don’t have to live with those fears. How amazing is it that I can experience all that the Earth feeds us without serious consequences? I know this may not last forever and that I may develop allergies over time that will change my life. But right now, I’m golden. It makes me feel incredibly lucky.
The Wonder Years is one of my favorite television series and probably the best show about growing up that has ever been made. For Easter on 2009, I threw a Wonder Years themed brunch at my house in San Diego which was just a good excuse to dress up, kick it in the beautiful Southern California sunshine and get a little (or a lot) tipsy.
I wanted to make it a creative project so we shot clips of ourselves to recreate the short version of the The Wonder Years intro. I procrastinated for over five years on this until last night when I opened up iMovie and couldn't stop. I don't do much video work, but somehow I'm damn proud of how this turned out. Because sometimes DONE IS BEAUTIFUL.
Even if you don’t always heed the advice, you are probably wise enough to know that the company you keep is critical to your dreams, aspirations and general mental health. You can’t have too much negativity in your life if you expect to thrive or be happy.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about this from a slightly different angle. I realized I cannot tolerate long bouts of negativity because I already have a fierce and menacing foe to battle - MYSELF.
Many of us are our own worst enemies. It’s the reason we don’t go after the things we say we dream about. That inner critic is a wily opponent. It will persuade us into thinking we aren’t good enough, that it isn’t worth the hassle or that failure will be the end of life as we know it. We can develop ways to manage the critic, even a plan to recover from moments of weakness, but it will always be there. It’s just part of the human condition and the reason we need people in our lives that remind us of who we really are.
What I do know is that this is enough to contend with. We certainly don’t need people that don’t support our ambitions or inspire us to become better people. Don't fear cutting the ties that you suspect may be holding you back because you don't want to come off as rude. If you're not sure, you can always experiment and reassess.
It all started as a project to keep myself occupied. I was insanely stressed about my mother’s cancer, and as it turned out, she had under six months to live. I needed as many distractions as possible.
I met Dave Brown the year before and started contributing to Holiday Matinee. I always enjoyed the music he was into. I mean, the guy had worked with Connor Oberst, Jimmy Eat World and Death Cab for Cutie in their early days. He appreciated old-school hip-hop the way I did. I figured we would be as good as anyone at making mixtapes. And if no one liked them, it didn’t matter. It was fucking fun and that was reason enough to make them. After our first tape received some mild praise from a couple friends, we kept it going. Every month I’d ask Dave to suggest some songs, add my own and put together the mixtape. We kept it simple. We weren’t the kind of guys that wrote lengthy dissertations on albums. There was just music that we dug and felt like deserved to be shared.
Our first mixtape in June 2009: If you don't see the tape, listen here.
It wasn’t very long before I became obsessed. I’d listen to the transitions between songs so they made sense. Was the next song too abrupt of a change or is that what I wanted? I’d cut the silence at the end of tracks if it was too long. I had to pick the perfect handwriting typeface that made our tapes look like something someone recorded off the radio. Eventually we started hosting these files on a CDN so it didn’t kill our bandwidth. I learned a ton about file permissions and had frustrating experiences getting files to play or making typos in the playlist file that would render the whole tape useless. Nonetheless, it was a routine I grew to love. If one other person enjoyed them, I considered it a success.
When we added more contributors we brought them in on the mixtapes. There was Hannah, editor of Indie Shuffle, who turned us on to some great tunes. Her brother David would submit obscure tracks that I really looked forward to. Catrina shared my love of Voxtrot, Gregory of dream pop, and I could always count on Monique to send me Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin songs. Meanwhile, we experimented with adding standup comedy and movie quotes on our tapes. Sometimes I spent way too much time agonizing over what tracks made the cut. It had to have a final seal of approval from one person, but I worried there could be music a lot of people loved that I just wasn’t that into. I’m sure some of the team got fed up of me using Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi every chance I got. Not Hall and Oates though, because let’s be honest, you can never have enough of that. After years of putting together these mixtapes, I could tell who submitted which track just from becoming so familiar with their tastes. I instinctively know if we’ve used a song before without even looking.
We were ushered into the era of online streaming services. It would have been much easier to only use tracks on Rdio or Spotify, but that wasn’t good enough. We wanted to be able to put rough tracks with alternate lyrics that Donald Glover sent us via Direct Message on Twitter or ridiculous Kenny Powers rants. We wanted to include songs that hadn’t officially been released and old TV theme songs. We were proud to have something uniquely us — something born out of getting to dive bars early to listen to openers, late nights listening to bands play in our friends’ living rooms, basements and attics. Even the girls we’ve dated and the music they turned us on to had an influence.
Along the journey, we’ve earned a little recogntion. Sometimes it’s a college freshman telling us they look forward to those posts every month and other times it’s a creative we really admire. Either way, kind comments can carry you when you think about taking a break. That’s the real reason it’s been 5 1/2 years and we haven’t missed a month. Maybe they are just mixtapes that a few people listen to, but somehow that really matters to me.
Holiday Matinee is a blog for creative inspiration. Listen to the full collection of mixtapes here.