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.
I just returned from a 9PM run and managed to dodge the rain. I like running at night because it's a different experience. You get to be the crazy person because no one else is out running. People shout different kinds of things at you (today's was: "You can't run from Jesus!"). It seems like you are running faster than you actually are.
As I finished up, I could already feel the dopamine kicking in. I was far more optimistic and confident than any other part of the day. It made we wonder which is the real me. Is it the doubter, letting fear take control? Or the one crying, "Tha's nonsense, you're doing great and can achieve anything."
The cynic in me says post-exercise Kiran is delusional, but even if that's true I can't let myself believe that. It's far better to believe that the real me is the one who has just run five miles and is brimming with excitement for what's to come.
The holiday season is a great time to kick it with friends and family, but it's terrible how stressful it can become. I'm even stressing out over other people's stress! Anyways, I went in search of stress management strategies and found this post on Psychology Today. It's already making me chill out and if you're stressed, hopefully it will do the same for you. Remember, your health is a top priority. Without it, you can't do much.
I just had a wonderful, genuine conversation with a homeless man walking down 24th Street. He had bright, long fiery hair and a bushy beard to match (yes, I'm sure he wasn't what everyone just calls a hipster). He engaged me by telling me he has the same pair of headphones I did and that he likes to call them the cloudhoppers because of their size.
"Everyone wore that style in the 80s," he remembered. He went on to talk about how everyone has tiny eardbuds now and how he once lent some of those to a friend who ended up getting the rubber covering lodged in her ear and surgically removed. "Well, not surgically, but she had to go to the doctor and have them tweezed out," he corrected himself. "They asked me if I wanted the piece back and I said yeah, those are my earbuds!" I could only laugh.
I reached my destination and we parted, wishing each other the best possible rest of the day. If I'm honest, I was thinking about what random people thought of me talking to this guy. I hate myself for thinking that. It reminded me to make the effort to be open. So often we assume the worst about a stranger. They want something from me, they want to hurt me or are just a waste of time. But why must all our interactions be worth our time (whatever that means)? Why does everything need to be productive?
He didn't once ask me for anything and I suppose I let the conversation unfold because maybe he needed to talk to another human being. I just can't help but feel that, fuck dude, maybe I needed that conversation as much as he did.