The Wild Wild West
I promised myself this would not be a super long blog post but honestly, I might just have to 'go in' this month because I skipped June and this is like my monthly diary lol. Needless to say I've had a certain topic on my mind for a while, but I think as fate would have it, now is the better time for me to share my thoughts. The topic which I've had in mind is Comparison. I'm sure you've heard it said that we live in a society that is fueled by comparison more today than ever in history. With social media, we have a view of each other's lives that may be true or false. Nonetheless, Facebook and Instagram have introduced a new scale to measure our own lives by. We use pictures to prove our social status and see likes and views as a major reflection of our popularity and worth. It's a catch 22 because for some of us, social media really makes a difference to our hustle. For example as a singer, it's important for me to be seen as a singer, doing singer things in singer places and I'm very proud of some of my posts. I've also gotten work through Social Media, based on said posts. But I've definitely fallen into the trap of comparison as well...and it's dangerous because one loses sight of what's real! So how do we escape the trap. Part of me feels like it's human nature to want what my neighbor has, especially if they share the same goals as I do. But the saying goes "the grass is always greener on the other side" not because that grass actually is greener, but because it appears greener from far away. Many times when we get a closer look we realize the grass back on our side was actually not half bad or maybe even just as green.
When I travelled two weeks out of June to the West Coast, namely Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I got a glimpse of where the grass is supposedly greener, at least for artists and entertainers. The first trip was for business as I was contracted for a gig in Laguna Beach and the second trip, Las Vegas, was for pleasure, as it was my sister's birthday. Both my travels had their share of lessons, the biggest of which was "Be thankful for where you are now." After performing in Laguna Beach, I stayed the weekend in Los Angeles with my good friend, who is also a singer. That weekend I hoped to get a feel for the city and maybe even make a few connections. The opportunities were not scarce especially with the BET Awards taking place that Sunday. Although I was flying out Sunday night, there would be several events leading up to the nationally televised awards show; events where my friend and I could see and maybe even meet celebrities and industry professionals. I became acquainted with other artists in my friend's circle and learned first hand about what it would be like if I moved out to California to pursue my dreams. I could feel the "five degrees of separation" as I listened to their stories of not just celebrity sightings, but meets and greets and collaboration opportunities with some of my generation's revered artists. I myself walked past Rick Ross twice in the same day and sat just yards away from one of my favorite singers, Luke James as he was interviewed by long time BET host, Tigga (who still looked exactly like he did when I used to watch 106th and Park as a teenager). There was no doubt that LA had its own magic, so why wasn't I lured by it, not even a little bit.
Maybe it was Luke James' interview that struck a certain chord with me. In Luke's candid response to Tigga's questions about his life as an artist, he talked about moving to LA when he was fresh out of high school, with dreams of being an "overnight success like Usher". He spoke openly about how it didn't quite work out that way and that a few years ago, he even quit music out of frustration with the industry. Hearing this came as a moment of enlightenment for me. This was the voice of a star in my eyes, a triple threat who by that time, had already worked with legends: from dancing and opening for artists like Beyonce to writing originals songs with producers like Salaam Remi. But somehow, I understood exactly what he was dealing with. Even though to me, he had made it, he decided to quit because in his mind, he didn't have the breakthrough he wanted yet. Even with a resume like his, he was still figuring out where he stood in the music industry. I wish I could talk to him after, first to ask him if he had straight up lost his mind and then to ask him if he knew how much of an inspiration he was to artists like me. But there was no Q&A or Meet & Greet session at the end so I just kept that memory in my pocket until now. Today, Luke James is back to making music and nominated for two Grammy awards. But it doesn't take being on his level to understand that emotion, that frustration that made him question everything once...I know that feeling. In that sense, his grass suddenly didn't seem so much greener than mine. Not because my situation was identical, but because the feeling was.. Knowing I could be where he was, have what he had and experience the same frustration, gave me a new perspective on my life as an artist. As cliche as it sounds, I knew I had to stop waiting to enjoy a destination and start enjoying the journey.
The man-made paradise that is Las Vegas was next on my journey as I followed up the trip to LA with four nights in the city of lights. I can't lie, I had a lot of fun out there and seeing the Grand Canyon with my family was unforgettable. But once again, the glitz, the glam, bright lights and show biz on every corner didn't call to me in the way I thought it would. Don't get me wrong, I would love to have a residency in Las Vegas someday like Celine Dion or Elton John. In fact, as we walked out of one of the smaller shows at a Broadway Style theater, my mother asked me if I would move to Vegas. As amazing as the production and cast were, I just didn't get the feeling it was what I should be doing at this moment in my life. I didn't get the notion that being there now would bring me closer to my dream of writing songs the world could sing along to. Instead, I felt the opposite. I could appreciate everything about Las Vegas and Los Angeles in a way that affirmed the decisions I had been making and the strides I had been taking back home. Those cities were magical in their own right but I had already started laying the groundwork under my feet in Florida. Now that I was standing on the other side, I could look back and see just how green my grass was. I felt a new wave of gratitude for my local residencies, my band, the new venues we'd been playing at, the new music we wanted to make together, musicians I met this year, connections I'd been making with other artists and the capital I'd been able to save to start investing in my original sound. Without being complacent, I felt in my gut that I was doing what I was supposed to do, where I was supposed to do it. There was still a ways to go but I had been creating my own lane and I was okay with staying in it until I felt called to do something else, somewhere else.
I've always been a firm believer in the idea of a calling and that what's for you is for you. As I get more in touch with who I am, it gets easier to determine what's in alignment with my purpose. It gets easier to block out the noise of comparison and focus and expand on what I already have. The Wild Wild West has been my reassurance of the fact that I'm where I need to be, not because it's East Coast vs West Coast or Florida vs LA or Vegas, but just because it's where I am in sync with who I am today.