Managing Double/Triple/Quadruple Lives
I still can’t believe how crazy the past year has been. Last summer I had just finished up my second full-length album [PRIME], and was anxiously preparing for my first performance that required air-travel. This summer I dropped a Kickstarter-funded Metroid EP, shot the video for the first single off said EP, flew to Seattle and Orlando for some very fun performances, headlined the hip-hop stage at my local cultural festival, landed a write-up in an airline magazine, and a lot of other things I’ll probably remember after this gets published. Oh yeah – last week I also received my Master’s degree after passing a rather intense written and oral exam in my PhD program. Like I said, it’s been a crazy year.
For the past three years I have been chipping away at a PhD at Cornell University, while pursuing a career as a nerd rapper and producer, and more recently serving as an Assistant Residence Hall Director on campus and an Assistant Manager at the graduate student center. People often ask me how I manage to hold it all together – to which I respond that I don’t really. Every now and then there’s peace and I’m able to focus on one aspect of the chaos but more often each strand overlays the other so that I feel like I’m being crushed by their collective weight. The reality is that I spend a fair amount of time panicking and questioning every decision I make.
While I think we can all agree that prolonged stress and anxiety are definitely not healthy, I’ve also come to accept that anybody who wants to be exceptional in multiple areas is going to deal with a lot of worry sometimes. Still, I do think it is possible to minimize the general stress that accompanies ambition. One doesn’t have to develop broad sweeping goals that resemble those dreaded unattainable new years resolutions we often make. Instead I suspect that it’s probably better to think about micro changes that can be implemented to temper the daily craziness.
For me this has meant something as seemingly trivial as being more intentional about my social media usage. When I first started rapping seriously, I did what any good artist in the Internet age would do – I created a WordPress website, and booted up the necessary social media pages to reflect my Sammus persona. At that time I wasn’t doing too much, so I updated my social media pages as needed. When things happened (blogs posted my songs, I had shows coming up, etc) I posted about them. And when nothing was going on, I didn’t feel the need to post anything. However as time passed and I met with some successes, I felt compelled to post more and more, even if more and more wasn’t necessarily happening or it was becoming increasingly complicated to manage my various pages alongside my other responsibilities. By the time I had developed a small fan base, I had expanded to every social media platform that I knew – now I had to manage a Facebook account, Twitter, Soundcloud, Reverbnation, Tumblr, Youtube and of course, my website.
Prior to this year I remained committed to posting regularly. However after a series of unfortunate events around the beginning of 2014, I found myself avoiding all social media and focusing on myself. I didn’t post anything for a while – and I realized that taking a break was okay. What I had to remember was that I started out making music because I thought it was a fun thing to do. I also had to remember that presumably the people who like me are still going to like me and my music even if (because??) I’m not in their faces every second of the day talking about how awesome I think my music is. Obviously pursuing music professionally means that I will have to deal with many not-so-fun aspects of music like marketing and promoting my work ad nauseum (although my manager handles a fair amount of that) but there is something to be said for taking a step back to reassess how all of that work ties in to the passion:obligation ratio every now and again.
I would be lying if I said that I am not totally exhausted at the end of most days, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!