Today marks day 18 of running everyday. I chose to go about it by running just one mile at first. That one mile is still kind of a pain in the ass, but I’m getting it more easily and slowly adding more distance to it.
My next goal is to run for 15 minutes solid (I have read, though, that it takes approximately 40 minutes of cardio to really get the high dose of chemicals needed to reach superpower levels of optimism, joy, and the accompanying productivity, etc. but HEY it’s a start).
So how do I feel? Well, it seems that my relationship with damn-near everything in my life has a lot to do with my health. People say that kind of shit all the time, but I’m starting to really live the truth in it.
In particular, I am becoming better able to distinguish the act of playing the saxophone from the traumas I have associated with it and accept it as a valuable gift that I have cultivated for myself. It’s the hard-earned fruit of an 18-year practice of a craft that makes me sound magical to anybody who cares to listen and I am starting to feel a great sense of accomplishment surrounding it.
I mean, if you handed a random person a saxophone and said, “Hey bro, play me a song,” they wouldn’t know what to do—they probably wouldn’t even be able to figure out how to assemble it!
So there’s that.
I’ve also started playing jazz standards again and not just limiting myself jazzy pop covers (though I still do the pop covers ‘cause they’re really fun, make me money, and seriously get jazz style through to average listeners).
The other day I was putting my horn together on the platform, getting ready to hop on a train when there was an announcement that the trains were being stalled/delayed af.
While I sat there, I observed a discussion between two forces in my mind. One said, “Screw this let’s just go home,” and the other one said, “Hey man, what can we do to make the most of this time while the train is stalled? You may as well try playing something, a warm-up or something.”
I fortunately listened to the latter and started playing. I found myself toying around with a concert D-flat Maj7 arpeggio. I thought, “What is that? It’s so familiar,” and then I realized: “ISFAHAN! Remember when you used to play that tune? Let’s try it. “
Now, I had forgotten some of the chords, but could remember the melody and I just started picking it out by ear as I sat on my amp waiting. I was like, “whoa that song is cool!” Then I pulled up the ol’ iReal chord sheet and gave it a look-see.
The chords aren’t ones that I play over on the pop tunes, but I could hear how they resolve and relate once I started outlining them and remembered how to play over them. Though some of my chops on the more extended chords were rusty, it came flooding back to me pretty swiftly. And so there I was, playing “Isfahan” like it ain’t no thing, and then some of the people standing around gave me money.
I was like, “I’ll be damned: this harmonically advanced Strayhorn tune just made me $3 from some random strangers.”
So, in the time that I’ve started getting my physical—cardiovascular in particular—health together, I’m starting to really dig jazz standards, and I’ve designated one hour of jazz standard playing ahead of my days of contemporary pop-tune playing. It’s helping me loosen up in my sax playing and, while it doesn’t bring as much money from the public audience, it is very fulfilling on a personal level, almost like a martial art or something.
I’m also feeling like I don’t want a job anymore. I really think I would be a terrible employee since I am so free-spirited, and besides, I’d rather BE a boss rather than answer to one. While playing on the trains is cool and all, it isn’t really an asset; it’s a job where I have to show up and work long and hard if I want to make money.
I have my sights set on more entrepreneurial things. In particular, I’d like to once again be creating instructional videos and materials and build some sort of online business around my musical nerdiness.
They say numbers don’t lie, and my YouTube sax lessons put up bigger numbers than anything else I’ve ever created so it makes sense to me to create a business around teaching music online, particularly around my fetishy interest in Charlie Parker’s articulation and style.
If I had an online course on it, I could offer it for $100 bucks or something and see if I get any takers, and use my YouTube channel as a way to give out samples of what people may get from the course. I get new subscribers everyday as it is, and I also usually collect an email address or two from people downloading my transcriptions online so I already have a small pool of people who have expressed interest in what I have to offer.
Offering an online course would beat the hell out of working in an office for a paycheck, I would still be exercising the creative skills that I desire in a job (playing music, writing, design, video editing, marketing, advertising), and I wouldn’t have some boss micromanaging me or telling me I’m doing it wrong or whatever.
So it seems, as long as I take care of my physical health, my mental health will remain stable and my outlook largely positive. I’m not sure why it’s taken me 30 years to figure this shit out, but hey, better late than never am I right?
By the way, I’m only one song away from meeting my goal of 13 songs for a singer-songwriter album. I have been working on it a little bit every night before bed and I’m liking how it’s coming together. I’ve also found that reviewing my lyrics in my head while I run is a great way to take my mind off of all my body’s bitching. More on that and the Pretty Mutant (@pmutantmusic) project later.
I’m feeling good about stuff. I’m feeling awesome. See ya later.
At breakfast the other morning with a few friends, I told them I was thinking about finding work in marketing and working on a resumé.
I told them about how lately I am having a really hard time feeling like playing the saxophone for a living and how it seems like it would be easier if I had some other source of income.
One friend, who I will refer to as Libra, said, “Are you sure it’s not just your mindset?” She’s a Libra so I was like psssh of course you’d say some shit like that. Then she goes, (I’m paraphrasing) “If it’s your mind that is causing you to feel this way, it won’t matter what line of work you’re in; a new job will not magically solve your problems. And, knowing you Jake, you’d hate answering to a boss. It would probably just turn out like the last job you worked except even worse.”
And, hit kind of hard by this comment and the truth in it, I had a cup of coffee that afternoon to cope (my first cup in a few days; I’m trying to quit because I don’t want to depend on drugs to find my happy). I felt a little better. I was able to go on with my day and put in some serious playing time on the saxophone and made some money, had fun, and got quite a few Instagram followers.
I thought, “Goddamn, maybe I should just drink coffee everyday and forget about being free of all chemical influences.”
Then I thought, “Well, my family does have a ton of mental illness in it: my mother, my brother, my cousins, depression, anxiety, bipolar, a story about a distant aunt shooting herself in the head with a shotgun... and a lot of them are on some combination of psychiatric medication, if not all the time then periodically.”
I thought, “Is it time to see a psychiatrist and get some antidepressants for myself?”
But my whole thing is I DON’T WANT TO BE DEPENDENT ON DRUGS, and I think back to a point when my mother was unable to get the drugs she needed and crashed her car, lost her job, lost her mind, lost her memory, almost burned the house down, and a bunch of other horrors. What if I come to depend on drugs and then for some reason I can’t get them? That would be fucked.
I mentioned this family-mental-illness situation to my Libra friend and she said she had tried antidepressants before and that her family also has a pretty deep history of mental illness. She told me that for her, the only thing that really works that isn’t drugs is regular exercise—like 30+ minutes of cardio every day—and meditation.
Now… I think about my life and times when I’m cool with everything and times that I’m not, and times that I’m cool with everything almost always either involved a lot of self-medicating (mostly with some combination of weed, alcohol, caffeine, or Adderall) OR a lot of physical exercise. Sometimes both, but usually I haven’t felt much need for drugs when I was really running and hitting the weights.
Taking my friend’s experience into account, it would probably be best if I worked out everyday if I want to make the kind of progress that I believe deep within me I am capable of. This feels a little daunting, but I actually love lifting weights (I especially love the tedium of methodically noting what I do, how many reps, how much time it takes, etc.) and running. I also love eating all the food that I get/have to eat when I am training and pretty much only getting sexier because of it.
I also think about the heavy hitters in this reality and how—almost without exception, whether they are entrepreneurs, athletes, actors, writers, thinkers, performers—all the badass motherfuckers at the top of the game are working out. I want to be like them. I honestly want $120,000,000. That’s like superpower goals. But how am I gonna get superpower goals if I’m depressed?
The answer is: I WON’T BE ABLE TO. But, if I can keep from being depressed by getting shredded as fuck, then I’m down to try. Thank you Libra for being my friend and helping me see something I was pretty much unaware of.