I'm not a musician myself but I can relate to the desire to be validated by the existing music industry. I spent a third of my life working with indie record labels and imagine there must be some similarities between the desire to land a job at one of these labels and being signed to them as an artist – the feeling of finally being accepted and welcomed by people you'd always looked up to and respected.
For a very long time my identity and self worth was completely tied to where I worked. When I was introduced to new people by friends, it was almost always prefaced by mentioning where I worked. I spent most of my time outside of work going to shows with people I worked with, talking about work. I had nothing else. I still struggle with the feeling like a loser for never really fitting into these circles and wanting to be liked, even by people I do not respect.
Anyway. Here is how clout casing, not eating meat, prescription medicine and people pleasing almost destroyed my life.
In 2012 I successfully landed my dream job, as it were. After interning a couple summers, I managed to finagle my way into a part time mailorder job at Merge Records. I grew up in the suburbs outside of Durham, North Carolina and Merge and their roster was iconic. As long as I could remember I wanted to work there, I was completely obsessed with working in indie music. I didn't care doing what — I honestly would have taken a job as a janitor and I'm not kidding.
Soon after I started the job I moved into a cute little bungalow house biking distance from the office, across from Duke University with my boyfriend at the time. I was walking distance from the Duke Coffee House, where I'd spent many a nights in high-school mesmerized by how cool the older kids were. I felt like I was dreaming, I was so happy. I had finally become accepted by the cool older kids, as it were, that I had long aspired to be. I had crippling imposter syndrome, low self esteem and a constant fear of being ousted socially or fired.
In 2013 I stumbled upon an alarming and hysterical news article. This one was supposedly written by a NASA scientist, and outlined the end of the world over the course of the next 15 years. I'd never read anything like this before, and only vaguely remember what it was about exactly but the gist of it stuck with me: something about climate change increasing the growing economic gap and destroying society forever. Yikes.
I suddenly became obsessed with the end of the world and my own mortality. It was all I could think about. I had no interest in researching what I was scared of to try to feel better – for fear of reading more scary doom stuff. I believe this same phenomenon happened to a lot of people in 2020 – a fear induced lack of curiosity — but I digress.
It was so completely tragic and unfair. How could it be that the time that I'm alive is the exact time the world is going to end? I thought about it constantly. I only had 15 years left. Everything was now in relation to how much time until shit hit the fan. I needed to get it together. I needed to buy a house. I needed to get married. Do I need to have children? I guess not. If the world is going to end probably more trouble than it's worth.
An overwhelming sadness followed me around constantly in my late 20s and early 30s. Everything had a little raincloud over it because I would never fail to remember, 'the world is ending in 15 years though...'
I was eventually able to put this somewhat in the back of my mind. I met a nice guy ™ to marry, I got promoted, I bought a house and got a puppy. I stopped eating meat because it "wasn't sustainable" and I had to do my part™ to slow down the seemingly inevitable demise of the planet. Around this time I started to feel really stressed out at work. I could feel it was my fault – I had trouble communicating when I felt overwhelmed or asking for help. At times I would feel light headed, like the room was spinning and I couldn't focus or problem solve. There was a history of mental illness in my family so I was concerned I might be bipolar. I went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder and prescribed Lexapro.
When I first started taking it, I missed nearly a week of work. Looking back at this it's absolutely unhinged that I didn't notice the correlation between starting this medicine and feeling ill and stop taking it immediately. It did not occur to me AT ALL for several years that this medicine either on its own or in combination with birth control was making me extremely sick.
The panic attacks did stop... and the "incurable bladder disease" started. I had terrible fatigue – worse than I'd ever had in my life. Some days I physically couldn't wake up there would be this fog that I couldn't escape. I also had pelvic pain that was repeatedly misdiagnosed as UTIs. After months of receiving no help from doctors, even after expensive tests and scans, or being told nothing was wrong, I was so relieved to finally be diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis. I spent thousands of dollars to get this diagnosis.
What was the proposed treatment? It was flushing my bladder with Heparin via a catheter several times a month, and taking another prescription pill 3 times a day. This pill would eventually cause stomach problems, so I would have to later add a prescription antacid. Most importantly, I was told by multiple doctors if I stopped taking Lexapro or birth control that my symptoms would worsen. This absurd regimen kind of worked for a couple years.
After hitting a bit of a dead end at work, I started looking for work outside of North Carolina which led me to New York. As with many small labels, it can be a difficult place for career development since there's so much competition and extremely small staff. I never wanted to move to the big city, it seemed stressful and scary. I didn't think I was thick skinned enough to be there —I was timid and loved to cry.
A dumb ass bitch through and through, I did fully buy into the glamour that was portrayed in shows like GIRLS and Sex and the City. I moved to New York in 2017, to work at Domino Recording Co. I'd say this was around the tale end of the era of being able to do things like pass out drunk on the train without anything really bad happening. By the time I left NYC in 2021, the situation had accelerated way past anything that most reasonable people would find to be pleasant.
At any rate, I couldn't believe I was hired to work at a record label in the big city. Did I make enough money to move to New York? No – definitely not. Were my parents wealthy and bank rolling me? No, no. Not that either. I was convinced if I wanted to keep working in music it was a necessary evil to leave NC and that I was going to make it work. At the time this was probably a true assumption, it was a great experience career wise – but it is a very hard place to live if you are not wealthy.
The very first friend I made in New York told me about her difficulties with Interstitial Cystitis. What are the odds? Her doctor told her to stop taking birth control and that made all the symptoms go away.
So. I stopped taking birth control and all of these symptoms go away (lol). The fatigue – gone. The mysterious pelvic pain – gone. Feeling better!
After a couple years at this job I became frustrated that my salary was lower than some arbitrary amount defined by the city as a minimum wage. At this time many of my peers in the industry were receiving raises to compensate for this discrepancy. While I completely disagree that the State should set or enforce salary minimums, it was difficult not to take it personally. I wasn't making enough to cover the ridiculous, yet completely unnecessary, medical debt I had racked up so I shifted my focus on making as much money as I could.
I was able to land a new job that paid significantly more. It wasn't nearly as hip or laid back, but I thought being able to afford not living in a closet might improve my quality of life. This was somehow an incorrect assessment, actually. I quickly realized there definitely is substantial value to a job you don't dread, that you enjoy going to daily. During this transition to a new and stressful job, I made the dumbest and also best decision of my life — to quit Lexapro cold turkey.
With no sort of injury or event, I was suddenly unable to sit at a computer, or sit up at all. I had a terrible pain down my spine, neck and right arm. This was Fall of 2019 and I still have not fully resolved this issue. I am not entirely sure what the issue is all I can figure is that the Lexapro was masking the pain of an area I was holding stress in my body.
I tried everything. Steroid shots, rest, muscle relaxers, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, chiropractor but nothing helped despite being desperate to figure out a way to work. I had to go on unpaid medical leave for a few months, which fucking sucked. I was finally well enough to return to work January of 2020.
A dear friend came to visit in March of 2020, and we went to see Destroyer at Brooklyn Steel. I cried a little. I felt so grateful to be seeing people playing music again — I was so happy to be standing in that crowd. I thought about how sad I had been stuck in my room for months, unable to see live music or go out with friends and how I hoped that would never happen again.
I honestly feel extremely blessed for the awful medical experiences I had, as it helped me learn the importance of personal responsibility for my own well being at a (relatively) young age and before irreversible damage could be caused.
We can't outsource control of our art, food, body or happiness to others and I no longer want to. There's a Pedro the Lion song with the lyrics "I trust T. William Walsh and I'm not afraid to die" and I would listen to it and think how not being afraid to die sounds really nice. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm a good bit less scared of being alive, so that seems promising.
Perhaps it's being older or these experiences, but I've come to realize how awful and useless it is to judge people by what art they like or what music they listen to – if I surround myself with people with shared values – the rest will follow, and I'm incredibly thankful for the people I've met since starting this blog. I plan to be more active on here again soon and shift the focus to less ranting and more positivity in 2024. I'm working on finishing a couple tutorials and plan to do more album reviews – once I can figure out how to get the baby to take naps.