Dec 29, 2010

Resolutions and personal revolutions.

Dear AAP-
Is there any non-lame way to make a new year's resolution? or maybe make a bunch of them. I know I have to change some things around in my life and it seems like the right time to do it. I just don't want to make a big deal out of things and then not follow through. So what do I do? - Changer.

Dear Changer-
Your answer is right in your question - Don't make a big deal out of it, at least not to other people.

Seriously. It is never a bad or lame idea to want to make positive changes in your life. The lameness happens when people make big, public pronouncements about the biiiig changes that are going to occur and then, when they have setbacks (which are always bound to happen) shame and fear set in and they give up, not just on the changes they were trying to make at that time but also on the very IDEA that change is possible... It then becomes just that much harder the next time to even imagine that you can change or improve yourself or your life... and then you become stuck right where you've always been with the added benefit of also being shamed and disappointed in yourself.

...and then eventually you die. So why not make the most of the days & years between now (right now) and that fateful, eventual day? Know what I mean?

And as I said first off - If you're really into making positive changes, then just make them for yourself. Why does anyone necessarily have to know? I'm not saying you need to keep secrets, of course you can and should reach out to anyone who you think might be able to help you along your road of improvement. I'm talking about all the 'other people' who don't have to know your business and who, quite honestly, probably don't much care if you change or not. Better to say less and let your actions and improvements speak for themselves.

There is an old saying: "Well done is better than well said." Keep that in mind as you figure out what do do with yourself and for yourself in the new year.

Good luck.

Dec 22, 2010

Season's Gratings

Dear As A Punk-
Like seemingly everyone else, I'm not looking forward to going home for the holidays. My family isn't a complete horror story like some of the people who write in, but at best it is a tense and not enjoyable experience for everyone, not just for me. It is like we all feel oddly obligated to show up and sit around being miserable together even though we truly do not understand each other. No one has the same views on anything from politics to lifestyles to what we want to watch on TV. After a couple days we all go to our separate corners of the state and just deal with each other for the rest of the year with awkward weekly phone calls and hastily scrawled birthday cards. If that is good enough for the rest of the year why do we have to go zombie march through this yearly yuletide ritual? Why do families do this to each other? Why can't we admit that if we weren't related by blood none of us would probably be friends with each other? Should I just bail out and maybe the rest of the family will be relieved and follow my example? - Blue Christmas Blows.

Dear BCB-
The bad news is, "everyone else" isn't dreading the Holidays. In fact most people DO have the sort of (enjoyable) Christmas you probably can't even imagine. It might suck to hear that, but it is the truth.

As you said in your letter though, your family situation isn't hellishly horrible, it just sounds like everyone is hellishly disappointed, your mom especially, I'm guessing. No one sets out to create an awkward and disconnected family. I'm sure your folks had the best of intentions, maybe they just didn't have the skills/ability to pull it off. Maybe there were disadvantages that were beyond your parents' control. See if you can figure that out, and then, find a way to forgive them. As much as we like to think familial love is something that is just supposed to 'happen' the truth is that those bonds are built slowly and over time in a million small and not-so-small ways. Sure, some families make it SEEM easy and automatic... They're the lucky few who managed to somehow find the same wavelength for each other and ride that wave together.

...but that isn't you. Or your family.

So what do you do? Sure you could bail out, but I've got news for you - Chances are the reaction you'll get isn't going to be "whew, what a relief, now we can all stop wasting time with this yearly masquerade.", it is more likely that everyone else will rally 'round your defection, since obviously you're all a bunch of people looking for something to bond over, and nothing does that quicker than a "family villain" ...and that would likely be you. If you can live with that then save the gas money, buy yourself a tree and stay home. If you can't shoulder the burden of family scapegoat for a family you would rather not have to deal with... well then it sounds to me like you DO want to deal with them, you're just as disappointed as everyone else.

But how do you fix any of this? It is unlikely that you're going to create a Christmas miracle for yourselves that "changes everything from now on" that only happens in (bad) movies. IF you still care, you have to figure out ways to make it just slightly slightly better, even if that tiny improvement takes a lot of effort... and then you have to find a way to be happy with the results of your efforts, even if they're barely measurable... Otherwise you'll just be adding a new layer of disappointment and resentment to what is already a very very large pile.

I guess I'm saying you have to find a way to acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and acceptance of your family... no matter what their limitations or failings might be. You said yourself, you didn't come from a nightmarish childhood and let me tell you - that alone can, and should be counted as a blessing. Know what I mean?

...and when you start your own family, remember this stuff.

Dec 15, 2010

Another victim of the Recession

Dear aap-
Best way to fire a band member who isn't working out? -Dirty Work.

Dear DW
Simple answer: Privately and Face-to-Face.

...of course there is (always) more to say, but the above answer should be part of everyone's basic human code of dignity. I know you kids all like to do everything by text these days but, trust me on this one.

There will be times when a private sit-down isn't possible or safe. Maybe there are drugs or, worse yet, lawyers involved? In that case do whatever the highest possible high road might be. Do it 'by-the-book' and be done with it.

Don't get me wrong "face-to-face" doesn't have to mean 'one-on-one' ... Stack the odds in your favor, Meet 'in private' but make sure the rest of the band is there too, and if a show of strength is required, maybe have a few roadies in the room too. Lay out your reasons for kicking him out; be specific, try to make it sound like helpful criticism and not like a bone-stabbing. Give him/her the chance to respond, but don't get into an argument. Make it clear that the topic is not debatable. Help load out their equipment and try to shake hands at parting.

No, I don't expect it to go that way, but it is something to shoot for.


Dec 8, 2010

A new zip code can be good for the soul.

Dear AAP-
I know 2010 has been a tough year for a lot of people. It was for me too. I lost a job. Quit another job. Broke up with my boyfriend. Quit my band and moved... twice.. The second time to a different city. So now I'm in my new city broke and lonely, 600 miles away from my old one and 1000+ miles away from my family, just in time for the holidays. I'm not sure if I did it on purpose and if so I don't know if I did it on purpose to them or to myself. This isn't the first time I've uprooted my life and I'm only 28. So how do I know if I'm being adventurous or just self-destructive? - Big Changes Only.

Dear BCO-
It is a fair question and a tricky one to figure out. It would have been helpful (to you) if you had started asking that question while you were in the middle of those changes... Quitting your band, breaking up with the boyfriend, quitting jobs etc... What order did these things happen? How close together were they? Did you burn every bridge in your life in a frenzied afternoon? or was each action done separately after sufficient thought etc? Basically I'm asking if you're a generally stable person or if you're prone to rash, ill-advised and unexamined actions...

The fact that you are still young makes me think that you're probably ok... You're still at a point in your life where there is room and time for further exploration and experimentation. You're obviously looking for something more or at least 'else' that you couldn't find in your old city and with your old band & boyfriend... so I say good for you. Push on, ever forward... but keep in mind that these choices you're making are your own and in the end, five or fifty years from now, you have to be able to look back and own them... No placing the blame for how your life did/didn't turn out on anyone but yourself.

Timing is always tricky. I too uprooted my life and moved far away (3000+ miles) about a decade ago and arrived in Los Angeles on November 1st... Not completely realizing what that meant: That I would be alone, clueless, friendless and absolutely broke when all the holidays started rolling around just a month later. We get through these things and let's face it, given how far technology has advanced in just these past 10 years, it is almost impossible to really be alone ANY time... unless you're really willing to work at it. Everything from email, to video chat to even online gaming keeps us in contact with people 24/7. If you're missing your former city, your family or even your ex-boyfriend it is ridiculously easy to link up with them, see their faces and hear their voices. In fact, when you think about it that way, you might enjoy a little peace & quiet and alone-time.

This isn't answering your question about whether or not you made the 'right' decisions when you decided to reboot every aspect of your life... but as I mentioned earlier - unless you're somehow "unbalanced" or at a disadvantage due to some form of mental illness (whether it be manic/depressive, depression etc) ... you're probably ok and you probably did the right thing. You're young(ish) and you want to see, experience and be in a new part of the world... That, in itself, is perfectly normal and healthy. It isn't easy... but then again the 'right' thing rarely is.

So go and explore your new city, create your new band (and tribe) and carve out a new life for yourself.

Good luck

Dec 1, 2010

The Show must Groan On.

Dear AAP-
My band has been playing together for eight or nine years. I could find the exact date of the 1st gig, but it is very late and I'm too tired to go digging around for it. The point is I feel like I'm getting fed up and want to quit this band, but I just can't. The reasons I can't quit are complicated I guess, but the reasons I want to are simple enough: I'm sick of some of the members of the band, I'm sick of some (most) of the songs we play gig after gig. I'm sick of being just about the same as we were six years ago. I feel like nothing is happening for us, and I'm not talking about getting rich or anything that simple - although getting paid more often would be nice. I'm talking about just the boredom of the same thing. It feels like instead of climbing some punk rock and roll ladder, which would be fine as long as we were still climbing, I feel like we're on a treadmill. Going nowhere. It seems like everyone else in the band is fine with this, and are still having a good time, but I'm not. But I know that if I were to quit I would feel like a traitor - promises were made, sacrifices have been made by everybody. I can't just quit, but I'm very unhappy, have been for a while and am getting more and more unhappy with the situation. What should I do? - I Feel Trapped.

Dear IFT-
The easy and short answer is this: Quit the band. Do it now and I can almost guarantee you that in six months you'll wonder why you hadn't done it years ago... but easy and short answers aren't the way we tend to do things here at AAP, so if you're still reading, let's go a little further/deeper.

You said the reasons you can't quit are 'complicated,' well, human relationships in general and band relationships in particular, are always pretty complicated - What makes your situation so special? Do they have your soul trapped in a jar somewhere and won't give it back? Are the other band members your brothers and sisters? Sometimes the biggest thing keeping us from making radical changes in our lives are our own fears about the change... and we hide these behind a veneer of other "issues" that really have nothing to do with that basic underlying fear.

I hate to use my oft-used complaint about 'Not Enough Information' but man, I would really like to know two things especially: 1) How old you are and 2) what do you play/do in the band?

Very often that feeling like you're "not getting anywhere" is more due to your own advancing years than it is to the band. If you find yourself thinking "I thought by now we would be ________ " that is a fairly sure sign that the timeline is what's really bothering you. Are you worried that, if you quit this band you won't have the time to 'start from scratch' with another group of people?

I asked what you play/do in your band because, if you're a bass player or a drummer, I'm sure you KNOW that you could find a new band for yourself in a matter of days... If fact you would probably have several to pick from... but if you're a lead singer or a rhythm guitarist, well, your choices will be much more limited.

At this point though, it sounds like you're pretty burnt out on playing in any band. These things happen too. Maybe you just need the chance to miss it... or maybe you really are done with it. The only way to find out is to take the risk and walk away.

I don't care what "promises were made" to your bandmates, you don't owe them your life. If you're deeply and continually unhappy in the situation, being a martyr for the group ultimately won't do anyone all that much good. If you're not into it, it will show in your playing, and your baseline feelings of misery and indignation will eventually rub off of the rest of the band, making everyone miserable. What fun is that?

What you DO owe your group is this: advance warning.

After nine-ish years of playing together, it would be a pretty low-ball move to just walk away tomorrow. I don't know how your group tends to discuss things - over beers in your favorite bar or via email etc... but you need to find an appropriate moment, when everyone is present and ...just ...tell ...them. You don't have to go into reasons, which to them will sound like blame. You just have to tell them you're sincerely done and that you want to quit... and then you have to give them a concrete future date (say 3 to 6 months in the future) that will be your "last gig" with them. ...and stick to that date. Do not postpone it. This tactic should give them enough time to find a replacement for you. It will give them all time to get used to the idea of you leaving and to go from anger etc to acceptance. It will also give YOU a chance to get used to the idea of leaving and, more importantly, give you some time to enjoy playing with your band again, knowing that it will all be ending soon (for you anyway) ....and just maybe that last gig together will be a celebration of all that you DID accomplish together as group.

After that, your life will be your own again. Maybe you'll start a new band, maybe you won't... but hopefully you won't have lost your friends.

Good luck.