As I sit here, with the serene sounds of Kelela's debut album, Take Me Apart, soaring and spiralling, cresting and cascading out of my speakers and all around my room, I can't help but think, "Damn, it's been a while."
Indeed, it's been a minute.
It's been a minute since I last sat down to write. It's been a minute since I last sat down to have an honest conversation with myself. It's been a minute since I last sat down to take stock of my life and understand where I stand. It's been a minute since I last sat down to put to paper the thoughts perpetually pestering my sense of calm and self-certitude – or at least what remains of it.
The last time I tried to complete this exercise, I had something like a panic attack.
It occurred three or four weeks ago, which was, quite ironically, the last time I was at my parent's place in Ottawa, a haven of quietude and languor that has served as my escape from Montreal and the urgency of "doing the most."
I remember it like it was yesterday – indeed, it pretty much was, but just let me have this moment of melodrama. As I recall, I had woken up with an urgent need to write. My night had been a restless one plagued by an inability to fall asleep due to the heat and my thoughts running amok with no respite. It was one of those nights when sleep is the last thing on your mind, as so much of your mental capacity is consumed by thoughts of what you could be doing, should be doing, but simply are not. So, that morning, I decided that catharsis would be the name of the game: to purge myself of my restlessness, I would write it out, write it all, at least just write something. Armed with a new-found determination, I walked over to my laptop, launched Word, and was greeted by the familiar sight of the empty screen.
Typically, I manage to get over the blank page syndrome pretty quickly. But on this particular Sunday, facing the cold, fluorescent hue of a backlit screen, I simply froze. And I froze. And I froze some more. As the harsh brightness of the blank page – and its effect on me – slowly but eventually diffused and dissipated, I realized that I was conversely burning up. A sudden hot flash overcame me; it was anxiety knocking at my door – unwelcome.
Swiftly, I began to feel myself constricted, conflicted, and desperately needing to get the fuck out. But escape what, though?
Shit, I wish I knew.
After many a minute spent aimlessly pacing around my room, my mom gently sat me down and attempted to help me unpack the thoughts racing inside my head.
"I'm worried about you," she said.
"I know. Ditto."
"What's wrong?" she questioned.
"Shit, I wish I knew."
But, I did know what was wrong. In truth, I've always known what has been wrong. It's the same thing that, throughout university, precluded me from seeing many of my extracurricular commitments to full completion. It's the same thing that would keep me up at night, tossing and turning, as I would list in my head all the shit I needed to do now to end up where I wanted to be later. It's the same thing that led to me experiencing my first physical manifestations of anxiety: a wave of heat that would wash over my entire body and siphon away any and all energy to get anything done in the first place. It's the same that thing has pushed me to revel in ideation and innovation, yet relinquish the reins when it comes time for execution. It's the same thing that leads me to "find solace in committing to the thought of committing to the action," rather than committing to the action itself.
Even when it comes to writing about my introspections, this toxic penchant for instant self-gratification pervades. It's as if I want the spoils of a cogent and well-articulated personal essay now, yet I am unable – or unwilling – to put in the necessary work ever. With each blank page, my mind immediately races to the desired end point: a post replete with as many critical revelations as rhetorical flourishes. Thus, rather than engage myself in the process of writing – with its many sentences drafted and revised, deleted and reshuffled – I default into a state of anxiety. I start to anguish because it's taking me so damn long to say what I already know needs to come out; it's taking me so long to do what I already know I should be doing.
The finished product is there – somewhere in my head, somewhere down the line – it just seems my expectations of myself are beginning to cloud the reality that shit fucking takes time. I mean, I know what I need to do, but can't commit to where to start. Better yet, I want it all now, but don't know if I actually want to do all of what it takes.
Long story short, this nigga needs to fall back in love with the process. Fuck the finished product. Fuck always striving for perfection at first try. Fuck always needing something to show for your work. It's all about that process: the uncertainty, the experimentation, the spontaneity, the learning, the research, the self-discovery, the failure, the success, the growth – indeed, the rush of it all.
So, why rush it all?
Shit, I wish I knew.
You know, there are some songs that just perfectly capture and soundtrack a moment in time in one's life. Be it the jubilation of commencing a new chapter in life, the elation in finding oneself enamoured of another, or simply the apprehension that accompanies any transitional period in between. In the case of the lattermost element, "Breathless," my favourite track from Kingdom's debut LP Tears in the Club, encapsulates all the feels. While the album itself was an exploration of Kingdom's latent emotionality – and something like a personal essay addressing his sexuality – there's something particular about this song that kept me bumping it on repeat throughout this past summer. From the biblical lyricism ("No weapon formed against me shall prosper"), to the deconstructed R&B instrumentation anchored by jagged snares and resonant kicks, to the litheness of Shacar's background vocals, there's an introspective quality to this track. Although definitive in its melancholy – with lyrics like "I'm still trapped and I'm stuck hurting" – "Breathless" ultimately reveals that such a sentiment is oftentimes necessary, as it precedes the relief in knowing that this too shall pass.