A myriad of people catered towards the watering hole of normalcy after temperature checks. Each person slowly dropped into the pool of alcohol or coffee, with their assorted beverage chained to smoke — first or secondhand.
Slinking through narrow passageways of these people, their bodyweight began to crush my chest. Every joyous laugh over a mask that seemed to cradle a chin cut through my ears. The outside began to melt around me before caving in and everything got heavier. Everything got bigger; I became smaller.
In over a year, I was on my way to return to the crowd of a live performance. Not even that, coupled chairs strategically placed in front of a stage. The closer I got, certainty crept that I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. An act that once brought me more joy than I could ever explain, an act that brought me out of a severe depressive episode seven years ago (and was the catalyst to this site), now became a troubled acquaintance.
Halfway through the line to the dim lit room, waves hit my back and onward to my chest, fluttering each life-beat and leaving my eyes swollen with the residue now of looking like a fuckin’ freak in public. I made a run for the safest place I could find. In a bathroom stall, I debated with my anxiety. I let the waves pass staring at a grey, marble splattered wall that held me.
Live shows made me feel alive. I had nothing to prove in the crowd. They, along with all the independent musicians were reassuring at first — it gave me substance. For a moment, we all came together to get away and held our reasons in the crowd, something I frequently think about.
It was a passion to write about music and live performances and I missed my love for that world. Slowly, this joy became a crutch for other issues. And as all unresolved pain, this joy slowly started to disappear as the years went by. I was angry that I couldn’t bring myself to write and in more ways than one, sabotaged any renewal of success based on past failures: interviews never pushed out; opportunities went by, assumingly for the better; chosen solitude; unable to let go of the past — all because I entered a new realm of fear.
During quarantine, this became louder. My life soon became surrounded with repetition and familiarity. I binged on past playlists, alongside The Simpsons, for what they all made me feel at one time. A similar tactic that I recognized I utilized when I was homeless with my family as a teen, burying specific pieces of music from that season, which I still cannot hear to this day.
This fear overtook my senses to the point that I refused to listen to anything new. There was no point in a start because that meant a possibility of defeat once again and I was exhausted with that feeling, misconstrued with being exhausted with what I truly loved. Exhausted with being left in the dust; exhausted being used as a stepladder.
Truthfully, I was exhausted from insufficiency and started to drown. Sinking in what was a cup of water to most people, felt like an ocean. I couldn’t listen to your art anymore because it was a reminder of my failure.
Writing was now my failure. Failure was now a fear.
Live music is returning and the restoration is not as a simple as flipping a switch. There’s optimism in a functioning machine of “normalcy” though: gatherings with loved ones, entertaining pursuits, adventures to be taken. The ache is in the act of starting, especially over. A broken glass’s pain is immediate in the sense that there is a start, a finish, and mostly a known cause. Though, picking up all of those pieces to begin from scratch is the hardest part. I stared at those pieces for months, some for years.
For clarification, this is not due to the pandemic. More so, the pandemic enabled my pause. It was the best excuse that I threw all of my fears into and now it is disappearing. It is not the pain that many have felt or our collective losses I want to hang onto — it is the safety net. There is apprehension in the mindfulness that those failures no longer have an excuse. They are in my hands once again.
There are so many things on the other side of fear to be seen. However, there are so many things inside of fear as well. I’ve ran from fear, denied its access, and bullshitted its existence through false positivity for survival. Now, it seems I am finally allowing myself to feel it for living. Here is my fear, and as well, here is my failure. Their existence is mine, but I am not their existence.
This is selfishly written to tell a story. This isn’t the part where I tell you how and when I got my life together or which mantras are on repeat in my head. This is just the middle of a story. A part I was compelled to share because it is often overlooked. Toxic, false positivity shames you at times for just feeling, to the point where we even compare our failures; Weaponizing pain becomes a first line of defense.
I return to an abandoned keyboard with this article right on cue with Mental Awareness Month now over. GUM is a very small publication that embodied an escape, a persona, a dream, and then a burden. I’ve wrestled with this entity going on seven years, and just as my failures can exist at the same time of my ambitions, so can myself and this site.
Sometimes you get forgotten in the crowd. Other times you’re just enjoying your beer.
LA Mission; Assist Homelessness: https://losangelesmission.org/
Free Headspace Premium for LA County Residents: https://www.headspace.com/lacounty
Mental Health Resources for LA County: https://dmh.lacounty.gov/
California Support: https://www.calhopeconnect.org/
U.K. Support: https://www.mind.org.uk/
Global resources: https://checkpointorg.com/global/
Hotlines; Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline: https://www.therapyforlatinx.com/mentalhealthhotlines