And this year of journeying was no exception. 2013 brought with it a number of significant wrinkles that I have incurred through what can only be counted as an extremely strenuous but memorable year. And so if we cross paths this year and you notice my newly acquired wrinkles, here is a little legend, a legend to the map of where I've come from this year, and where I am headed.
The Furrowed Brow:
This year, I kicked my dissertation's ass and came to the end of five long years of a doctoral program, which I am still seeking to understand. Ultimately, I am grateful for the experience, I learned a lot, including the fact that I would like to stay as far away from the academic ivory tower as humanly possible. I fought, tooth and nail, to survive the beatings I received by power and ego, and I struggled with everything in me to rise above the system of control. Not because the work was difficult per se, although indeed it was a challenge, but the shock of how power is abused for personal gain left my soul reeling a bit. I was scarred by what I can only call abuse upon reflection, and I lost a piece of myself back there. But I also gained resolve that they cannot take away from me. I learned about priorities. I learned about right. And I learned about wrong. I learned that I like getting my hands dirty more than I like thinking about getting my hands dirty. I learned that God is among the poor more than among the powerful. I learned that every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be made low. I learned that the length of your CV does not matter, but in fact, the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. And I survived. And I am thankful. And I know what is important, and what is not important but guises as such.
The Passion Pleats:
This year, with the help of my amazing producer, Tony Esterly, I recorded, mixed, mastered, and sent to press my very first solo album. I poured my heart and soul into this project over the course of months and months and months. This project was my creative energy, my outlet, my first masterpiece, and this year was made epic by the completion of this work. The time and effort that I invested into this was huge, and the feeling of living into an artistic calling caused elation that I cannot even describe. I have always know that music is ingrained in who I am called to be in the world, but I found a new part of this voice for the very first time through this album. I came to know myself in new ways. I was also lucky enough to have the album discovered by a small label out of Tokyo and the album, Both/And, was distributed across Japan. This led to a music video and all kinds of fun adventures that involved toting a piano around the city of St. Louis. I'm not sure what else to say about this process other than it was worth every line of passion that it etched across my face. This was an experience that I will never forget and only the beginning of the exploration of this piece of my heart.
There are lots and lots and lots of these, but most of them this year come from my journey around the world this summer, where I spent time on the beaches of Pemba, Mozambique, the cobblestone streets of Seville, Spain, and the warm patios of Faro, Portugal. And I was blessed to travel alongside some of the most amazing people in the world. I had the amazing privilege of traveling for 40 days and 40 nights, and I reconnected with parts of me that had been lost. I grinned from ear to ear as I realized that I have the best, most meaningful job in the entire world, I laughed deep belly laughs as I reconnected with my best friend from New York in a beautiful Spanish city, and I felt the elation of making music with new, lifelong soul mates.
And so as I watch another year fly past me and I think about the impact of these years on my body, I choose to not look down upon the wrinkles with vain judgement, but to thank God for each one. To attribute each new line to a path that I have traversed, to trails that I have had the privilege of blazing. The wrinkles are roads, and I am the humble traveler with a map.