During many of our conversations with one another, a life-long best friend of mine often suggests that I record my rants in the hopes of one day creating a podcast. I usually chuckle, agree, and then move onto something else quickly, subconsciously dismissing the idea due to various insecurities stemmed from a place a therapist may one day figure out. The other reason I don't follow through with the task is that I am satisfied with simply venting to a friend which, in itself, has a direct equivalence to my other biggest art problem: the audience I strive to touch is comprised of those who are immediately close to me.
I struggle with the concept of "giving my gift to the world"; exhibiting your works to the outside, unknown world which is populated with strangers often feels like a fruitless hunt for validation. With a bit of effort, I can pedal along with the pack, struggling to keep up in a race with no win condition. I lose breath and slow down, watching my relevance speed away from me with absent remorse. I release my fingers from the grip of the handlebars.
Is this the coward's way out? Quite possibly. I have grown to be ok with this...but today, I look back at this notion with disgust.
Back in October of last year, I got a call from an old friend. He told me that he was tired of getting paid for doing more than other people who do less. He asked me if I would help him...if I would help him and his family. It wouldn't be long before we would jump headfirst into a brand new music collaboration, one which would give me the strength to stand back up and catch my breath. I now had a true teammate in the race.
Over the past year, this friend has taught me to pedal faster, maintain my balance and keep my eye on what once seemed a intangible and unobtainable victory. Through the hardships and hard work, through the sleepless nights and slow news, he helped me keep my head up and my eyes open, ready for the moment to pull forward and take what is rightfully mine. I learned to win because of him.
This morning, I received a phone call that this friend had passed away: an unexplained swerve and a vehicle tumble left him lifeless on a Las Vegas street. I tremble now as I grasp at memories of our conversations, trying to hold on to them like a persecuted individual being forced from the comfort of their home. "Take only what you can carry", they tell you as you desperately grab whatever you can, knowing full well that your life is emptier, lonelier than it was just a moments prior. You take what you can.
I choose to take what he gave me: the will to look forward and not feel comfortable being left behind.
RIP Ben Labee