2020 is one of those years that will go down in the history books, for all the wrong reasons. A pandemic, a recession, record unemployment, mass protests and riots, lockdowns, curfews and mad hornets! Just when you think things can’t get any crazier, the world seems to somehow keep one-upping itself. At this point, if we had an alien invasion I don’t think I’d even bat an eye. I’m sort of half expecting one.
As I’ve discussed in several different blogs and podcasts, I’ve been essentially trapped in the Caribbean the last few months, due to the airports here being shutdown in March. It looks like, if everything goes as planned, there will be flights available again in July. I feel relieved at least knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I have a tentative date of when I’ll be able to leave.
It’s reassuring, sort of. I say sort of because it’s clear that the USA I will return to is not the same USA I left, when I flew here in January. Chicago, where I’m from, has been particularly chaotic the last few days. Buildings have been burned. Police cars have been set on fire. Stores have been looted and vandalized. There have been multiple fatalities. Several of my friends have lost their jobs.
I try not to spend too much time watching the news these days. I do my best to stay informed, but not overwhelmed by the state of the world. It’s a difficult balancing act. I spent last weekend in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere, on an island in the Caribbean, with my band and a few friends. It was my first trip since March outside of the small beach town I’ve been stuck in the last few months on lockdown. A few hours after we arrived, I received a text message from a friend in Chicago. “It’s crazy in Chicago! There are riots, buildings on fire, a curfew has been imposed. Check the news!” Here I am trying to get a small respite from the madness of the world in one of the most remote places imaginable and I still can’t escape the craziness.
Of course, putting your head in the sand and ignoring the state of the world isn’t the answer. My friends and I spent several hours discussing everything that was unfolding. In the evening, we even wrote a song inspired by the protests and the death of George Floyd. One of the great things about being a songwriter, is that no matter how crazy the world gets, there’s always something to write about. In some ways, the crazier things get, the more there is to write about.
Adversity and hardships force you to dig deeper and find strength that in many cases, you didn’t even know you have. Here’s what one of my favorite authors, Eckhart Tolle, has to say about adversity and what we’re all living through at the moment:
“Adversity forces you to awaken to the deeper dimension of who you are. Why does adversity force you? Because life becomes almost unbearable when you live only on the surface, the surface of sense perceptions, and your conceptual mind.”
The last few months has been, strangely, one of the most productive periods of my life. Once I realized I was likely going to be stuck here for at least a few months, I got into a really productive rhythm and have since written and recorded dozens of new songs, many of which have been inspired by everything going on in the world. I have, you could say, dug deeper and discovered a fortitude and strength I didn’t know I had. I’m working harder than ever to realize my goals in one of the craziest times we’ve ever known. Something about that feels comforting and right and to be honest, despite everything going on, I wake up excited every day to get to work. I can’t change the entire state of the world, but I can at least be in control of my little slice of reality.
If history is any indication, what is happening in the world and everything unfolding will eventually come and go. Eventually the pandemic will come and go. Eventually the protests and rioting will stop. New challenges will arise. Those will also come and go. The sun will continue to set and rise.
I don’t know how to change the world at large. I wish I did. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make all the injustice, inequality, anger, frustration, sickness, political corruption, sadness and rage come to an end. I wish I could. There’s so much I would change if I had that kind of power.
All I can do is focus on what I can control. Things like how to be a better friend to my friends, how to be a better partner to my girlfriend, how to be a better son, how to be a better songwriter and musician, how to be a more compassionate and empathetic citizen of the world. These are the things that motivate me to keep going every day, in spite of and in many ways, because of all the craziness unfolding.
Maybe, just maybe, if we all focused on making our little piece of the world we live in better, we could slowly change the world into a better place, one person and one day at a time.
Check out my newest song inspired by the lockdown, Killing Time, performed with my Caribbean lockdown band, Bandits Of The Apocalypse.