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I was rushed to the hospital.
I chewed on two tablets of aspirin, believing that I must be having a heart attack. My anxiety shot through the roof.
I told my roommates what was going on, and we all piled in a car and started heading to emergency.
On the way there, my heart started beating out of its chest. “This must be it,” I thought. Eventually, the beating stopped, and I started calming down.
When I finally made it to emergency, hospital care wasn’t eager to take me in for examination or anything. Which I thought odd. And they just kept asking me if I had taken any drugs.
Having released my first solo album, Shipwrecked… My Sentiments, I began looking for opportunities to promote my music. Even before releasing, I had some vague notions of submitting it to independent filmmakers and the like.
I would soon discover that while opportunities weren’t exactly rare, they also weren’t available in abundance. Having played in Lightly Toasted Touché for a year and a half, I was at least acquainted with a local venue or two, and I had a few connections. I would also scan the local classifieds in an entertainment magazine every week.
But one day, my roommate told me about CD Baby. I think I had heard about them at that point but had no idea what they did.
My roommate explained that they were a distribution service. They could get my music up for sale and streaming on all the popular online stores and streaming platforms, be it iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, or otherwise.
I got excited and promptly signed up with CD Baby, certain that this was the next step I needed to take on my musical journey.
At the time, former founder Derek Sivers was still working at CD Baby, and when I signed up with them, I received his emails, which detailed his best advice for musicians. I was blown away by what I was reading.
In that moment, I was introduced to something new. Something I had never encountered before.
It wasn’t just how-to advice or tactics and tips. I had already found plenty of that in video game and fishing guidebooks. It was something more. Kind of like a challenge. It made me present to opportunities I never knew existed.
What I discovered, for the first time in my life, was personal development.
I went to Video Games Live with some friends and came away inspired.
The music was great. I loved hearing many of my favorite video game themes being played by an orchestra, choir, and band.
But more than that, I felt led to interview Tommy Tallarico.
The moment he hit the stage, he struck me as familiar. Then I remembered that I had seen him on TV (Electric Playground).
Intuitively, I knew that there was more to him than met the eye. He wasn’t just a TV host or the creator of Video Games Live.
And I was right. I soon found out he was the most prolific video game music composer in North America. He had composed music for the likes of Prince of Persia, Batman: Revenge of The Joker, Earthworm Jim, and many others.
When I reached out to him, he was gracious enough to be interviewed for my small website. That was the second in a series of early interviews I got to do with many of my heroes.
One source of inspiration led to another.
Somewhere amid engaging in Derek Sivers’ advice and interviewing Tommy Tallarico, I discovered personal development god Steve Pavlina’s articles online. I think I may have originally found his site through Sivers, but I can’t confirm or deny that.
Having gone through everything that I had gone through, I honestly believed that life amounted to little more than what happened to you. You had no control over anything – especially over things you would consider important.
That’s the way I lived in my early 20s, and I didn’t even know it.
But here was Pavlina telling me that you could make conscious decisions in life. I spent a lot of time in his material, but my number one takeaway, to this day, is this idea of living consciously.
I began to understand that there were things I could control and things I couldn’t. But regarding anything I could control, I could become present to the decision being made. And by becoming present to it, I could choose the path I most wanted to go down.
When I learned that Pavlina got up at ungodly hours to engage in his passion of writing all day, I decided that I wanted to start doing the same.
So, at the dawn of 2008, I started getting up every day at 6 AM to read, write, and work on my music.
I had no idea that I was quickly burning myself out in the process.
I didn’t have a heart attack. I had an anxiety attack.
As others will testify, one can certainly mimic the other. But neither are pleasant, and both can have lasting consequences.
My wrestle with anxiety was just beginning, and over the course of the next five or six months, I had to spend time in recovery.
I could have given up on personal development. Blamed it for all my problems. Perhaps, by living consciously, I would only invite more harm upon myself.
But I didn’t.
And recovery was the opposite of sitting still and doing nothing. I got into a routine of learning about anxiety, watching inspiring TV, walking, meditating, and participating in weekly rehearsals and gigs with my band. This was just as much personal development as anything else.
Amid this, I met someone wonderful at a guitar workshop. I sometimes call her my “first girlfriend”, but really, she was just the first young woman I fell head over heels for.
She asked for a hug, and when I stood up to embrace her, I felt something I had never felt before. I had balked at the idea of marrying in college, but holding her in my arms changed my mind.
This relationship brought some healing into my life. Unfortunately, she stopped talking to me only three months later, and I’ve never heard from her since.
At the time, I’d been struggling to write material for my next album, but heartbreak brought all the inspiration I needed.
And I think it was somewhere amid writing a seemingly endless stream of songs that I found healing. Anxiety wouldn’t completely go away, but it would never hit me as hard as it had that one day as I was being rushed to the hospital.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.