Increase Your Presence.

As a musician in the 21st century, I hear people throwing around phrases such as “Increase your presence!” and “Maximise your visibility!”. Now, I realise that generally this refers to an online/social media presence, or visibility in the profession in general. But I’m not so good at the whole self-marketing thing, and have a tendency to misintepret very straightforward advice.

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Begging your pardon.

Even the most mediocre of us will do at least one great thing while on earth. It might be something that gains widespread recognition, or it might be as small as having a conversation with a random at a wedding that really has an impact on their life.

My great moment came a little over a month ago.

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All those who know me are well aware of the fact that I am not particularly good at expressing my feelings. Or rather, I am not very good at expressing my feelings to those who are the subject of them. I’m terrified of rejection and being vulnerable, so when I really value someone, like, or love them, I don’t say anything. I shy away from confrontation, so never tell people when they have done something I think is wrong, annoying or unfair. Instead, I bottle all this up until it inevitably explodes out at some point, usually in a singing lesson, shocking my teachers into thinking I’m some kind of psycho who has breakdowns over being asked to alter the length of an appoggiatura.

I’m not touchy about my appoggiaturas, but if anyone criticises my trill, they had better be prepared to watch me go all kinds of crazy.

I’ve become so skilled at suppressing my feelings, I often I manage to hide them from myself. At least while I’m awake.

Going to sleep is one of the most entertaining parts of my day, because every night without fail I have ridiculously vivid, absurdly detailed dreams. Usually it’s just my brain processing the day that just happened in its own nutcase way. But every now and then my brain identifies some kind of deep-rooted emotional issue or situation going on that it feels I’m not addressing properly, and tries to bring it to my attention.

But of course, seeing as I can’t have a conversation with my brain without being completely off my rocker or in a surprisingly moving animated Disney film, my subconscious has to try and communicate through symbols. In many instances, it is not very original. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I dream that I am swimming in the ocean, but the waves are getting bigger and bigger, and the sand is being constantly eroded, creating a cliff that makes it impossible to get out of the water. Everyone else is having a lovely time at the beach, and I’m the only one that notices there’s a frigging tsunami headed our way.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been stressed out over the rapidly approaching deadline of my Master thesis, but trying to convince myself (and my supervisor) that everything is just fine and dandy, and that have ample time to do everything I should have been doing for the last eighteen months.

My brain isn’t buying any of that crap. In place of the standard “in over your head” dream, it has substituted one where I’m about to reach the summit of a huge mountain, but I spark an avalanche that over the course of many video game like levels, destroys not only me, but all of my friends and any other randoms unfortunate enough to be on my dream mountain.

Yes, my subconscious quite literally has the subtlety of an avalanche to the face.

Which makes me a bit dubious about my other consistently recurring dream. Whenever I am feeling doubtful about my musical path, or feeling trapped by a particular creative situation, I dream that I have to safely guide my family’s old cat through swamps and lakes filled with crocodiles that want to eat her. I’m pretty sure the cat represents my artistic identity. Which is a bit insulting, because it means my subconscious thinks my creative soul looks like this:


No wonder I sing so well.

Charm, Charles, is a trap.

There are some people that manage to come out of the most awkward situation unscathed. They are the blessed few that possess such high degrees of charm, self-assurance and charisma that they always leave a good impression behind.

Then there are others. Like me.

Two days a week, I have to wake up at stupid o’clock and clean an office building before the staff arrive at 8am. Usually a couple of over-enthusiastic ladies arrive around 7 or 7.30, but they tend to wear hiking boots with their office clothes, so I usually have no qualms about going to work in my gym clothes with bed hair and bleary eyes.

No qualms until now, that is.

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For about a year now, I’ve had the creepy feeling that I’m being followed. Out of the corner of my eye, in the most unexpected places, I see the same face.

At first, it only happened in very public places, and was easy enough to dismiss it as coincidence. After all, when you have a lifestyle that is condensed in a very small geographical space, it’s not that strange to see the same person at the supermarket and at the gym. After a while, you just accept this person as a normal part of the background of everyday life.

But then I started noticing that they had infiltrated my computer. Every now and then, on incredibly diverse websites, that same face, disguised in a thousand different ways, would be brashly staring back at me.

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Idiot Tax.

At the age of sixteen, my best friend and I made an almost daily pilgrimage on foot from school to our dance classes on the other side of town. She was far more diligent and organised than I, and so duly got her licence long before me. Nonetheless, I was able to share in the luxurious upgrade of the transport method.

One particularly memorable afternoon, we were waiting at a traffic light and my friend regaled me with the story of how, when still learning to drive a manual, she couldn’t quite manage the coordination one night and ended up bunny hopping through the drive-through video return. As she was enthusiastically giving an impression of the car, the light turned green, she panicked and we ended up bunny hopping halfway up the following block, squealing with equal parts laughter and shame.

The first month back in The Hague felt about as smooth as that car trip.

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The Festive Season.

So that time of year has come and gone again. The time of year when eleven months of diet and exercise is ruined in a three day spree. The time of year when Bing Crosby is played incessantly everywhere you go. The time of year you start to wonder if your great aunt Mildred has Alzheimer’s, because if she remembered anything about you, she’d be damn certain you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing whatever monstrosity of a sweater she gave to you this year.
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