As this mild winter comes to a close, I find myself once again deep in a state of reflection, discernment, and change – not sad, as these conditions often entail, but perceptive once again. I have been reading a lot of ambient music reviews and find others in parallels of contemplation.

The poignance and lucidity ambient music helps draw out is a shared, conscious experience: precise emotions rising from within, experiences heightened and amplified, a sense of wonder bestowed upon the ordinary. It’s an interesting perspective to have while reading, turning the window of a bus into a critical lens, or the perimeter of a sidewalk into a winding labyrinth. It helps one see value and meaning in other’s experiences, from the ordinary to the transcendental. The ability to relate cannot be diminished, warped or stolen from us; it is an intangible asset of enrichment that enhances our perspective of others, and to engage in a effulgent medium that adds to that is such a meaningful process. And when there is resolution, the reader themselves partakes in that victory.

I have been dealing with a longstanding struggle recently. Ironically, this struggle is sourced from a lack of struggle. Growing up, I was blessed to never be for want: food was always on the table, our house was always warm, and while my family didn’t always get along, we loved each other enough not to walk away (and still do). That’s not to say it was always easy, but it was never as hard as it could be. As I’ve grown older and interacted with more people (especially in the workplace), I have found myself increasingly isolated by my struggle-less perspective. There is a unspoken validity granted to those whose lives have been a challenge. For many, there was no where to go but up, and that was, and still is, worth fighting for.

My first attempt to resolve this was in college. I felt disconnected from friends and peers alike and wanted to be taken [more] seriously. I remember taking an extra leap in each conversation, grasping for straws of meaning and depth that weren’t there. What experiences did I have that could amount to a unique critical lens that added value to another’s perspective? Not enough, and I think most people saw through that façade with ease. Relationships terminated, friendships tapered off, and I missed out on valuable progression professionally and socially that set me back. Still, I trudged along, pretentiously surmising that it was others who were wrong for misinterpreting my viewpoints.

I walked into my first full-time job in 2014 with a similar disposition: why am I here if my unique perspective does not add value? But you can’t skate by in a performance-driven position, where bodies are hired to fill seats and results determine how warm they get. I was vastly outperformed by old and young peers alike, and continued to lament factors outside of myself that I believed were suppressing my potential. I was eventually edged out of my position by management by way of ultimatum (“You have 30 days to find a new job here or you’re fired”), and accepted a new position shortly thereafter for less pay and a less-than-ideal schedule.

My second attempt to resolve my struggle (or lack thereof) was in 2016. I was dating someone new, I felt divinely inspired by the new work I was doing, and I shed the aforementioned critical perspective that had bled its way into every facet of my being over the decade that preceded it. Still, I maintained the serious demeanor to act as a binding agent for the new life I wanted to love. This ended up being auspicious in the workplace – shrugging off stress and having a willingness to grow are conducive to success in corporate America, after all. Working in opposition to all of this of course was a souring relationship that eventually culminated in the phrase “I’m just not going to be happy with you.” How could anyone?

Two years and change removed from that, I usher in a third attempt, not the product of epiphany or influx, but the resurfacing and subsequent confrontation of my long-ignored, suppressed struggle: what have I given up in the search for meaning?

In short, my answer to that is people. 2020 saw the birth of my nephew, the death of my last-remaining grandparent, the fostering of a new job, the near death of my cat, the nurturing of several new friendships, and, most expectedly, the listening of a plethora of great ambient music. Ultimately these things have helped me realize that not everything has to be dissected and ripped apart, leaving no stone unturned, for its existential purpose. It is okay to celebrate, to be joyous, and to be thankful for the enrichment others provide us, and for our potential to enrich others as well. After all, they would do the same for me.

People have become the wax that keeps the candle burning. The truth is I’ve always had people around, but I’ve never cared enough to listen. Asking questions, engaging, knowing when to be responsive and when only to listen, has granted me so much perspective. There is so much value in learning, sharing, and ultimately helping others. It is a joyous process and one worth celebrating. If only the clock could be rewound so I could hear, once again, the words I have missed.

I write all this with a tinge of irony, of course. This post is just one droplet intercepted from the sea of somber, reflective blog posts inspired by ambient music, and is probably still too existential for most. But I feel inspired to reach out and help, to listen when necessary, and to ground myself with the perspective of others.