First you remove all the stuff that’s getting in the way. You dust, you clean, you vacuum and give attention to the corners after years of neglect behind bookcases and headboards and random stacks of coffee table books that you meant to move months and months ago and never did.
You tape the edges, you lay down plastic, you open a window after removing all its coverings. You’re in an empty room except for the table of legos, like an island with a laundry basket of books beneath it.
You turn on the record player, pour the paint, your favorite brush in hand and begin with the edges. That’s how I do it, anyway. I primed, I painted, I removed the tape. Then I primed, I painted. Today I’ll remove the tape.
And then, by tomorrow, I’ll begin the slow process of putting everything back in its place. The bed, the bookcase, the dresser, the lego table, the clutter won’t come back (yes it will).
And all the time I’m moving the brush and looking in close and listening to tunes and all the time I’m thinking about the goals I’ve set, the unfinished list of things to do, the things I’m afraid of, the things I might never get. I think about all those musicians out there who are killing it. They’re releasing kickass albums and playing shows, they’re doing the thing and they’re running the race.
And there I was painting the room, close to broke, six months after quitting my waitressing job, realizing I have no skills, no piece of paper to prove I’m qualified for anything, feeling like my swan song(s) is going to be these last two albums, going into serious debt to make them and then getting a job as a housekeeper to pay them off over 18 months.
Someone explained a music career to me once like baking cookies. You can bake cookies. Your friends and your mom will tell you the cookies taste pretty good, but if no one ever lines up for your cookies then maybe it’s a sign you should start baking something else. There are some great bakers out there. Their cookies taste amazing. Of course people are standing in line for their cookies. At any bake off there are star bakers and there are participation ribbons. And as the hall clears out and people start packing up their display tables and their leftovers, you take a cookie from off one of your piles, and, when no one’s looking, you take a bite and ask yourself, “Does this taste good? Do I like this taste?” And, oddly enough, you like it. You like the cookies you baked. You’re proud of them, you’re not embarrassed. You whisper to yourself, “I’m proud of this work. I think I did a good job. This is exactly how I wanted my cookies to taste.” And you imagine yourself years from now, clocking out at 5pm and when no one’s home and no one can see, you let yourself bake cookies and think, “If the right person had been there that day, they would’ve loved this cookie.”
And cue Darrell Scotts, “Heartbreak Town” and paint the last wall.