A Past Life

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Last night, as the first snowflakes began to glitter down from the heavens and the howling, frigid winds blew, unwavering, through the streets of White Plains, I boarded a bus for home, tired from the day even as the night was still young. As the bus lumbered on through the icy blizzard, I marveled in the winter wonderland outside—the Christmas lights glowing empathetically from the cottages and the townhomes, the last workers driving carefully home to their immaculate families awaiting their return—all seemed still, simple, and calm. When I finally got home I turned the key and entered my tiny but cozy apartment which seemed to embrace me in consolation of the lengthy and bewildering day of work and life and love. I switched on my desk lamp and the Christmas lights I hung up last week and my homestead came to life. Sitting at my desk to collect my thoughts, I knew there were still hours of work to get done: monthly reports to write up, articles to draft, music to practice, books to read, and notes to study.

If you had asked me what my perfect life would look like a few years ago or even a few months ago, I’m not sure what I would have described. Quite possibly I would have mused about some idealized reality where I was spending my days in class, my nights gigging or listening to concerts and my weekends having dinner at nice restaurants or jazz clubs. I would have mentioned the great TV shows I would watch, the fun times I would have with friends, or maybe even the relaxing vacations I would take. I would talk about my caring and loving boyfriend (a complete fantasy of course) and the room I would own, decorated faultlessly, as though Martha Stewart herself had planned out every inch of it.

I’m sure at some point this was truly what I wanted—the ideal life. Even as I entered college a couple years ago, I think I would have talked about the same sort of rose-tinted, unblemished life. However, in the last year, emotional pain overtook most aspects of my life and these dreams of utopian grandeur faded from my mind. It was unexpected, not because it has not been present before, but because these feelings slowly and subtly took up more and more time and energy until, in a matter of months, a dark cloud hung over the entirety of my life. The problem with this type of depression, anxiety, and compulsion is that the road into it is easy, but the road out is tough, grueling, and full of even more pain than simply remaining in the darkness. There were days when I wondered if I would ever find the break in the trees, or whether I would keep wandering in the forest of despair for a lifetime.

Young adulthood is surely a tough time in life for all who experience it. It is the crossing of a bridge from the land of innocence and childhood joyousness into the complex world of adult responsibility, work, and above all, duty. Now that I have found the light, if for a brief and ephemeral moment, I can see that my despair came from the unrest of this drastic change in my life. It is hard to be told that you are on your own, that you decide what actions you take to create your life, that you have a great deal of responsibility that is yours and yours alone.

But now that I have graduated from both the childhood naivety and the anguish of the transition period, I can feel that I am beginning to let go of that past life. I no longer need that comforts of dependence any longer. With this new life there is a great deal of work to be done both on myself and for school and career as well—chores must be done, personal and mental hygiene must be kept up, and all the studying and work must be done each and every day. I should want to run in fear; in fact, for a while I did want to run on fear.

But worry, doubt, and fear are not the answer, especially in the real world. Now an adult, I know that things must be done without negotiation and I have an immense sense of duty in my work and responsibilities. Certainly it is a delicate and precarious balance between personal life, work, and sleep, but that balance must be kept up, regardless of circumstance.

With the leaving behind of my past life I accept responsibility for my actions, my thoughts, and my obligations. There is still a plethora of joy to be found in my life, but now that joy comes along with meaning, purpose, and a sense of having worked to earn it. Responsibility creates a more meaningful sense of joy.

As I looked out the bus windows last night, I knew that I could finally let go of my past life and of those empty dreams. That the work I am doing now is vital and important. That my life is not how I dreamed it years ago, but it is meaningful because in its imperfections I can find work to be done and in its triumphs and beauties I can know that my hard work has paid off. In the snowy darkness, I knew that I had found meaning and joy in the troubles I had been through and that my past life did not burden me anymore. And maybe that freedom to build my own life is the most beautiful piece of it all.

Here’s to leaving behind the past and creating the present…

– Ethan Brown Jones

The News from the Workbench: December 10, 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

Today began as so many mornings do, with the blaring noise of the alarm breaking the cool serenity of slumber. Once the hopes of further excursions in the dream-world subsided, I was able to rise from my bed and look out on the world in all its glory, lit by the soft morning rays of sun cutting through the icy winter chill. After my morning run, somewhat longer today at around five miles, I was sufficiently awake, present, and chipper to begin working once more. But this morning was different, because when I walked out the door this morning, I was eager to get going and start working on my writing and my musical work for the day. I haven’t felt this ambitious or motivated in six to eight months.

Today, I thought I would touch on some of what has made me return to the basics, the fundamentals of my art and also what has allowed me to keep going after all the struggle and pain of this year. Only recently have I been able to return to the process of my art, my writing, and my music after months of strife, lack of motivation, and insecurity with where my career path has been leading me. Though it is hard for me to admit, I think that my personal life and the circumstances of my life have affected my work and artistic life over the course of this year, something I will always be ashamed of.

The last months have been filled with a sort of longing for the piece of me that makes me unique, what makes me essentially me. Every hour of every day has been spent in search of something that can’t be found, unsure of the road forward or of how to create the life I want to live and the art I want to make. It has taken me months to realize that this is a journey that for all of us is uncertain and never-ending. Upon reflection, I have been able to find new comfort both in the doubt and unease and in the small daily routines that center my mind and push the days onward.

It has been through reading the works of great authors, listening to the music of great musicians, and admiring the artwork of the masters that I have been able to find my voice again. What I have realized is that this voice I have found within myself can only truly be found in the tireless awareness of myself and of my actions. True, my path is deeply intertwined with the stories and paths of many others, but only in self-knowledge and personal discovery may I find the stories which must be told, the ideas that have yet to hatch, and the memories that are so crucial in my psyche.

In the last week I have had a much needed reprieve from the day-to-day busy work and lists of tasks and appointments. Time spent alone—thinking, observing, and remembering—has reawakened my soul. I no longer search for the unique energy of my actions and thoughts or for where my path should lead; I now search within my own mind and body for that true self that we must all find inside. My true self drives me towards my passions and I have now found the motivation to work once more. Motivation comes not from how I think I am perceived, but in what really matters to me.

So I read, I write, I play music, and I think. My voice has returned for now and I must remember how I got here. I must recognize that when one gets past the petty, menial, daily slog, inner truth may emerge and the drive for love, storytelling, and immersive beauty will return.

That’s the news from the workbench this week…

-Ethan Brown Jones

Reflections on the Journey

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Outside, snow deadened city and people equally as forcefully. The sky seemed to have collapsed in on itself, the damp, heavy blanket of snow enveloping the forsaken world within its suffocating embrace. I gathered myself as much as I could, slinging my purse over my arm and wrapping my scarf tighter around my neck. Looking around the theatre, I could just see the balcony and the lights rigging high above, silent and familiar in the blackness of the deserted theatre.

The chill cut instantly to my core as I hesitantly pushed through the stage door, greeting the outside world for the first time since morning. I was the last to leave, the only car left in the lot, a lonesome soul among shadows in the wintery land. Shivering, I snuggled further into my thick grey overcoat, quickening my pace towards the chilled metal enclosure of the car. In the dim glow of the stark streetlamps, it appeared as though not a single creature stirred in the matted environment. My car seemed frozen and foreign to my touch. I turned the key and it finally turned over, sluggishly choking to life. I could see my breath, even in the car, and outside the snow continued to fall, covering the ground in deep layer of white. Slipping through snow, squishing and crunching, I began to make my way home at last.

Few cars accompanied me on the road. Lonesome was the night, the snow had made hermits of us all. As I drove home, the heat blasting warm air about the car, NPR on in the background, I couldn’t help but think that an era was ending. The theatre, that theatre specifically, had been an integral piece of my life for almost four years. A shell of building, swathed in the powdery white, had a significance for me which was so great that I couldn’t help but feel sorrow as I drove away for one of the last times.

The landscape I was driving through was alien in the oblique white. Desperation became my foremost emotion as I drove on into the night. The lanes of the road became more and more difficult to discern. Everything was simply a wall of white as the blizzard crept in over the landscape. My shoulders hiked up towards my ears in an attempt to warm my body in the cold night air. Hunched over the steering wheel I slowly traveled onward, moving further and further away from the last era of my life with every mile I drove.

Driving onward, I moved without prospect, without direction, on into the night. Thoughts of the theatre flashed before my eyes. Lights on costumed actors, heavy makeup bedazzled across characters’ faces, fog floating saccharine through the hall, and voices hushed in whispers of anticipation lay dreamlike before my eyes. I drove onward towards an unknown destiny. The journey on that night felt as though it would never end. I slogged through the slushy, wet, thick snow.

I seemed to think about the death in my life on these nights driving home from work. I could just end it all here, I could just drive off the road and roll my car down the side of a mountain. So much else in my life had died. My grandparents had died; how easily they slipped from my grasp. Frail and ephemeral are we all in this life. I had died inside too; my heart had been ripped out a long time ago.

Where was I going? Where had my life gone, eighteen years gone without a trace of relevance?

I would never get home. Sure, I would arrive at a building that I had called home for so many years, cold, bewildered, and disheveled. But would I really be home— secure, complete?

As I drove on I got closer and closer to home, feeling the fragility of my life as the car skated across the icepack which was slick beneath the thick layer of white. Tomorrow would be another day back in the theatre. The people would be the same. That high-powered theatrical energy would fill the theatre to the brim. The snow would melt. And again, tomorrow, I would wonder where my life had turned so far from the course. I would wonder where I crashed, my car rolling down that mountain towards base, towards the center of my character.

Thinking back on this night, driving home from the theatre for one of the last times in my life, I am reminded of other snowy nights, similarly as comfortingly bleak. People shivered and muttered, holding on to the few small vestiges of beauty that would pull them through the winter on those nights. But I think I was happier then. I felt at least at that point like I knew what I was doing with my life. I knew where I was going.

I eventually reached home, or the place I currently called home. I feel like I am perpetually on a journey towards a home that is nowhere to be found. Towards a home that has no place and no time. The snow deadens the pain enough to go on. Innocence cannot be restored though; the snow is simply the illusion of security in a world that is more broken than complete.

-Ethan Brown Jones

 

Lost Words, Empty Promises

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Source: topwalls.net

I didn’t think I would care this much, that the words of my life would be so significant. When it comes to words, I always used to believe in a sort of unalterable importance. There was this sort of mystical, unravished honesty to all words. I guess my beliefs go back to a time where words still meant something, a time still remembered in the trivial ideals of modern novels. Once, despite the corruption and dishonesty that plague our society, words had meaning, had weight and consequences. No longer is this true. As an entire country has been rearranged in the modern, technological age, the once-assumed significance of language has been forgotten. And so, as words lose more and more of their influence, I have realized I care about this loss of verbal and linguistic sincerity on a much deeper level than I once thought.

Take the phrase “I love you” for instance. At one time in my life, I believed these the most consequential and truthful words a being could utter. But as so much else in the world has changed, so has the depth of this phrase. Where once these words meant a depth of love so intense that it almost pained an individual, now they are used passively and unthinkingly.

This is not to say that certain virtues don’t exist in the lack of sincerity our words now hold. Far fewer of us are hurt by a nasty insult or a fight among friends. They didn’t mean it we tell ourselves; what does it matter anyway? We are probably right in some sense, what’s the use in getting overly emotional over a couple of words thrown without thought? Especially with the speed of life today and the growing number of responsibilities placed upon us, what’s the point in placing meaning behind words, our own or otherwise?

However there is an aspect that seems to be overlooked in all this: the unique emotional experience words once opened us up to. Where once we read books for the beauty of the language they contained, we now seem content with the same storyline regurgitated over and over. I pity the writers of today too though. How can today’s writers compete in the career marketplace when they actually take the time to write something decent and meaningful? They have to produce quantity to make a living, and inevitably, quality falls through the cracks.

As I write this draft I realize how I dramatize this subject. I’m still writing for emotion and meaning, others must be too. Yet it is hard not to feel like a lone ranger on the final frontier when I look at the new best sellers list and wonder where quality writing died and when meaningless stories became perfectly acceptable. I just hope there are others out there on this night that are working equally as intensely on this same craft of writing.

Good writing to me isn’t even so much about the writing itself. Good writing is about passion, emotional experience, and simply taking the time to sit and think before thoughts are even put into words. Half the struggle of writing, at least for me, is just finding the motivation to sit alone for a while, contemplating experience, life, knowledge, and everything in between.

Writing can even be as simple as writing a letter once and a while (assuming I’m not the only one still writing those!). Journaling has so much to do with the practice of writing too. If we just had a few more people in this world sit down and think about their life, actions, and words I guarantee we could fix so many of today’s ailments. Maybe it is simply naïve optimism, but I truly believe that with a little more writing and a few less empty words, we could become a better people.

I once believed in that indescribable power of language, but it seems now to be just and empty promise, words lost in the space between reality and utopia. One day, hopefully that promise can regain its prowess. Just a few thoughts from a writer on a dark night…

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Perception

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My lamp shreds the dim, morning darkness agonizingly. The room is the same way I left it only hours ago, diving into the warm blankets and the unconscious equally as ferociously. Yesterday is done, soon to be completely forgotten. The work piled and undone, which felt so pressing previously, now feels motivating and exciting. I can hardly contain the passion I feel, rising promptly from bed, rested, even on so few hours of sleep. The office glistens in the crisp wash of lamp light. Today will be a good one, I feel.

My day has only just begun and already I feel powerful, motivated, and ready for what is to come. So much like the others is this morning, but it feels unique somehow. In hindsight, the events that tortured me so over the last weeks seem miniscule, so much less implacable than I once felt they were. The onerous happenings seem to fade away, leaving in their place a sense of renewed hope for the future.

Not so much was it about the instances themselves but the arbitrary set of emotions assigned to them each day. The places I went, the people I met, and even that actions I took were, and are, shaped by the unsupported, often undecided views I took on them momentarily.

Perception holds such an incredible place in our lives as human beings. For, while other creatures observe their world on a subconscious level, we are able to not only observe, but also cogitate on our perceptions and explore them in order to glean comprehension.

Only a week ago, I would have told you that only two basic categories of comprehension exist in this world. I would have described to you the reality as I believed it then— we either observe and perceive the world in order to understand it or we are passive to all objects around us by concerted effort to shelter ourselves from reality. But what I now hold true is that our comprehension is also highly dependent upon the specific way in which we perceive every moment, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. I too used to believe that one simply viewed the world as it was, that I could easily perceive the difference between the reality in my head and the reality exterior to my mind. My view of this has changed as well, even in this short time period. Our internal ideas, preconceived notions, and a lack of true objective perception often lead to the horrible phenomenon of miscomprehension and misperception, I now understand.

After a bad week, Friday felt the worst of all, despite the inherent reprieve that is naturally associated with the end of the week. And in hindsight I realize that Friday was in fact the end of my sorrows though I didn’t feel so at the time. My deep resentment for all that had happened that week had poisoned my perception of all experiences and actions for the entire rest of the week. My thoughts had been negative towards all around me and I was stuck because of it. But I didn’t exert any effort to change this fact; I felt so comfortable in just allowing my negativity to stew and eventually boil over, thinking that my attitude towards the world was set in stone, unchangeable by mine or anyone else’s hand. But the weekend brought with it the time to journal, converse, and reflect on the week as it had been. And what I realized was that the week had gone exactly as my poor attitude had predicted going in. One misfortune on Monday morning had soured the rest of the week, promoting numerous conflicts, anger, and eventually, unproductive self-pity and depression. And it was my fault. No, the world had not sent me a week full of problems; my own mind had created all of that. The way I dealt with tiny daily issues had sent me into a downward spiral from which I did not recover quickly. Instead of seeing the value in all of my experiences or noticing the smallest beauties of every moment, I had fallen prey to the easier, yet more detrimental cycle of negative energy, unproductivity, aggression, and irrationalism.

I now view positivity as a personal choice, rather than a predestined factor. As I have chosen over the last week to think positively in the face of adversity, I have been much happier and felt less stressed too. Yes, the inconveniences, the conflicts, and the stressors still exist. But I have been dealing with them in a very different manner. Even when I find it difficult to remain positive, I try to utilize the passionate emotions as motivation to keep growing, keep working hard, and keep moving forward.

The beauty of perception is that it is unique, manageable, and easily controlled— this is what I try to remember each and every day.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Copious Variety

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The ride to the bus was quick but lonesome despite the NPR I was listening to. Stories of people all across the world were mentioned. How many different people there are in this world. Looking out the front windshield, I couldn’t help thinking of the lives of the people around me, all on their own way, following their own path, living their own separate lives. Early in the morning as it was, the gentle golden glow was only slowly beginning to crest over the mountains in opposition to the gray dawn and the roads were very lightly trafficked by both vehicles and pedestrians. For the cars that were out on the road, I couldn’t help but create narratives for each of the assumed occupants.

For the dirty, blue Toyota truck, rusting along all edges, I imagined a workman, going off to some construction site. He was mid-forties in age and somewhere well below mid-forties in income. But he was a good man, making an honest living for the family he loved so dearly.

For the spotless white Mercedes, I visualized a narrative of a woman in her late thirties. With striking red hair, perfected nails, a tight pencil skirt, a royal blue blouse, a black blazer, and a pair of empowered, peach-colored pumps, she cut quite a figure. I imagined her to be intelligent, hard-working, almost detrimentally so, and above all, in control of all aspects of her life. But with this pristine façade, I associated a much deeper story, one of loss, regret, and loneliness. I imagined that when she was young, she had envisioned herself wealthy, powerful, and happily-committed by age thirty-five. Most of her vision had come to fruition, but one crucial piece was still missing. And so, she spent many nights alone, her apartment feeling open and cavernous, the walls seeming to mock her lack of romantic intimacy. But she was alive.

I arrived at the bus, late as usual, gliding in a blur past the driver and the hordes of watching eyes. I wondered what lay behind those eyes— contempt, judgment, emptiness, or perhaps even depth of thought. The back of the bus, the last frontier in terms of seats, and the prime location for observation is where I landed. As they sat in the darkness within the bus, so did I­— observing and contemplating their lives.

I created scenarios for each of their lives too. I thought about the sorrowful-faced man. I pitied him; he seemed compassionate. But underlying his sunken countenance was a morose back- story, one of heartbreak and loss. I thought of him as average though; we all had loss. I just wondered why he seemed to take his loss so deeply, hanging on to his depression for so long.

The boy who sat next to me seemed pleasant enough with his youthful, humorous attire and attractive face, but his affliction was cigarettes. From his breath and that nervous, energetic twitchiness, it was clear to me that he was addicted, tragically and absolutely. I wondered what tormented him so that he was driven to the so-called cancer sticks. Perhaps a father that was nonexistent or a single mother who was working two jobs was the source of the anxiety that plagued him so. Still, deep within his brown eyes was a boyish hope in tandem with that childlike fear that is rooted in abandonment.

I cogitated on the young skiers in the seats just ahead of me. They poked fun at each other and chatted loudly and immaturely. I wondered exactly why they felt it necessary to converse in such a way. Had they just left home and never grown up. They seemed middle-aged in the physical sense, but in terms of psychological development, they seemed naïve, uneducated, even somewhat stunted.

My day continued on with these scenes in my head and soon, the bus ride was over. Walking along the street mall, a very different group of people surrounded me. Looking haughty and disconnected in their rich fur coats, they seemed altogether disinterested with the pedestrian world around them. A woman of considerable stature as well as apparently considerable wealth pranced past me, walking elegantly, almost levitating in her pretension. She was chattering into her phone, seemingly unaware of the entire world around her own particular realm, no doubt unaware of me as well. I wondered if she felt ashamed of her narcissism, but I already knew in my mind that she had neither interest in the outside world nor any anxiety for her lack of outward compassion.

Over the course of the day, my sense that everyone was separate and unique evolved and I became aware that my life and other’s lives are more similar than different. I began to feel that my motivations and drives were the same as everyone else’s. While I knew that my life was not without pain, suffering, and heartbreak, I realized that other’s lives were not either. Joy and love were most important in life, I soon recognized. My life is not unique; while variety exists, experience is universal for all of us.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Unceasing

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Life never stops moving all around us. When we are young, we believe that the world is ours to command, that time is endless, that we can live whatever life we want to live. Youthful but naïve, we hope that one day, all of our aspirations and dreams will miraculously turn into our reality. But the world isn’t that simple, we come to understand. If we don’t watch closely enough, life slips by, and soon, we are older and life hasn’t worked out the way we would have hoped.

Recently, I was lying in bed on a cold winter night. It was dark outside the window, a kind of blue, haunting, suffocating dark. Lying there, journaling, as I was, my mind slipped facilely back into the past. Memories of former dark nights came rushing back. It was as if, for a moment, my mind had slipped away into the high clouds of my memory, resurfacing things that I hadn’t recalled in quite some time. Unearthed, the memories frightened me. Had my life really gone so far off course from my meticulous planning without me even noticing it? Had I really lost my way so easily, without any awareness of what was going on?

I have been moving so frenetically in order to simply keep up with the ways in which my life is progressing that I have not had time enough to check back in with my master plans. My life and my world have been rocketing towards my future so swiftly that I have only had time to hang on tight and struggle through the piles of work yet undone. And it never ends; the rush doesn’t subside; the days don’t grow remarkably longer.

Life never stops.

When we are young, we believe that we will have all the time in the world to realize our dreams; we believe that reaching our dreams is simple.

We grow up, the illusions end, life moves ever faster, and we are left to decide how best to nurture the shrinking remnants of our dreams. We are forced to open our eyes, noticing once and for all that life is short and we must push harder and harder if we are to grow and closer to our dreams.

Dreams don’t build themselves. So I looked back through my life the other night, recalling so many things I have done. I began to recognize that I must use each day to its full potential, pushing myself to work harder, be more focused, learn more, love more, and, most importantly, live more. My days speed by at an ever increasing rate and my life seems to be moving towards the future rather expeditiously. But still, life doesn’t stop to wait for me to catch up.

But the real question in my mind is whether I’m heading towards the future I have worked so hard for, or an entirely different future.

So as life speeds on, I push forward, growing, working, and dreaming each day. Only with daily effort can my reality become my dream reality. Life never stops; neither can I, my future depends upon me alone.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Musical Love Affair

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Lights blare; the crowd hushes to silence; only my footsteps crack harshly in the deafening emptiness. Thousands of beady eyes focus intently on each and every square inch of my body. Somewhere out in the dark theatre, a cough echoes, seeming inexcusable and out-of-place. I am alone on the stage, the only center for the room’s attention. I raise my eyes to the loge and a roar explodes from the crowd. My arms are raised above me head as I smile lovingly at the audience. Sitting on the deep-black leather piano bench, the room hushes in an uncomfortable, anticipative silence. My fingers delicately rest on the keys, my eyes scanning the magnificent nine feet of strings constituting the Steinway, stretched out before me. Taking a deep breathe in through my nose, I begin to play, the sound filling the monstrous theatre, my mind becoming intoxicated with sonorous music. I feel comfortable in the song for a while; then it changes; I am no longer at home where I am; the music transitions to a place very far from where I began. Emotion drives expression onward into the cavernous abyss. I am focused intently on the music; yet when one is accustomed to playing music, one knows that sounds bring back memories wrapped in the silken gauze of emotions, rushing out through musical expression. The end approaches, I feel. A sense of longing for it to never end engulfs me and I am reminded of so many other nights just like this one, equally as perfect. And then the song is over. I’m sure the crowd is clapping; their hands are moving; but the roar of music in my head deafens me to the sounds of the outside world.

A group of musicians comes out on stage with me and I’m sure that I make some gracious speech to the audience, however subconscious my words seem to be. The next song is counted off; I play once more. But the music has no real beginning or end, only ephemeral constancy. The heavy black Steinway is resplendent in the purple hue of the stage lights and I am suddenly unaware of all tangible things in this world. The music is all. In the air surrounding the other musicians and me, a creative energy flows, water-like, torrential, and imperious.

Just as soon as it began, the concert ends. I bow and leave the stage, waving royally as I exit. Alone in my dressing room, the energy fades, the lights burn out, the world comes rushing back and the dressing room feels cold and isolated. Thoughts are turned to reality: I should get some more gas; I think I’m out of lettuce; I should really head to the office and finish up some work. The stage is gone. The concert fades away.

I am alone on the stage. Dim radiance glows from the work lights throughout the theatre. The air lies dormant, thick around me. I am nothing; I am nobody; I have no talent; I have no worth; it is all a lie, a repugnant untruth; my life, my dreams, and my reality are all inchoate, prone, strewn across the wretchedness of the stage; doubt turns to despair which in turn turns to self-loathing. I try to play, but the feeling is gone, the emotions- all snuffed out. In the dim glow, the piano seems decrepit, deterrent, disdainful even. Tears stream down my cheeks onto the keys that once passionately embraced my fingertips.

But the clouds lift; the lights return.

The theatre is quiet but alive. Breathing deeply, I step gingerly onto the stage I know so well. And the roar begins again. Beloved once more, I am weightless, significant, and unaware of the despair that lies just beneath the surface, at least for a little while.

The crowd hushes once more and I scan those nine feet of strings. A musical love affair begins anew.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Road to Recovery: Late Once Again

Once again, I was late. As with many times before this one, I had cut it way too close, not left on time, and tried to cram way too much into a single day. I hustled out to my car, spilling coffee on myself in the process. My bags, my papers, and I flew into the car splaying ourselves across the seats. The engine roared to life as I cranked the key hard in the ignition and I raced furiously out of the driveway to my meeting. I turned on my podcasts in an attempt to calm myself with NPR but it was almost futile with how stressed I was. Swerving around corners, I drove with one hand, putting on makeup, eating a snack, and scratching down a quick note with the other one. I saw the car ahead ambling along at a less-than-satisfactory pace and roared past it in a hurried fury. Each second that ticked by was one more second of lateness.

Was it just my imagination or did every car in my way secretly wish for me to be horribly and utterly late? Each driver ahead of me went slower than the last; each one drove a little worse. I fretted and yelled obscenities inside the charged comfort of my car.

Finally making it to my parking space, I sped in and frantically gathered myself and my belongings. I slammed the door, locked up with shaking hands, and ran. Rushing into the meeting, I excused myself for the millionth time, citing the atrocious traffic as the cause of my tardiness on this occasion. It was on this day that I realized it wasn’t working anymore; something had to change drastically in my life.

And so I set to work on a plan of how to change my life for the better. My realizations scared me; I realized that because of my constant procrastination, I was constantly putting things off until the last minute, and thus, constantly being late. All of this led to a lack of stability and control in my life and so I set out to change it all.

I researched for months on end and tried a multitude of things until one night, tonight in fact, I decided that my new life was ready to begin. Tomorrow, all my plans will come to fruition and I’ll be organized and on time, or at least that’s the plan. After all, what is life if not a constant work in progress?

Every day, I work towards my goal: that one day I will be on time to everything that happens in my life. Every day too, I research more and more, learning each and every moment how to make my life better and continue to improve the problem areas. I get more inspired as well as more discouraged when I realize how much more work I still have to do. But each day, each hour, each minute is a new one, and the next one is an unprecedented opportunity to go forth and work even harder. I must have faith, and I do, that I can accomplish my goals and live a more fruitful and successful life, and thus, a more happy and fulfilling life.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Working Hard at Work Worth Doing

The hours go on and I sit in my office, working away, waiting for inspiration, and scratching away at one of my numerous drafting pads. Desk drawers full of notebooks, shelves full of books, and file boxes full of papers line my office- hopeful reminders of my past and decidedly present inspirations. Black pens quiver in anticipation of something new and truly great. Papers clutter the wide, seasoned desk, remnants of former busy nights.

The morning comes early, dreary, and cool. Promptly, I rise and get moving, eager to start working once again. After a quick run and then prepping for the day, it’s an hour or so of emails and notes. I write and play piano and design all morning, and then it’s off to a couple of meetings before coming back to the office for more creativity, more work, and especially, more coffee.

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

I’ve always loved that quote and felt that it describes my life and goals in many ways. When I reread that quote, which is hung above my desk, I am reminded of why I spend long hours doing research and working on numerous projects. I remember that I am working to make the world more beautiful, more elegant, more equitable, and more loving.

Often in the course of our professional lives, we are forced to work on unnecessary, rather uninspired, and unworthy tasks. It is at these moments that we realize how rewarding it is to work away at things that are truly worthy of our efforts. For, lest we turn into lonely, saturnine individuals, we must work every day to ensure that all of our energy is utilized in making the world a better place.

When I finally fall to sleep in the deepest hours of the night, I always try to look back on the day with gratitude, but also with austere, censorious meticulousness. Because the day I lose those compulsions toward detail- especially as it is corollary to the beneficialness of activities, is the day that my efforts and my work will no longer be worthwhile.

I pride myself on my constant pursuit of my better self, yet I am also forlorn when I look back upon the mistakes of my past. And so, it is with regret, but also motivation, that I go about my work, striving for greatness, but not getting lost without the most-important, larger picture. Work is only worth doing when it is done with the utmost passion and impressive scrupulousness. At no other time will work be worthwhile, no matter the honorability or meritoriousness of the work itself. It is what each of us instills in our daily duties that gives our lives meaning and gives relevance to the words of Theodore Roosevelt.

If nothing else, we owe it to ourselves to nurture our lives through thoughtfulness and hard work. One day, we too may look back and see that our endeavors were worthwhile. If nothing else, it’s something to strive for.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones