I've had some time to reflect since releasing Retrospect. In particular, I've reflected on the life of my mother and what she really stood for. Anyone who knows my story knows that she passed four years ago, and not a day goes by that I don't think about her impact on my life and the lives of others who knew her. But specifically speaking, I've reflected on how she's affected me as far as my music and my mindset are concerned.
People ask me what drives me. They see or hear of me working 14 hours a day on my music, relentlessly, and they can't figure out how I do it. There are a few things that drive me. But they all pale in comparison to my mother. She was passionate about her music, as much as I am about mine if not more. I inherited her insane work ethic and determination, focus, and commitment to constant improvement.
I'll never forget the experience I had four years ago while in Afghanistan. I would email her every day. Phone calls were a pain as the phones were always taken and you had to wait until 3 or 4 in the morning to call back to the States at a decent time. So we chose to communicate via email. I remember emailing her and telling her that I'd done a song, the first song I'd recorded in years apparently. I was really excited for some reason. I guess it was because life itself was a luxury in my current situation, so anything above that was like heaven. She emailed back the next day and said that she was happy for me:
"We really like the song you did too. You need to make a new jazz CD. Well, I'mma go now. Truly. Luv u. Mama."
That was the last email I received from her before she passed, copied and pasted.
To understand the power of that situation, you have to attempt to place yourself in my shoes. I was in a war zone. Death could happen at any given moment in any given way - normal, abnormal or otherwise. That alone takes some mental fortitude. I was an M249 gunner, and I had to carry that big thing everywhere I went...even to the DFAC to eat. Not a normal situation by a long shot. But when my sister called and told me that my mother had passed, I was in shock. I didn't say anything for about an hour.
My unit shipped me back to the States so I could attend the funeral. And then I had to return to the hell I had just left a week and a half ago. That was tough. Tougher than most will understand. I saw grass, streets, buildings and cars for a week and had to go back to sand and rocks. All after burying my mother. Knowing that I couldn't go back to Afghanistan with a weak mindset, I found a way to toughen up. The emotions I once had in abundance (sympathy, apathy, joy, understanding) had to be "surgically removed" or reduced at the very least in order for me to function in a way that warranted survival in a war zone. That's a topic for a completely different blog.
With all of that in mind, what stuck in my mind the most was what my mother said to me in that email. That I should continue to do music. That I should make another jazz CD. And I plan on doing that over and over again, better and better until I myself am gone. On the surface, it seems simple. But when you dig a little deeper, you see that there is no end.
I'm compelled to do what I do not only because I love to do it, but because I feel that I must in order to continue the legacy of my mother and fulfill her desire for me to do "a new jazz CD." Essentially, I'm carrying the torch.
I hope this inspires you to go out and do what you've been called to do.