Risk: For a Few Sentences More…

On the way home from work, I felt lonely. I felt an emptiness; a vague notion of isolation as I drove alone on the highway.

I arrived at the house and sat with my roomate. I watched him play a video game while I listened to a podcast. I wanted to do something that challenged me, so I pulled out my laptop and began to write…

Two and a half hours later, I had a composition written about my past experience with heroin addiction. Its not my best work. I didn’t go into any specifics of my recovery. I didn’t reference AA meetings, or the 12 steps. I didn’t reference the human need for connection. Hell, I didn’t really mention sobriety either, and, I’m not gonna explore it now.

More important than sobriety, more important than a goal, more important than finding happiness or contentment is the task of being authentic. Shedding the projection of “who we want others to see” by allowing our inner selves to be seen. Challenging pre-conceived notions of what is “expected” in pursuit of truth.

Sounds really confusing. I know.

“Truth” is an answer that can only be uncovered by “trying”. 

It comes in the form of realization, and “Truth” cant be given, shared, or understood. It can only be felt.

“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.”

-Neil Gaiman

If it weren’t for moments of risk: the podcasts, the poems, the videos, and the shares, I wouldn’t learn anything.

The only way I’ve ever been able to learn is by trying…

Nine Inch Nails debut album “Pretty Hate Machine” is a mosaic of transcribed expression. A pure example of existential angst, caught in the form of music.

Founded in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio, Nine Inch Nails isn’t a band: its an idea written, composed, and produced by Trent Reznor. He plays every instrument. He writes and sings every lyric. He takes the ideas in his head and transposes them into melody.

A man with vision, Trent fully invested himself in the pursuit of truth to produce “Pretty Hate Machine”.

While working as a janitor at a recording studio, Reznor approached the owner and asked if he could record while the studio spaces were unoccupied. The owner of the studio obliged, and Trent went to work.

Up until that point, Trent had only been a keyboard player.

Late at night, Reznor sat in the studio and recorded himself. He played the instruments, wrote the lyrics, and sang. He explored his mind out loud.

Alone in a room, surrounded by the influence of artists who had come before him, Trent began to question himself.

He didn’t understand God. He didn’t understand love. He couldn’t wrap his head around heartache, religion, purpose, or pain. He didn’t understand why he felt alienated from everyone and everything; confused with the idea of societal expectations and our human need for judgment and blame. The meaning of life alluded him and he couldn’t understand why he felt so strongly.

He caught that emotion on record.

He caught an honest version of himself.

Then, he had the courage to share it. To risk “who he was” and how he felt.

Trent Reznor understood authenticity, and if it weren’t for his own pursuit, millions of us would feel alone, when all we have to do is press play on “Pretty Hate Machine” and connect.

The risk could have been taking a low-paying job as a janitor. The risk could have been asking his boss permission to be given time in the studio. It could have been standing alone with a microphone, singing and screaming. It could have been the emotion he poured into his lyrics. He might have been thinking,

“Do I really want to say this?”

“What will people think?”

“Is this who I am?”

The risk could have been deciding that his music was worth the attention of others, forever stamping it into our memory as an example of “who he is”.

Whatever the risk was, Reznor caught his truth. He tried.

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