“A story doesn’t have to appeal to the heart. It can also appeal to the spine.
And with two magic words…ay, no pressure.“
That’s a handsome guy, extra hand notwithstanding. I clicked this on Sunday, 27th Feb 2022 on my way to Wadi Abadilah, Fujairah, with a vibrant and diverse crew.
Time flies when you’re having fun, and it’s been a whirlwind week.
We’re into another weekend as I type this on Saturday, 5th March 2022, and I must get these words out now before life’s duties and responsibilities get in the way of my writing.
I’ve been itching to blog for months, but never seemed to find the words, or make the time.
But as any great writer knows, you must show up, even if your muse doesn’t.
The process must be trusted. The inspiration will flow. The words will come. The story will be told.
I’m in a good place in my life. I’m happy. But not content. There is much work to be done before I will be.
And once I get to that stage, I will set more goals, and work relentlessly towards achieving them.
If only I had this drive and determination a couple of years ago, I wonder where I’d be today.
That said; I don’t dwell on the past. I only learn from it. A wise man reviews history, analyses what they could have improved, and armed with that knowledge, boldly creates their future.
Which is why, in this two-part blog, I want to tell the story of the most creatively fulfilling year of my life (2018 – 2019) as an electronic dance music vlogger, and t-shirt blogger.
With the exception of a Twitter I barely use; I don’t have social media anymore. Although I use LinkedIn, I’m not lumping it along with the big three – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – because it is a different and necessary beast.
(I also loathe how it has aped Facebook’s UI, but that’s beside the point.)
Depending on who you ask, not being on social media may either be considered a cardinal sin or completely normal. What is worth examining, however, is your relationship with, and what you gain from it.
What follows is the unabridged tale of when I was building something greater than myself.
For the 1.5-minute-long version, watch my vlog.
If you like what you see, I would appreciate it if you subscribed to my channel.
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I’ve only just started exploring YouTube and am excited by the myriad of creative opportunities it offers.
Life, in technicolour squares.
I can truthfully say I was using social media (esp. Instagram) as a means to an end – to gain employment. Which is not wrong. My heart was in the right place, but I lacked focus.
With the wisdom of hindsight, I can restart my second digital project (@teesonthestreets) this year, so long as I stay true to the core idea.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s get into the story of my first digital identity @karangoesdancing…
My end goal was to secure a job covering underground electronic dance music across Europe. Either as a journalist, presenter, vlogger, or DJ. Although I already held a day job as an advertising copywriter, I had become disillusioned with the gig 3 years in. The reasons for my disillusionment? Several, but chief amongst them was that I didn’t see the point to my work, because I felt I wasn’t contributing anything of value to the world.
To reach my goal, I decided to hone my creative and social media skills through @karangoesdancing, where I would post Stories involving a mix of vlogs, photos, and blogs every day. All I did was change my existing handle (where I had some 300 followers) and start sharing content that was dance-music-focused.
Post with purpose, essentially.
I started experimenting with vlogs on Instagram in June 2018, making them for myself and noticed that people enjoyed watching. Note; I wasn’t strictly talking about music back then.
I merely went about my day, documented it, and had fun doing so.
After losing my job in advertising (mostly due to managerial changes, in part because my love for it had waned, and it showed) in September 2018, I decided to – with unconditional support from my parents – put all my eggs into the music vlogging basket.
My folks gave me a year to do as I deemed fit (known as a gap year in universities) and I was intrigued to see where this path would take me…
And this path certainly took me places! Some highlights:
1. Being asked to handle on-site social media creation for a boutique Burning Man-esque music festival called Magnetic Fields, held in a heritage 17th-century palace in Jaipur, India.
2. I was invited to a panel discussion – organized by my favourite club, Analog Room – about preventing harassment on dancefloors. Related: read my blog which sparked this conversation across India, Europe, and the Middle East, which led to the invite.
3. Meeting, and befriending my favourite artists, some of whom shared nuggets of wisdom on leading a creative life. I also crossed paths with veterans from the music industry, who guided me on how to succeed in the business.
4. Winning 4 passes to Glitch Festival, and reuniting with rave-happy friends in gorgeous Malta, who came to party, no questions asked, in the summer of 2019.
5. And last, but not least, connecting with people across the world through music.
I look back in gratitude at these magnificent experiences. And cannot believe what an extraordinary year that was.
…but I’d like to direct your attention as to why I started doing this in the first place.
I wanted to make a career of this, remember? And when you commodify yourself with an identity like @karangoesdancing, there comes a pressure to keep up appearances, especially on social media, where everybody seems to be having the time of their lives.
So, I chose to share,
Cherry-pick and publish highlights.
Things appeared rosy and hunky-dory on camera. But, for better or worse, (better, in my opinion) life is not a party.
There are highs, and lows.
That’s just the way life goes.
Whilst things seemed great digitally,
my physical life was in tatters.
My parents weren’t happy with my still-fledgling career choice. Besides, I wasn’t making any money doing this.
To remedy that, I started freelance writing. I was excellent at my job, so made enough to get by, but working freelance requires extreme dedication, and self-discipline. None of which I had at that time; I’ll admit. My food and living expenses (not to mention credit card bills) were also generously paid for by my loving parents.
I was doing what I loved but wasn’t working to a game plan. Whilst I had connected with key players in the music industry, I wasn’t sure how to leverage these connections into landing a job. And when I wasn’t creating content; I chose to party instead of work.
Common sense dictates you must have a mentor when you journey into the unknown. Especially in a field as hyper-competitive as music.
But what happens when you embark on
a journey by yourself, wanting nothing but to connect with and make people happy due to the naivete in your heart, yet also wanting to make it lucrative – thus going against your fundamental principles for doing something creative
– at the same time?
You overthink. And crash. And burn. Hard. And when you’re a self-professed hedonist, you turn to your vices. Which, for me, was unbridled pleasure.
Sexual gratification. I’d lose myself in lust for days at a time, but like a hamster running aimlessly on the hedonic treadmill, I’d return to my baseline level of happiness after reaching massive heights of ecstasy.
What’s worse is that I would repeat my mistakes, and like good old Pavlov’s dog himself, go through the same thought-stimulus-pleasure loop.
I don’t want to elucidate on this dark period, but of two things I am sure:
1. There is immense work to be done in the shadows, and on my Shadow, before I get to where I want to be. What’s encouraging is that the work began some time ago, and I’ve grown since.
2. Everything in nature is cyclical, and things are bound to improve. So long as we are conscious of our limitations, and make pushing past our comfort zones part of our daily routines.
Back to the story, then. Nobody knew what mental tug-of-war I was going through, yet I blissfully continued sharing Story after Story every day, creating ridiculous hype leading up to Glitch Festival – so when I was awarded 4 free festival passes, I was not surprised.
I’d organically grown my page from a paltry 300 something followers to a 1500-strong community in the span of 11 months.
The math worked out to about 110 new followers every month, which was decent, considering I wasn’t sharing any sponsored posts. I merely interacted with the global dance music community. I also viewed each person I connected with as a, well, person, and not a number.
Although I must say: this number included several bots. I’d be quick on the uptake to block them, but if memory serves me correctly, they would still count as part of your follower count. I do not remember.
People were following my journey every step of the way (the analytics didn’t lie) and were keen to hear my thoughts about this sonic festival on the sun-drenched shores of idyllic Malta.
And I was just as eager to tell that story, but couldn’t do so in good conscience upon my return from that significant trip because of a decision I had to make…
To do what is right, or what is difficult?
That is the question.
My year was up. I had to answer my parents – would I continue the music-vlogging shenanigans (and continue freelance writing on the side), or would I join the family acoustics business?
Frankly, I didn’t have to think long. I was done writing for brands. It was dull work, and I was not a self-starter. It was the same job I’d come to hate over the past few years, except this time I was on my own. No team to help.
I had to be the judge of my own work; which I’ll admit, has held me in good stead…
The music-vlogging was fun whilst it lasted. But I knew the party had to end at some point. Over the course of my vlogging efforts, I was offered one job in the music industry in Dubai, but I didn’t follow up when I should have.
So, I bit the bullet and joined my family business in September 2019. I decided to go off the grid by:
- Deactivating both my Instagram accounts @karangoesdancing and @teesonthestreets;
- Deactivating my Facebook;
- Turning off WhatsApp notifications, and archiving a bunch of chats so I wouldn’t be disturbed;
- And not responding to anyone, no matter what remaining platform (such as SoundCloud) they reached out to me from.
Many thought I had died, or worse. It was a selfish decision but had to be done. I had to give my all in this new field. On occasion, I felt the brunt of leaving people (including friends) in the dark, and it stung. But, I had to focus on the bigger picture. My goal was crystal-clear: I had to rise to the occasion of shouldering my family business.
I’d be lying if I said it was smooth sailing post my return from Malta. But, after a year and a half of impostor phenomenon, mistakes, stress, (coupled with the tempestuous time that was 2020 – hola, COVID-19!) I have somewhat found my feet in the esoteric (who am I kidding, this stuff isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be) field of acoustics.
Whilst I do not enjoy every part of my job, I feel satisfied from seeing a project through to completion. I also enjoy managing my team. But, this is no ordinary job, nor can I treat it as such.
This is my business. And I must treat it with the care and attention it deserves.
What I lack in technical know-how, I make up for with my interpersonal skills and resilient attitude: I get the job done, no matter what.
I’ve also belatedly realized that a career in advertising has given me three invaluable skills:
1. For one; I can communicate. Competently. Which already puts me head and shoulders above the masses in the construction industry. Where it seems like people cannot write a coherent email, or give a clear order to save their life…
2. Two; it has sharpened my thinking – the best creative is rooted in logic and insight. Which will no doubt play a vital role as I progress in my career, and deal with people from varying walks of life, and contrasting worldviews.
3. And three; I can sell. Effectively. I’ve recently begun taking an interest in our company’s social media page, and know that growing a business’ digital presence boils down to staying human, no matter how large you become, and utilizing the usual social media strategies – and some unusual ones, too…
I sometimes miss the halcyon days of vlogging about electronic music as @karangoesdancing. But, they’re just that – a time rooted in nostalgia.
It is okay to reminisce on occasion. Anything beyond does more harm than good.
I might return to that side of myself in the future but on a different platform.
Time will tell.
Electronic music is incredibly dear to me and has played a telling role during several moments in my life, shaping me into the man I am today.
Looking ahead, the story of my other digital side-project (@teesonthestreets) remains to be told, which deserves its own blog. Which I will publish. Soon.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I appreciate it when people read my words, or listen to my story. If you got something from this blog, please get in touch, or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
I missed this. So much. Blogging, that is. I would love it if you subscribed to my blog, but I want to make it worth your while. I want you to gain value from my words. I want you to feel something each time you receive my thoughts in your inbox. I want to write words that resonate with you.
That is what I’ve always wanted. Which is why I won’t ask you to subscribe again. At least not until I’ve built a habit of publishing on a regular basis, and consistently producing work that I am happy with.
The last time I published was in December 2018. The only reason for not publishing since then is because I was scared to write. But now, as I rediscover my creative capabilities, I know that writing is not as tricky as I made it out to be in my head.
After all, I was paid to write. And when people pay you to do something, you must be doing something right, even – and especially – if you don’t recognise it yourself.
No matter what creative activity I pursue, writing will be my first love. I find it deeply cathartic, and view it as a medium where I can allow myself to be vulnerable.
You cannot hide with words.
And if you know me even slightly, you would know I’m a guy who doesn’t mince his words, and wears his heart on his sleeve.
Which makes perfect sense. Because when I write, I write from the heart and look to connect not only with myself but you, dear reader.
I look forward to sharing more stories with you. Catch you in the next blog.