Friday, February 21, 2014

Wanderlust - Tia

Screen captures from the places my phone seems to think I need to visit. 


a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.

The lock screen on my phone is a TripAdvisor app that recommends travel destinations. It changes every 6 hours or so and some of the locations are just stunning. The only down side is that the changing scenery has stoked my wanderlust to a roaring flame. I am just dying to get away.

Although I travel a good deal for work, I rarely get to go to places that are exciting. For a while I was going to NYC pretty regularly. But that was about the best of it. Some of my destinations left much to be desired. I mean, there are parts of Indiana that I will happily never visit again.

Usually when I want to travel, I want to go someplace warm with good food. The thing that usually holds me back is not having anyone to travel with. Even being a professed and confirmed introvert, solo traveling is not really my thing. There's no one to talk to about the random thing you just saw/ate/did. You're not in any of the pictures because you don't have anyone to take them for you or be in them with you. And if you're not terribly outgoing by nature, it's unlikely that you're going to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, especially if you don't speak the language.

But here's the dilemma for me, I'm running up on 40 at an alarming rate. And I've been seriously considering joining team FullUtero regardless of marital status by the time I hit the big 4-0. (That decision is still pending as it is life altering and permanent.) But until I reach the big scary age, I don't want to just sit around waiting for life to happen. I don't want to look back in a few years with a baby on my hip and say, "I wish I'd used my vacation days to do something non-baby related."

So I've decided 2014 is the year of travel. I carried over a MONTH of vacation from work last year. That is the worst life/work balance ever. That many days essentially means that I did not take enough vacation last year. I'm not making that same mistake in 2014. My hope is that I won't have to go alone. But if I do, well dammit, at least I can say I went.

I want the BGLU family to keep me accountable. Thus the whole reason for this post. I even made a 2014 Travel Bucket List so you guys can periodically tweet, Instagram or Facebook and ask about the status of the trips. My hope is that the year will be filled with the following:

- A long weekend in Vegas
- A long weekend in Puerto Rico (I will also accept a long weekend in another tropical destination)
- ComicCon in San Diego (which just happens to fall close to my birthday)
- London at least once (preferably in the fall but I would also go at the year's end so that I can ring in the New Year with the Brits. Plus I'm dying to eat at Wagamama and Nando's.)
- Phoenix to see a friend I haven't seen in 6 years
- NYC with my dad. (Somehow my dad has traveled the world and never been to NYC. So I'd like to take him and let him be a tourist.)
- Costa Rica for Thanksgiving at an all-inclusive. (Apparently, that's the off season for them even though that's when the weather is the best. Go figure.)

The crazy thing is, if I budget my money and my time accordingly, I can do all of these trips this year. The beauty of being unmarried and childless is that you're also unencumbered with a bit of disposable income. So instead of being sad that I'm not married and my uterus is full of cobwebs (I make jokes to make myself feel better), I'm going to choose to enjoy my freedom. Drink wine on a Thursday and watch "Scandal." Why not? Sleep 12 hours on a Friday night. Sure. Randomly hop in the car and go to a skate event in another city. Of course. Why….BECAUSE I CAN!!!!


Saturday, February 15, 2014

SHE'S FREE!!!! - Tia

I got the following text from HOMIE of HOMIES Brandon yesterday, "RUN to the nearest phone or laptop or fax machine or spaceship or whatever you need and go listen to the EP JoJo just dropped. I never want to sing again. Outsinging almost anybody that I can think of. Honestly."

As I am a HUGE JoJo stan fan I got myself to the nearest listening device. And let me just tell you, I GOT MY DAMN LIFE!!! Joanna Levesque is SANGING Y'ALL!!!! She is singing about her freedom and you can't tell me any differently.

For those not in the know, JoJo was finally released from the restrictive contract she had with Blackground Music. The contract, which was struck when she was 13, essentially left her in musical limbo for the better part of seven years. But, won't He do it, Atlantic Records promptly and wisely snatched JoJo up the minute she gained her freedom and new music is forthcoming.

And to whet our appetites or to say thank you to the fans or just give a middle finger to Blackground, this broad blessed us with #LOVEJO. While all of the tracks are, expectably, great, the stand out for me is "Take Me Home." Phil Collins is one of my musical icons. As such, I'm usually hesitant, underwhelmed and unimpressed when people sample/cover his music. But JoJo being JoJo, she slays the track. And in light of her recent emancipation, the lyrics take on a "freedom anthem" feel that I never noticed before.

"Seems so long I've been waiting/Still don't know what for"

"They don't think that I listen but I know who they are"

But this line…this was the line that made me straight up shout in my kitchen when I heard it:
"Cause I've been a prisoner all my life and I can say to you"

Signed as a child. Prevented from sharing the thing she loved the most with her fans. Unable to free herself from binding restrictions. Y'all, that lyric will preach to you if you let it. In my mind, the minute she signed with Atlantic, JoJo took a portable studio/stage to the front of Blackground Records and sang that one lyric with all her might and then walked away. (And until she personally tells me differently, that's how it happened.)

All kidding aside, JoJo is a powerful vocalist. She's one of the few defining voices of this generation. There are so few powerhouse singers out these days. Where are the Whitneys, the Mariahs, the Arethas? I feel like we have a lot of cute singers but we don't have a lot of VOCALISTS. I'm talking people with range who can blow without the assistance of AutoTune and the like. And THAT'S why I'm glad that JoJo is back on the scene. I'm ready and waiting for a studio album that comes and snatches my very edges from the roots.

I've said it before and I'll say it again…YAASSS JOJO YAAAAAASSSSSSS.

Oh…I got so caught up I almost forgot….you can download the EP here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hold On, We're Going Home- Toya

"I'm going to a place where there'll be no more crying... I'm going to a place where I can sit down." Walter Hawkins  "Going to a Place"

After 13 years of being a Nashville resident, Thursday night I pulled up a block away from my parents' home in New Jersey, the house I grew up in for about 20 years, and stopped my car on the side of the road.  "I really just did this." I thought to myself. "This is really real." There could be no turning back around and going ten minutes down the road to my friend Tonya's house to further discuss my decision; no getting on the highway about 20 minutes down the road to my favorite Nashville coffee shop to rethink everything. This was it.  At 39, I was moving back home to get my life together. It's just weird to say that home is no longer Nashville.

I didn't realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in being a Nashvillian.  I didn't even realize that being a hardcore Nashvillian was how other people saw me either until I announced that I was moving. You wanted to know what to do on a weekend? Heck, on a Tuesday? I was the one to ask.   I remember calling a Nashville based organization to change my billing info and when I said my name, the person on the other end said "Toya?  Nashville scene Toya?"  I am known to love that city. And I do. I champion everything that is good for it, have written articles on what to do for fun and have been an ambassador of the music scene there for years while running a modestly successful concert production company.  I never thought that I could give my heart completely to a city; not a person, but a city. And here I am, changing my current city on Facebook to one in South Jersey, trying to hold my face together from the ugliest cry ever.

Let me backtrack and tell you all how I got here though.

I read somewhere once that problems are often the universe asking you questions. Last year my question seemed to be if according to my peers I am so talented and gifted in a number of areas, why am I not getting what I need? I mean basic needs. Like why can't I pay my rent on time? Why can't I find a job that is a good fit and pays all of my bills?  Why am I constantly struggling to keep my head above water, and so on and so forth. The thought of living my life with so much potential and not even coming close to fulfilling it sent me into the worst depression of my life. I got dangerously hopeless and my temper was getting shorter by the day. I was having anxiety attacks where I would have to rock back and forth in order to calm down and get on with my day.  I was buying wine instead of toilet paper and once pulled over in the middle of traffic to yell at a pedestrian riding a Segway.  My mood swings were becoming alarming.

Side note: A few of my friends asked me if I may be going through pre-menopause.  I can't even wrap my mind around that right now.  Pre-menopause? Where did my 30's go???

What freaked me out the most and had me crying myself to sleep at night and sometimes even during the day was that I really thought that if I didn't pull it together that I was going to disappoint so many people. I love people. I have the absolute best friends and community anyone could ever want in Nashville.  However I no longer wanted to help anyone and it was becoming hard to hide what was really going on.  I put up a good front and was always smiling but deep inside I was a person that wanted to run and hide.  I was just so embarrassed that life just didn't seem to be working for me. What exactly was the problem?

The problem was I was getting squeezed out of a place that is no longer suited for what I need in life. That was a hard reality to come to grips with (Tyler Perry wrote a BRILLIANT and moving piece on this subject called "Don't Stay Too Long" here).  I had been told numerous times from various people that sooner or later I was going to have to suck it up and fly.  That while I had done some really cool things in Nashville, that city was just a training ground for me to discover and develop my potential.  It was time to go and the longer I stayed, the harder it was for me to remain comfortable.

So then I had this bright idea to move to LA this summer.

After making a list of all of the things I wanted to embark upon career wise, LA just made the most sense. Now I don't particularly like LA (that traffic is for the birds, literally), but I was willing to do anything to make my life right.  I hated the idea of moving to Nashville 13 years ago too and it turned out to be the best move of my life. So moving some place I didn't like wasn't a big deal to me.  The only thing that was wrong with my moving to LA was that after months of stress I didn't exactly see myself as being emotionally healthy enough to handle moving that far away to something brand new.  I needed to get stable in so many areas: emotionally, financially, and spiritually.  I desperately wanted to spend some time with my family.  You see, I wasn't distraught because I didn't think I couldn't make anything out of my life. I was distraught because I know that I can. I came to the conclusion that if life was just going to come at me sideways anytime it wants to then I need to be in a position to handle things as they come good or bad.  I asked myself what if I got offered my dream job somewhere in LA. Would I take it? The answer was no.  I needed to be in a healthy environment for a while. 2013 had kicked my butt something serious and I barely made it out alive. I needed to get well.  When I came to that conclusion, all arrows pointed to home.

After full disclosure with my parents about dealing with depression and what I was doing to manage my emotions and get back on track in life,  I called them both and told them that I was coming home to get healthy. My parents are some beautiful people. Not only did they express their excitement for me coming home but they showered me with affirmations. They told me that they were proud of me. They told me that what I was doing was wise, brave and in no means a step backwards. They told me that they believed in my talents and would support me the best way they can knowing that there are great things in store for me. I needed that more than I realized. This is the environment I need to be in to move forward.

A friend of mine asked me what was Nashville going to do without me. I told them that Nashville has been without me for about a year. I checked out a while ago. The rest of me just needed to catch up and move forward. So here I am. 39 and not sorry to be back home.  I have discovered that if you can't handle things from a peaceful state of mind, you need to get there by any means necessary and this is indeed necessary.  When I finally got out of my car and walked into my room at my parents house, I saw that my dad had put a beautiful bouquet of flowers on my nightstand. It kind of reminded me of a hospital room.  It reminded me of something I said to one of my friends who said that they didn't want me to go.  Half joking I said "Well, you can either visit me in New Jersey or I can stay and you can visit me in a facility that has actual visiting hours. You take your pick."  I'm at peace with my decision to push the reset button on my life.  I am a bit of a recluse right now but I am definitely at peace. It's a working peace though.  I am not here to kick it.  I'm back in the gym and managing not to scarf down all of my my mom's home cooking.  Also, career wise there are some potentially great opportunities for me here.  I'm here to become the best person that I can be and to be honest I'd rather it be here at home with my loving family than anywhere else, even in Nashville.

"People have the right to fly. And will when it gets compromised. The heart says 'move along'. The mind says 'Got you heart. Let's move it along.'" John Mayer, "Wheel"