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  • Writer's pictureZach Finkelstein

We Are Not OK.

It’s been 334 days since I performed in front of an audience and I am not OK.


Last March, I lost 18 months of work overnight when my entire industry went dark. Every concert contract canceled, citing Force Majeure. A few paid, but most didn’t.


I’m one of the lucky ones with a dual career. I thought I could keep my head down, do my remote work, and wait it out a year, maybe two until the vaccine.


But I didn’t factor in the mental toll. The anger at the senseless year in seclusion, the national sacrifice that bought us time our government wasted. The crushing isolation of living 3,000 miles away from my parents, my brothers, my sister, my nieces and nephews, my close friends and mentors. The futility of practicing music I cannot and may not ever perform again. The overwhelming loss of purpose and direction.


On the outside, I seem fine. I put on a good face. I wake up every morning at 6:45. I take care of my boy. I make small-talk. I do my work. I get coffee. I scroll social media. I call my family. I cook dinner. I spend time inside with my wife and son. I write and edit when I can.


I cope in the ways I know how. When I can’t cope, I lean on my wife, my support group, my therapist, and my family. I find meaning in the little things, the way my son clings to my shoulder as I rock him to sleep.


But I am not OK.


I don’t sing much anymore. I can still sing, just as well as I ever could. But I came to realize over the course of the pandemic how much my discipline and dedication to the craft required something to work towards, a tangible goal. Practice for its own sake, without the opportunity for shared human connection with my fellow musicians, without the electric thrill of a live performance, feels hollow, a facsimile of my old life.


I know live music will be there when the pandemic is over. I know we will perform again.


I know I will see my family. I know all that. But that’s not how it feels to live in this interminable moment. It feels like I’m swimming in the same direction, always, forward, head down, head up, breathe, head down, head up, breathe, forward, always forward, and there’s land somewhere, I know it’s there, but all I see is the endless blue horizon and the unfathomable depths below.


I am not OK.


We are not OK.


We haven’t given up on music. But it sure feels like everyone gave up on us.


ZF

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