A weekly digest of varied conversational musings on day-to-day life, society & whatever the world throws our way.

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#BlackLivesMatter

BLMThese last few weeks I’ve been trying figure out how I should express myself on this issue. I’ve written and re-written my thoughts, never knowing quite what to say because it didn’t seem weighty enough in light of the magnitude of the situation and because, quite frankly, I’ve been sad, angry, dismayed, stunned, and, ultimately, unsurprised by how the general society (de)values black life. It made me numb and it silenced me. I also felt like my words would simply rehash what others have said.

But I’ve reached a point now, perhaps because of the number of cases where innocent black people have been shot by police in recent months, that I can’t be silent when I’ve built a platform to write about what’s happening in the world around us. The words and the voice, in particular, of Eric Garner echo in my mind. Unlike Michael Brown, another black man killed by a police officer, there was video footage that supported Garner’s innocence and that clearly showed that he did not resist arrest. He was crying out, making pleas as his life was taken away from him. He told the officers multiple times that he couldn’t breathe. The conditions to charge his killer were perfect. If a picture says a thousand words, then video and audio footage should be more than sufficient. There was no room for prevarication, exaggeration, or “he said-he said” – because facts are facts. Or they’re supposed to be. It was clear who was to blame, yet there is no justice for this man. 

His death, like those of many others, confirms why our black parents always tell us that we have to be twice as good, blameless, spotless, perfect almost, in order for us to be beyond reproach. If we’re extra polite, extra conciliatory, then no one can assume we’re thugs or connected to criminal elements. We always have to hold ourselves to a higher standard so that maybe, if we do that, things will work out in our favour. But many of us know this to be a lie, as it’s confirmed again and again because the larger society doubts our truth. If Garner’s death hadn’t been videotaped, detractors and commentators galore would have placed the blame firmly on his shoulders. Many of us try to hold ourselves to a gold standard, we know we have to, just in case; it’s unfortunate that too many in positions of power don’t do the same.

Signing off,

Y.

Hear My Voice
         Photo by Katia Pershin

Photo by Katia Pershin

So, today is a big day for me. Not only is it my birthday, but it is also the official launch day for my music website. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m a musician, but haven’t actually demonstrated that to many of you The Y Variable readers, so…here goes!

www.yaahemaa.com is now live!

My tracks can also be found at soundcloud.com/yaahemaa.

The following can be found on my “About” page, but I thought I’d also share here what music means to me:

I have a lot of ideas and stories swirling around in my head. When you’re that kind of person you have no choice but to let those mental impressions out somehow. For me, that release comes through writing and through playing music.

We often overuse the word “love”, but it’s truly how I feel about music. I absolutely, wholeheartedly love it.  I love what music does for all of us – its ability to inspire change, alter moods, set a romantic scene, or conjure love in a person who has given up on its beauty.

I also love how I feel when I sing or when I play the piano. I’m at my best when I perform. It’s when I feel most calm, serene, confident and powerful. When I write, when I sing, it’s from the truest place within me. My lyrics, my melodies, that’s  me unrestrained. My music, that’s the most honest , most real part of myself. 

Signing off,

Y.

A Break

Summer HolidaysDear readers,

I’m taking a little writing break this summer to focus on music.

But please follow my Twitter feed and peruse The Y Variable archives.

See you in September!

Signing off,

Y.

Course Correction

The second anniversary of The Y Variable passed a short while ago. Much has happened since the first upload to WordPress. The stream of posts has varied, dependent on the vagaries of life and my other creative endeavours – which I’m eager to show to the world – but one thing that has remained, is the satisfaction I get from sharing my conversational musings with you.

Below, a reflective piece that feels apropos, and that was written for a friend’s online ‘zine, which has yet to debut.

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I wouldn’t say that I was struck suddenly by a need to change things in my life. It wasn’t overnight.  I slowly drifted into the decision – a decision to make, what I call, a “course correction”. For an outsider though, I was probably living the dream. I volunteered with a variety of great organizations; I was working in a prestigious government department (I still do in fact); I had reputable degrees and distinctions; and I had the opportunity to work on high-profile projects – the kind that might cause some to consider selling out their own grandmother if it meant that they too could have the kind of exposure I had. But – and, of course, there’s always a “but”, isn’t there? – I wasn’t satisfied or all that content with where I had come in life. It’s not to say that I wasn’t (or am not) grateful for my experiences. I knew that I was in a great position in my career, as so many people would say this to me, but something didn’t feel right. For quite some time, I felt like a square peg trying to fit into a small round hole. It became clear to me that my 9 to 5 just wasn’t cutting it. I needed more.

I had this niggling feeling that required a response on my part. I had to address what was bothering me. Through some personal reflection and chats with numerous people I realized that I had embarked on a path that took me away from myself. I considered who I had been in university and I thought about the person I was when I was a child.

I came to realize that what I needed to do was tap back into my creative side and to carve out time to fulfill other aspects of my personality. When I thought of the people I admired most, the vast majority were in the creative fields and they were people who, despite the odds being against them, pursued their path wholeheartedly. I had always gravitated towards and loved writing and music, but I had set that aside to focus on a day job.

I knew that I wanted to occupy a space of beauty, art, imagination and originality and I realized that if I couldn’t find it at work, then I would have to create those conditions for myself outside of office hours. It started with getting back to a regular writing practice – my blog The Y Variable. Taking this initial step opened the door to other opportunities and experiences that I couldn’t have imagined back in 2012. Writing The Y Variable created an opportunity to blog for Huffington Post and to become a contributor to New Canadian Media.

You know the interesting thing about starting one creative endeavour? Others soon follow. You suddenly want to achieve more and continue setting the bar higher for yourself. If I could write and grow a following through my writing, why couldn’t I do the same with music? The reception I received from writing bolstered me and made me believe even more in myself and set goals that would get me closer to fulfilling things that were only in my mind’s eye or in my dreams. I booked a venue (with proceeds to go to charity), invited friends and colleagues, and developed a set list. To my astonishment and surprise, my musical experiment turned into a sold out show, created other opportunities to perform around town, and led me to compose original material.

Taking these creative steps has generated this wonderful snowball effect. I haven’t yet cut the 9 to 5 ties, but maybe the snowball will grow so big I’ll have no choice but to break loose.

Signing off,

Y.

Another Great One is Gone

MayaThe great Maya Angelou has passed. In reading the commentaries on her life, I’ve come to realize how little (shamefully) I really knew about her. I was aware, of course, of her talents as a writer and orator, but I was unaware of her dramatic personal metamorphosis. She was someone who seemed to have had many lives all wrapped up into her one 86 year existence.

While her gift for connecting with her audience through her writing and numerous speeches was remarkable – just look at the many editorials and tweets quoting great lines from her work – what was so striking to me about her life was the manner in which she exemplified how we as human beings are capable of major redemption and recovery. She proved that it is truly possible to transform oneself and to move beyond the bounds or limitations of human expectations or past experiences.

Based solely on her early years, many would have written off a young Ms. Angelou. She was raped at seven by her mother’s boyfriend, became a single mother shortly after high school, and would later work as a stripper and madam before becoming a mainstream singer and dancer and, eventually, the writer most of us know her as. Hers was not the trajectory that would have been expected of most black women in her situation. Anyone else might have been a lost cause.

Her life though was an embodiment of the words she put to paper. She asked her readers to soar, to rise above their defeats, to love, to hope, and believe in themselves. With Maya Angelou it wasn’t lip service. It was how she lived her life. Her passing is a reminder that it’s how I – how all of us really, should live our own lives.

Signing off,

Y.