Saturday, July 27, 2013

Yesterday was a big day for me. I became an American citizen, after having lived in New York for 17 years = half of my life.  In all actuality I am now a proud Finnish-American dual citizen, as I am allowed to keep my Finnish passport too. Win-win.

I attended my Naturalization Oath Ceremony at the US District Court, where I sat for 3 1/2 hours in a freezing courtroom with 268 other immigrants, all of us hailing from 66 different countries. I pitied the clerk who had to try and pronounce each of our names--there were some serious tongue-twisters present.... Despite the long wait, it was for me an unforgettable event. One reason being that two people who I love dearly were present for me for the occasion. Together, (albeit not in the same room) we got to witness the inspiring speech delivered by the judge who swore the lot of us in. Another reason yesterday was extraordinary is this: I changed my name.

For the last 11 years I have carried the name Janita Maria Ervi--the last name adopted in marriage. A marriage, that has since ended in divorce. I use the word "carried" because the name has long been a heavy weight in my life, reminding me of a complicated past. As you may or may not know, becoming a citizen of the United States offers a very handy opportunity to change one's name. A famous example of this is Vito Andolini, the Godfather, as he immigrates to the US and becomes Vito Corleone. So what if it wasn't his personal what if he wasn't a living, breathing human being...the concept is true. On the citizenship-application they actually ask you if you would like to change your name. I heartily said yes.

My full name is now Janita Maria, and I will probably spend the next year or so changing my credit cards, passports, ID's, social security-information, etc. to update this info. As much as it is a pain in the ass to deal with the logistical aspect of it, it is also fucking powerful. Every aspect of this is a declaration of freedom. I now wear my own fucking name, people! From top to bottom, my own fucking name. If that's not empowering, I don't know what is.

So, here I am. One more piece fallen into place. One more obstacle cleared. One more thing crossed off the list. All of the work that it took to achieve my naturalization and my freedom is behind me now, and I can direct my attention to the next thing. But these are accomplishments I get to cherish daily, if I so wish. And why wouldn't I so wish?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On Thursday I recorded my first tracks on electric guitar, ever. I have a feeling we won't end up using any of it, because I will do it again and better next time...but just the act of doing it was powerful for me. Deciding which guitar to play on the recording, deciding on the sound and which effects to use--all of this is utterly new for me and thus, a wee bit scary.

There is something utterly intriguing about the electric guitar for me. So many of my musical heroes come to mind as playing it, which makes it admittedly a bit intimidating. Like, "who am I to try and join that group?" I've had my Fender Telecaster for two years now, yet almost always I've opted to play my acoustic guitar instead. I suppose it has seemed more approachable, less dangerous. I've had this voice within me, telling me that I have to be more serious and more skilled in order to play the electric, or some bullshit like that. This is not helpful. Also, it's not accurate.

Now, I'm trying to substitute the word 'scary' with 'exciting', to help me look at things from a different angle. As in, "this is new and thus Exciting, " as opposed to "this is new and thus scary." I try not to be so freaked out and remember that this is where I am, and that's enough. So what if I'm not where I want to be on the first try. I go home, practice a little more and come back better prepared.

I am now playing the electric guitar out of necessity, as no one would play my guitar parts quite like I do. And frankly, necessity is as good a reason as any. As long as something gets me to do it, to take that step forward. And all things said, I have a feeling that the electric guitar will be a big deal in my life. It's not scary, it is Exciting!

"Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out. "
--Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I've been taking a bit of a hiatus from making my record for the last couple of months, due to a number of things. I've had ongoing projects that have needed my full attention, I've been out of town, and also my producer Blake Morgan has been occupied with mixing and mastering and subsequently releasing his own album. (Fantastic record, by the way...!)

This week I am finally returning to the production of my album--easing into it. I was a little worried about listening to the material after what feels like a long break, but to my relief I found that there was no reason for my trepidation. I still feel very connected to these songs that I've written, and look forward to continuing from where I left off. I did however feel a momentary twinge of "oh my god. these songs are so much heavier than anything i've done before...can i pull this off?" It took only a second, and the answer came to me: Fuck yeah.

Heaviness is relative. I am certainly not making a rock record here--instead, there are other ways in which music can pack a punch. I feel like I've come to a point where the weight of my experiences in life is evident in my voice, my musical choices, and also in my lyrics. I may laugh at this comment when I'm fifty, with way more miles under my belt, but already now I can say that I truly love the marks that life leaves on artists and their art. I love what time has done to mine.

I do have a keen sense of time passing, and a sense of urgency that's constantly knocking at me from within. A push towards accomplishment and an urge to get ahead, to succeed. I am not sure yet whether this is a character defect that I should work on--a brand of unpeacefulness and impatience--or is this perhaps healthy ambition? I suppose I'll figure it out in time. Nevertheless, I strongly identify with the quote below. I can't wait to get back to work.

“Everything in life comes to you as a teacher. Pay Attention. Learn Quickly.” ~Cherokee saying

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I landed back home in New York yesterday, after a two-week trip to Finland, with a brief stint in Barcelona in between. New York is swelteringly hot right now, but I'm glad to be back, ready to continue on with my work and life routines.

This was most definitely the best time I've had in Finland ever since I left 17 years ago. During this trip I became aware of how much I've changed within a year--unbelievably for the better. I have a newfound serenity that I can rely on, even when faced with challenging situations or painful truths. Serenity to me is not something permanent, once attained. Instead it is a state of mind that requires constant work to maintain. But I have found some sliver of it and it's already changing my experience of life and people.

"People will treat you how you allow them to treat you," said a friend of mine in a conversation upon my arrival back to New York. I believe this to be true, and it absolutely is my experience when it comes to my recent encounters in Finland. During my trip I found myself in social situations quite different from how they would have panned out in the past. Sure, I took a few missteps too while I was there, but I am learning to take them as part of the journey. The big picture is overwhelmingly positive. Not to mention that out of this trip I will have a gorgeous new music video!

I am tired, but content and I feel more peaceful than ever about the future. The skills that I've acquired in recent years in handling my life are allowing me to take bigger and better steps forward in my career also. All life-skills are connected to each other, and trips back home are a real thermometer for me about how far I've come. This time was utterly different. And for this, I feel very grateful on a Sunday-afternoon, 7th of July, 2013.

“It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.”
― Abraham Lincoln