Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

Soft Cat


Soft Cat

“Somebody,” the recent single from Soft Cat (a.k.a. Baltimore’s Neil Sanzgiri in collaboration with numerous others), sends me immediately back to the desk where I worked at as a teenager. It’s the first place I remember listening to music with my eyes closed, headphones on, tilted slightly back in my chair. Maybe it’s the quietly plucked pattern bustling underneath the track, and maybe it’s the careful string arrangement that drifts in and out, but there’s something in “Somebody” that makes me feel small, young, and ready to move along.

“Somebody” will be available as part of All Energy Will Rise, out April 7th via Miscreant Records and Father/Daughter Records.


Soft Cat - Week 2


Residency is a two-part journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite creatives.

This week, Neil Sanzgiri, a.k.a. Baltimore’s Soft Cat, contemplates self-love.

As I am writing this second week of my residency, I am sitting in a Spin Cycle (laundromat) listening to Gavin Bryars’s 1975 composition The Sinking of the Titanic, a beautiful repeating minimalist chamber piece that degrades over time. I’ve always appreciated laundromats as communal, meditative, liminal spaces for contemplation. I remember years earlier being at this same Spin Cycle reading Jean Genet’s Prisoner of Love. It seems somehow appropriate to return here to write this now.

It has come to my attention recently that in order to ever truly love someone, you must learn to love yourself first. On Saturday, I took a drive to North Point State Park in Baltimore to consider this thought. As I sat by the water on a cold winter’s afternoon, watching the sunset divide the clouds on the horizon like a simple orange stripe on the grey water, I wondered if loving myself is something I could ever truly do.

With all of the forms of escape that surround us, it seems almost impossible in our current socio-cultural climate to delve ever deeper into one’s psyche to discover who and what we are. We are constantly weighed down by distractions, whether from work or for entertainment, and pressured by external personalities all vying for validation. Mindfulness meditation teaches one to be fully present in each moment—to let the past and future flow through us as a rock in a stream. It teaches one to detach the idea of the self as an organism from the control and urges of the brain. Mindfulness has helped me in times of great stress or sorrow, yet it never fully reaches to uncover the deeper psychological truths residing in the back of my head. To treat each thought as just a thought, to remove any attachment from an emotional impulse—these are all incredible ways of gaining perspective from the dramas of contemporary life. Similarly, the Gestalt Prayer asserts one’s independence from the projections and internalizations of others while accepting the beauty of interpersonal relationships. A large part of why I love working with my hands for a living is having the time to focus my mind on my body’s movements in a repetitious manor to pay close attention to each moment in each movement being made. As a metalworker and woodworker, these actions become secondary and familiar, yet my mind remains focused.

Being fully present in each moment has its rewards, for sure. However, it is when one takes the time to really question one’s self that discoveries can be made. I’ve always strived to make the search inwards, yet to reject this search feels like a natural reaction. However, to question and to analyze why we feel the way we do is another form of being present and being conscious. Questioning one’s thoughts is another way of liberating one’s consciousness from the restraints of the mind’s natural impulses. Humans bury trauma as a means of survival, yet when it resurfaces it is very difficult to understand or comprehend. I feel so grateful to have music as a vehicle to express, question, and unravel the complexity of experiences, fears, and traumas I’ve witnessed.

A friend of mine recently lent me a copy of Judith Butler’s powerful Precarious Life. In the essay Violence, Mourning, Politics, Butler speaks of the vulnerability at birth of all humans as a unifying trait, and of the process of mourning and grief as a transformative and ecstatic experience. By losing someone, anyone, we are losing a part of ourselves—we are dispossessed of our autonomy. We are vulnerable to our emotions and vulnerable to our selves. We are vulnerable to our fears and our bodies. The ego must shatter before it can begin to rebuild.

I will admit blatantly that I by no means claim to really know how to love one’s self. It is an individual process that each person has to find, and it is by no means an easy process at that. But I do believe that if we slow down and concentrate on each moment, something is revealed in the process.

Read Soft Cat’s first entry here.


Soft Cat - Week 1


Residency is a two-part journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite creatives.

This month, Neil Sanzgiri, a.k.a. Baltimore’s Soft Cat, talks about why he loves to make shows happen.

On Sunday, Brian and Serra and I decided to visit one of three sights in Virginia, a state I generally take a trip to only when necessary. Between the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Pope-Leighey House, George Washington’s estate (known as Mount Vernon) and the caves of Virginia, we agreed the sunlit drive was the central experience we craved. It was clear that we all just wanted to spend more time together before they went back to New York, so it was of little importance which activity we chose. The Pope-Leighey was closed on Sunday, thus we opted for Mount Vernon. Brian and Serra converted the bed of Brian’s car into a cozy lounge for me to stretch out in while driving down I-95 south, one of my favorite highways. Serra read us a clickbait article on “How to not give a fuck.” After showing them some new tracks from my upcoming album, Serra started talking about the connection between music and religion and how she envisioned building a church-like structure where people could commune and experience music as such. We brainstormed some ideas and I told her I wanted to help make this happen.

The previous night, Brian played a show I booked for him in the space I live in called The Bahamas, co-run by Jake Lazovick and myself. It was a beautiful night. I baked a Massaman curry, roasted vegetable type flat bread with Brie on top for all us. Customarily when I have traveling guests playing at my house, I will cook for them. After I helped Brian unload his gear, we all got to know each other a little better over the pizza. Brian’s project is called Bois and this was only the second time we’d met. I’d been a fan of his music since our mutual friend David Courtright turned me on to it. We played together in Birmingham, Alabama on my tour with Mutual Benefit in September. Set up with his vibraphones against a backdrop of bright LED lights flashing in sync with his music, everyone in the audience was moved by his performance. I met Serra the night of the show and I later learned she was a sculptor and made the wooden installations at the Silent Barn—something I’ve always admired.

The night turned out to be a wild one. The show was a tape release for Christian from Smoke Bellow’s new tape label and included a secret performance by Dan Deacon. A large crowd of young kids who had heard about the show gathered at the foot of the stage to watch Brian play his Rhodes and soulfully croon to a mass of unsuspecting strangers. I was loosing my mind at the door trying to make sure everything was running properly and that we wouldn’t get shut down due to capacity. A bottle of Rioja helped to ease the stress. At the end of the night while him and Serra were falling asleep, Brian put on a live stream of a synthesizer that plays the weather called the Weather Warlock.

When we arrived at the Mount Vernon estate, none of us really knew what to expect. Brian had visited the tourist destination as a child and fondly remembered loving it. The first thing we saw was a flock of bright, fluffy, loving sheep. It was going to be a good day. We walked around the grounds looking at a map to guide us to various destinations, but decided to roam around the gardens and stables petting Washington’s sheep and trimming some of Washington’s kale. Eventually, we made our way to “the Mansion” where Washington and his company resided. Each room was painted with the brightest pigments available at the time, imported from Europe (as were most things Washington enjoyed). The exterior of the walls were made of stucco. By the time we got to the second floor, the entire building felt like it was about to collapse. The stair case slanted fairly significantly and it was obvious that the conservation used to keep the historical accuracy as tight as possible was a major pain in the ass to everyone involved due to the architectural defects unbeknownst to the designers of the time. We had a challenge among the three of us over who could ask the most questions and Serra was winning by a large portion. Finally I asked mine about how Martha Washington died, which the tour guide informed us that no one ever knew because no one would “lay a hand on Washington’s wife.” The house sat against an enormous view of the Potomac River where we ran around chasing Geese.

As we left the Mansion we spent the rest of our time touring the things we were most excited for, such as Washington’s tomb and the Slave Memorial. Above the tomb was a quote from the Bible basically equating Washington to Jesus, an idea that always stuck with me. We talked about how after Washington set up the two-term limit, the public wanted to crown him king. The Slave memorial was a somber experience as it should be. We debated the best ways in which the memorial could have been rephrased, noting the limits of the language carved in stone. Before we left I grabbed a handful of lavender from the garden to give to someone special back in Baltimore.

We stayed until close at Mount Vernon and realized the Pope-Leighey was only three miles away. Somehow we timed our visit to the house perfectly so that we were able to drive to the house past the gates and walk around the outside of the building and peek in the windows. The modest house was astonishing, and quite an interesting jump from the massive expanse of Washington’s estate. Brian explained that the design for this house was constructed as a solution to affordable middle class residences of the 1940s. Serra made the comparisons to Presbyterian churches, which I found very accurate. We sipped cider on our way to a restaurant to have delicious pho for dinner.

Looking at the National Monument from a distance as we drove back to Baltimore, I recalled the first time I met the Bellows kids. It was at their show in D.C. the night before I was going to play in Baltimore with them. Jake drove us down and we met up with them and David Combs of Spoonboy at Black Cat. After the show, David and Jake took us on a tour of the monuments around D.C. at 2 a.m. We lay down by the side of the National Monument with our feet touching the very bottom looking to infinity. The obelisk shape of the monument made the top vanish into the night and the whole thing looked like a walkway to the stars. After we were done with the monument everyone except Felix and myself ran down the wet, grassy hill towards the Holocaust Memorial with the bright street lamps casting a thick umbrella of light in the fog. I turned to Felix and remarked that this would be a moment I would always remember. We drove back to Baltimore where they were all staying with us at The Bahamas. Jake, Henry, and I talked vibrantly in the car about Arthur Russell and the meaning of punk.

It’s times like these that I really understand why I so desperately love putting together shows and helping bands from out of town. At times in my life when I have been so overworked and beaten down by my own failures, I constantly question why I host shows and book bands when I really should be concentrating on getting my own life together. I never take a cut from shows I book unless I know we are putting our space at risk. I’ve never personally received anything other than knowing I’ve worked my hardest to help fellow musicians out with something that they might have desperately needed. And now I know why I do what I do for other people. It’s not that I’m looking to trade shows or have them help me out on tour, but rather it’s because I know that the relationships I build through booking shows are so unique and specific to this type of community building. I’ll never forget when David played at my farmhouse to 20 people in the pouring rain, and I’ll never forget listening to his tape the very next day feeling that I had met someone special. I’ll never forget when AJ Woods expressed the most sincere gratitude when he played for 20 people in a church and called it the best show on his tour. I’ll never forget the countless shows that I’ve worked on for Stephen Steinbrink just so I can see his face and hear his laugh.

So please, even if you don’t get anything in return, throw a show. Clean out your kitchen or living room and invite your friends over and pass around a hat. Is there a band in town that needs your help? Throw a potluck! There are plenty of ways to make this happen and it is such a vital part of providing the strength to this music community. The chances that you will meet someone that inspires you more than anyone else you’ve ever met are very high.

Much love to Portals and everyone else working on building these bonds. 2015 y’all, lets make it happen.

Watch Soft Cat perform a new, unreleased song called “Somebody” for Portals here.


Drum set


Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: the January blues is a real curse that I personally struggle with year in year out. The post-Christmas period from say, around now until early February, is always littered with lethargy for me, and I often find myself freaking out aimlessly as I try to string any single day together from start to finish. Praise on to Baltimore’s Jake Lazovick, then, for his latest release as Sitcom, Drum set—a hilarious look at the mundanities that the days during January often throw right in our faces.

Though 18 tracks long, there are really only ten proper songs on Drum set, an album that was recorded “on a computer” with “samples, microphones and various objects.” The rest—aptly titled along the lines of “kick” and “tap”—are one-second samples of, well, exactly what it says on the tin. It’s extremely grin-inducing in a very tongue-in-cheek way, and this deadpan sense of humor and a knack for making the everyday seem so very far from ordinary are Lazovick’s real talents.

On “traffic is okay,” Lazovick sings of a day that “wasn’t so bad” in which he enjoys a quiet walk in the rain and, yeah, in which that traffic was pretty okay too. All this is executed via some sweet-sounding afro-caribbean vibes, eskewed electronic pitter-patter and a serious groove that even heads off on a whistling solo. It’s a wholly bright and brilliant song about what could be any mundane day in this gloomy first month, and it’s guaranteed to lift you out of a slump when you most need it. Not finding yourself throwing your hands up in the air when he proclaims, “Walking in the rain, ‘cause I looooove it!”? You’re not human, man.

This is a record that celebrates good jackets (that his mom also has: “inner fleece lining, it’s a classic”) via a badass boom-bap rap, tackles the eternal question of “how to draw” through far-out samples, and squares up to loneliness and isolation with a wicked sense of fun. Lazovick may have been intentionally slapdash in some of the elements here, but it’s paid off tremendously—at times it sounds like the soundtrack to a trail of thought that’s been captured spare of the moment, tapping into a side we all have that we can only wish to express sometimes.

So if you’ve got those January blues right now, and the cycle of days feels constantly monotone and devoid of any hope—let Lazovick cheer you up. There’s always dancing and enjoyment to be had out of the rain, there’s always a great jacket ready for you to rock in your closet. And hey, if all else fails, just take comfort in the fact that there’s someone else out there holding a pillow in front of their computer in silence.

Drum set is out now via Jake Lazovick’s Bandcamp.

Artist Mix

Soft Cat


Artist Mixes are an ongoing series of mixtapes curated by some of our favorite musicians.

This month, the Baltimore-based artist Soft Cat shares some of his favorite songs from his friends. Read his note below.

These are all people I have met or come across from touring in different cities across America. A few are Baltimore bands, but mostly I tried to pick people who haven’t been featured on Portals before. Most of these songs get stuck in my head routinely and I return to them when I’m feeling blue. This playlist goes great when you’re not feeling so well or have an upset stomach.


[00:00] • Stephen Steinbrink – “Sand Mandalas”
[03:23] • Spenking – “Bad Blood Bubble-Up”
[05:51] • Ever Ending Kicks – “Bleak or Bliss”
[07:56] • The Spookfish – “Wanderer”
[09:59] • Viking Moses – “Jahiliyah”
[13:17] • Liz Isenberg – “Your Underpants”
[16:15] • Hungry Cloud Darkening – “Moments Inside Cloud”
[21:00] • Holy Holy Vine – “Drive”
[23:28] • Vio/Miré – “Another Way of Looking at It”
[27:24] • Jake Lazovick – “Good Morning”
[33:06] • Small Sur – “The Salt”

Watch Soft Cat perform a new, unreleased song called “Somebody” for Portals here.

Photo Essay

Living Spaces - Baltimore


Photos by Daniel Dorsa

View previous Living Spaces features here.


Suno Deko - Week 2


Residency is a two-part journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite creatives.

This week, Living Spaces – Baltimore‘s Suno Deko wraps up his two-week stay with a reflection on his time spent in India in his early twenties.

souls are birds devouring light

For my second and final residency entry, I wanted to write about the time I spent in India in my early twenties, mostly because it is a time of my life in which I underwent a great deal of emotional turmoil and subsequent growth, and until now have put a tight seal against any excavation of it. But also because the name of my current project, which comes from the Hindi words for “listen” or “hear” (suno), and “look” or “see” (deko), reminds me that this time in my life continues to have a great significance on who I’ve become. In many ways I see now that it is a true marker of my passing some unseen threshold into adulthood.


India has always been a part of my life. My father first went in 1964, fresh from college and catching India just before the first wave of hippies flocked to its colorful and chaotic shores seeking enlightenment. He is a recently retired professor of religion, and has spent his life studying Hinduism. My childhood home was filled with statues and paintings of Hindu deities. Regal statues of Ganesh, lord of obstacles, menacing figurines of Shiva, the destroyer. Paintings of Jagganath with his wide, cartoonish eyes. My father would bark Hindi at us to get us moving (“Juldi chello! Let’s go, hurry up!”). When I was fifteen, I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year in high school at an international school in the foothills of the Himalayas while my father did field research for his book on ritual widow self-immolation, a practice called sati. I returned to India in 2009 after teaching English in northern Thailand for a year to work for a figurative painter named Jatin Das as a studio assistant and archivist for his fifty-year career of painting, drawing, sculpture, and poetry, as well as his vast collection of traditional Indian hand fans, or pankhas, which number near ten thousand.

It ended up coinciding with, or perhaps being the catalyst for, that time in my life, which I feel every person goes through at some point in their early to mid twenties, where it seemed my entire universe was collapsing. Maybe you’re in the middle of this time? Romantic ideals and expectations about the way things should be crash and crumble, and there is a supreme surrender that must occur to move beyond it. I have a few people in my life going through this. No doubt the circumstances of my living situation and the stresses of my job were strongly contributing factors to my continual state of exasperation and creative self-laceration, but I experienced a loneliness and alienation far beyond what I thought was possible for the human spirit. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but let’s just say I was sad.


I’ve kept a daily journal for the past five years, which began when I did the Artist’s Way during my time in Thailand. Over the past few days, I’ve revisited those pages I wrote while in India, which I’ve been unable to do before. It’s difficult to face a past self so carefully preserved. It’s a time warp. You’re transported so fully back into the you that existed in those pages, and when revisiting what at times felt like a living nightmare, you can’t help but reassume the entirety of that self. The truth is, it wasn’t a nightmare. It was only a period of intense loneliness and isolation. It’s a pretty normal reaction to flinging one’s self into the great wide world alone, especially a place as intense and unforgiving as India. But my twenty-four-year-old self had something to prove. I wanted to push myself as far as I could go to better know myself. The real truth is that I wanted to run away from myself, and India was the farthest place away. As you may know, the geography can change, but the self remains. I was actually more intensely faced with myself because I lived alone in a foreign place with little to do besides work and turn my thoughts over in my own mind.

I arrived just a week after my twenty-fourth birthday, in the oppressive heat of mid-June in Delhi. The opportunity to work with Jatin came on the heels of very nearly being scammed out of almost a grand by a fake English teaching agency, who promised me a yearlong teaching job for a Spanish diplomat’s family, all of which proved to be a very clever fabrication. I’d already bought my ticket, and through a Delhi writer who was a friend of my dad, the job with Jatin came. I didn’t know what else to do and somehow felt like not going would be defeat, so I threw myself at it. I still remember vividly the feeling of dread I felt as I descended down through the midnight haze of the Delhi, my heart pounding as the airplane pitched and jolted in the humid air. I was young and resistant to everything. I wanted a million things I had no way of naming.

David's Pictures 150

I lived in a working-class neighborhood of south Delhi called Shahpurjat, which was crammed with clusters of concrete apartments, within which an infinite labyrinth of courtyards and side alleys twisted and braided, slung with blossoming yellow and magenta bougainvillea, laundry drying on clotheslines, tea vendors (chaiwallas) and vegetable sellers (subsiwallas) with steaming pots of sweet milky tea or colorful displays of plump mangoes, spiky bitter gourds, zucchini, tomato and okra, screeching their personalized calls into the thick, humid afternoons. My neighborhood was bordered by a large wall that separated it from a more affluent neighborhood and green space on the other side, and against this long, twenty-foot-high stone barricade, every few blocks would be a massive pile of trash that some impossibly dirty person was inevitably always combing through, which leaked strange florescent blue liquid and swarmed with flies and crows. India is an unwavering and torrential paradox. The most vivid and colorful place on earth, and also the most chaotic and dirty. Smells you’ve never imagined. Every moment contains the entire range of human experience and emotion, beauty and pain, suffering and joy. Every landscape contains a slice of every period of history. A man on his bicycle talking on his cellphone, riding by a woman pulling water from a ditch to use for cooking into which a man is peeing, next to a crumbling fifteenth-century palace, while nearby a team of men is attaching a leecher wire to a transformer to steal electricity and minutes later it explodes into flames. My favorite anecdote from the time I lived in India in high school was watching two men ride bicycles one in front of the other down a steep mountain street carrying an extension ladder on their necks, to which my mom said, “I feel like this country was designed by Dr. Seuss.” There is an incessant barrage to the senses, and when I arrived, added to that was the oppressive heat. The apartment that Jatin procured for me was modest and had no air conditioning. The highs then were in the 120s. It was never cooler than 100 degrees inside my place. I awoke daily to a crust of salt and minerals on my forehead, heat rashes on my arms. My clothes clung to me. The power would cut on and off intermittently, killing my ceiling fan, and the stifling heat would begin creeping across my body. Candle flames would slowly appear in the windowsills of the neighborhood, soft voices and song, wild dogs always barking.

I had long nights there, especially in the heat. I was in pursuit of a deeper self; I wanted to remove familiarity and comfort from my life to uncover a more elemental self, to know who I was beyond the protection of family, home, and friends. I was an ascetic. I was on a vision quest. I wanted to outgrow parts of myself I was unsatisfied with. In a way, I did accomplish this. I put myself in the most isolated environment I’d experienced, the only white person in a neighborhood of Indians, who stared at me relentlessly as I walked the streets and back alleys to work. Despite how innocuous staring is in Indian culture, to me it was a daily reminder of how little I belonged to that place, to myself, or to anything.


It’s been strange and powerful to watch myself change in the pages I’ve been reading. It’s a bit of a mind fuck to be immersed in those pages and look up realizing I exist presently in this much different (and happier) life. Like I can track my dreams of being a famous writer slowly ground into the dust that coated everything in Delhi. But in the end, now looking back five years later, I see that it was a time of intense growth, and at the very core, a time of surrender. Despite my friction with Jatin, who was in many ways impossible—manic, demanding, monomaniacal, childish—looking back, there was much he taught me about being an artist. I was so sure of what I thought I wanted and who I thought I was, but only by having most of those ideas stripped away, only by finally surrendering to the loneliness and sadness, and inhabiting it like a room, did I find a deeper way into myself. And it took years to see, to understand that by surrendering you enter more fully into your own experience. Nothing is lost by surrender; everything is gained. There were times where I became so immersed in my solitude and sadness that I started seeing subtle differences, changes in its colors. And in those moments, the world seemed to open up to me. I could lose myself in the swaying curtains, drawing the sun in and crowding it out of my bedroom, the light growing and dimming, the slow moan of car horns and voices careening off the walls outside. I felt an undefined longing, whose lack of place in the world made its existence even more confusing. I didn’t even long for home, or for Thailand, where I’d found a loving and supportive community. I longed for something I couldn’t name, for some fulfillment of a feeling I couldn’t define or place. I think now perhaps that longing was either for love, or a steady and fulfilling creative practice. I wrote a lot there, but I never allowed myself to enjoy it, or be okay with what I was making. I wrote a lot of emo poems and bad songs. As an artist I was too fragile, and too hard on myself. And always the long nights, my head a block of stone from the hash, the headlights of passing cars making ghoulish shapes on my ceiling through the bars of the windows, packs of stray dogs barking and growling, the call of food vendors and jingling of bells, and the asthmatic caw of the massive black crows that scavenged the trash.

During my time there, I went to the eastern state of Orissa (which recently changed its name from the Anglicized spelling to the more phonetically accurate “Odisha”), where Jatin has founded a museum in his name, and where he was born and most of his family lives. On the train ride back to Delhi from my first visit there, an interminable 31-hour ride through the colorful Indian countryside, I had an experience that still returns to me. I borrowed a book from Jatin called The Religion of the Artist, by Rabindranath Tagore, one of the most influential writers and musicians in Indian culture, who was the first non-European to with the Nobel prize for literature. As I was sitting alone on a dark train hurtling through the opaque Indian countryside at night, reading this book, I came upon a passage that struck me like lightning. Tagore likens a man’s inability to be aware of everything around him in his present existence to a man sitting in a lit train car with the night outside; the man knows the countryside is there, but he is only focused on what is happening in the car. This became a metaphor for my entire mental state up to that point—that I was so focused on the suffering that I was creating for myself, that I was failing to see how much beauty was thrumming and moving all around me. Tagore goes on to say that the restless ambition, or that feeling of longing for a place I couldn’t name or know, that I had been thinking so much about, is actually just the self trying to find a piece of itself that can attain a kind of permanence in the world. And for artists, making work and putting something that comes through the self into the world is the closest we can come to that permanence. There have been times since where a piece of art or writing has struck a chord with me, but few that have been so otherworldly. I was literally sitting in a lit train car at night, reading about a man sitting in the exact same situation, and found an explanation for this strange hollowness that I was trying too hard to define or understand.

David's Pictures 009

I would love to say that was my spiritual awakening, and from thenceforth I was totally happy, but the truth is I continued to struggle. I made it through, and by the end had learned a way to enjoy myself. I was blessed with the friendship of my first friend there, Simar, who I connected with on many levels, and who listened to my early songs and read my poems and gave me encouragement. By the end I had begun to find a community. I got to organize and execute an international film festival of documentary films on art. I learned much from Jatin, despite his sometimes-insufferable demeanor. I have quotes of his that I’ve kept written, that now have far more significance than my stubborn, immature self would grant: “Don’t be so quick to just be this or that—be everything at once and the course will appear.” “Don’t ever let your pursuit of writing or being a writer or poet or painter or singer distract you—always fully experience the present.” “Just surrender—no one does that in this day and age—don’t do it because I tell you to, do it for yourself.” My time in India was many things to me, but one of the most important lessons I learned was to let go of ideas of who I should be and just sit down and do the work. In his youth, Jatin wouldn’t allow himself to eat dinner until he had completed three hundred sketches. The time there hardened me, but I learned to soften again. And while I would never relive that experience, or wish it on anyone else, the suffering I endured made its mark on me and sharpened my focus on what I truly want out of my time on earth. I became, over time, less focused on the outcome and more on the experience of the present. And I learned to surrender. I learned, and have continued to learn, that to resist is to strengthen. To surrender is to take a step toward grace.

Week 1 | Week 2