Regarding square pegs, recording studios, and happiness

Hey, friends.

Last week, I spend a day in the countryside. You may remember from last week's email that I was headed outside of Berlin to meet with my producer/guitarist, Jan. City girl that I am, I didn't realize the level of rural we were talking about. Here's what my day looked like:

Your inbox would probably blow up if I tried to attach all the photos, but go check out the whole album when you have a minute.

So there I was, surrounded by sheep, dirt roads, and beautifully maintained 1960s analog studio equipment. I felt as if I was filming the German adaptation of The Commitments. And I was standing on the top of this hill, alone, head up towards the heavens...

...and I had to emotionally high-five myself on the back for making all the awesome decisions that led me to hanging out on this hill on the outskirts of Berlin, at 3PM on a Thursday afternoon.
Friends, today's email is not about spending more time in the outdoors. It's also not about becoming a musician or following your passion. It's simply about the permission to say that you are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

As some of you know more intimately than others, I started my career the normal, American way. I moved to San Francisco. I got an entry-level job with a professional-sounding company. I worked in a windowless office. I was f*cking miserable. Less than three days into moving into my apartment, I knew it was the wrong choice.

And I started crying, daily. I drank way too much. I stopped sounding or thinking like myself. As they say, I was in a real bad way. I kept getting the same well-meaning advice:

It will be okay. You will get used to it. The real world isn't always fun. You should plan out fun weekends. You don't have to care this much, it's just your job. Jobs are part of life. You'll settle into it.

Every time I heard that, I felt more nauseous. More alone. Really alone. I thought, "What right do I have to want something different than this? Am I really being delusional? Unrealistic? Is it that I'm arrogant enough to think I'm so much more special than everybody else?"

It's hard to eloquently explain how rough that year was for me. I've now been in Berlin for 15-odd months, and I still get PTSD-like feelings about San Francisco from time to time. And by the end of my Bay Area stint, I was pumped full of anti-psychotics and anti-depressants that I started thinking, "Maybe this isn't so bad. Maybe I can stay a while longer. What else would I do with my time?"

If I hadn't gotten fired (which is a story for another time) from Job #2, I would have... well, I would have settled in.
From what I hear, San Francisco is actually an okay-enough place. And mine certainly isn't a story about leaving the corporate world behind to go traveling and find yourself. I've grown my career in leaps and bounds since moving overseas. I'm also ambitious to a rather irrational level.

None of that means I needed to try to make it work in San Francisco.

When you are young in your career -- especially in America -- a lot of people will tell you you're making too big a deal out of things. That the real world is not like college, and that you can't just have fun all the time.

There is a big, fat difference between a transitional period and a straight-up bad fit. And baby, nothing in the world will make it right when you're dealing with a bad fit.

I honestly hope most have you have stopped reading by now, and that nothing I've said today applies to you. That you believe this week's email was a bit of a bust.

But, my darling, you at the back, the one nodding along and still reading... I believe you. I know that feeling. The one that burns a hole in your throat, and down in your gut. You are in the wrong city, the wrong job, the wrong company, the wrong relationship. I believe you, and I give you permission to bounce out the spot immediately.

Because, at the end of the day, that's the best career advice I can try to give you: you get to choose. You get to make the rules, and you get to pick out all the toppings in this create-your-own-ice-cream-sundae that we call life. And once you decide where you're headed, I'll probably still be here. Helping you write the emails to make it all happen.

Love from Berlin,


Twitter: @alexashoen
Instasongs: The Human Jukebox Project