Have you ever had a great love? I’m talking about the one that didn’t work out without any reason at all. Timing. This was the person you made mistakes with; the person that saw your true colors. For me, that person was more of a thing, and in truth, my unwavering love became the primary reason no one else could take its place.
For me, that thing was my love and passion for the music business – not just music, but the business of making people’s dreams come true.
As I was mentally reciting the start of this blog post while starring in the mirror, trying to perfect that “I didn’t try” look to feel like I actually did something useful with myself today, I thought at first that I really had no idea why my mind was so ON a previous life. Then it occurred to me.
I have a strange management style and I tend to be incredibly candid with my team. I believe in taking that hyped up fad of “open office spaces” and making it literal by putting us all in the same level of reporting and transparency. I also have created a “Dream Team” initiative with my team, based on something I started with my first big-girl-job. In that dream team, I shared with my team today that I was beyond excited, blessed, grateful, and really just at a complete loss of words over how close I am to paying off my student loans. I explained that the emotion is found in the struggle – that to pay off that debt is to not only OWN my degree, but to be able to truly say, “I did this ALL! And, I did this by myself.” I’ve always felt a great sense of loss for that person I could have been if life didn’t have a more determined set of plans for me. I have no regrets, I just feel that I missed out on ten years of life I thought I would surely get to live, my way. That’s where my love really grew into something more than just helping a cute boy promote his band, or making some solid money on the side as a self-made teenage music promoter. That’s when I found my family; I found my sense of belonging.
It is no wonder that for hours I have been listening to a New York State of Mind playlist that I started making for my niece several weeks ago. Throughout my entire day, it played in the background. On repeat. I kept stopping to replay one song – I And Love And You by the Avett Brothers.
One foot in and one foot back, but it don’t pay to live like that. So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks for never to return. Oh, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in. Are you aware the shape I’m in? My hands they shake, my head it spins. Oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in…
There are no better words in this moment to describe how I arrived at Sony’s doorstep. I was young. I was vulnerable. Everything that could possibly go wrong in someone’s life through the course of a life time, had already gone wrong in mine. Everything bad that could ever happen, had already happened to me. I was less than desperate. I was tired.
The irony is, this song seems to continually exemplify my experience as part of this lifelong family, and yet, it is the last song that I would have chosen as my anthem as it is as far from my taste in music as you could possibly for for that era of my life. Perhaps it is yet another subconscious choice on my part as the Avett Brothers are from Concord, North Carolina. I consider myself from North Carolina, and I was sitting on my brother’s coach, only a handful of miles away from Concord, when I decided to take the backhanded advice of yet another lost love in my life, and I decided I needed to stop doing what I love for free.
When I received that first phone call from Frank, I hadn’t even officially applied for the position he was interviewing for. I was entirely confused by the phone call, and surprised that I had enough composure to seem impressive at all especially after I had briefly explained myself and my already 5+ years of experience in the industry. I said all the right things – listing out local promoters, venues, and music stores I had worked with over the years. Before I could even continue to explain myself, he said, “I’ve heard of you.” He was as confused as to how as I was.
Sony is where I grew up. It is where I learned to navigate the subway system with luggage, before Google Maps. It is where, upon arrival, I was the first to put a credit card down on a room that I was going to share with three other people I had never met before in my life and somehow was already forced to trust. It was my first roommate experience. It was where I learned to stay out at concerts until 2:30 in the morning without being even one minute late to the next morning’s 8:30am meeting, and surviving that schedule over and over and over again. It was where I collapsed on the floor my first time in New York, incredibly ill, and subsided all excuses to drag myself to a team meeting. It was where I missed my first JFK flight and where I learned to navigate my way on NJ Transit to fly home from there. It was where I arrived year after year, greeting familiar and new faces alike, and had to live with everything I hadn’t really done from the year before. It was where every year, I was planning a wedding with someone else. It was where for three years I insisted I too, was straight edge, and for the remaining two I was anything but.
It was where I made all my mistakes and learned I couldn’t hide from them. These people knew me. In some ways, they knew me better than anyone else, and sometimes better than I was even willing to know myself. And they loved me anyway…
I never became, “That crazy Caz…” that anyone talked about. Too them, I was always interesting even if I had some new, extreme drama going on in my life year after year.
It was where I determined my first real sense of worth. It is when I finally started doing something I loved. It is where I admitted I wasn’t good at something I should be good at it. It is where I was willing to learn, every week, from 150 of my colleagues, all close. It was my first real sense of never giving up and never letting down. It was the first time in my life where, when disappointed or being disappointing, I didn’t just disappear on everyone never to be heard from again. It is where I learned my dedication.
That is why when I first started as an employee and found out that I needed to move out of my assigned region, I refused to be let go from the team, and instead I paid for nearly four months of weekly flights back to Utah out of my own pocket just to prove that I could do it and insist that I remain part of the team. That is why, even in the end, despite being unable to walk and not yet complete with my physical therapy, I rolled around the city in a wheelchair with the help of the new love of my life, Stark, and I completed my job despite not being expected to work as hard as I always had before.
When I get this way about my roots and where I have come from, I remember one moment, two years into the job. Being far too much of a loner for the industry, I stood alone on the train platform despite having 100 of my coworkers around me. I looked for the oncoming train as my manager walked behind me, slapping his hand to my right shoulder as he curved around to stand just to my left. He said, as he always did, “You doing ok, Caz” and I chimed an instant, cheery, “Yup!” He asked if I had ever been to New York before. I said, “Oh ya! I basically moved here straight out of high school when I came to New Jersey to finish my high school degree with my sister who was living in Princeton at the time.” “REALLY?” he said with shock. “So you would move here?” he asked. “That’s the plan!” I insisted. That’s when he turned away, still talking, watching for all my other colleagues to make sure no one was going to wind up on the tracks or missing the train entirely. At this point he said, “You know what Caz, good! Just don’t be one of those kids that just never moves on, never lets go. It’s a hard business.”
In hindsight and even in that moment, I’m not sure he was speaking specifically too me. Even to this day, my old managers and I remain fairly close, and they have backed me in all my career choices. But in these yearning moments, thinking about a time I’ll never have back and how I did or didn’t do it right, I can’t help but think of that moment. Only now do I know it was less about making it in the music business, and more about making it in life. It was more about letting go of so many larger than life experiences and realizing that I could, in fact, be loved back by something… someone. It is where I learned again those “three words that became hard to say – I. And Love. And You.”