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A Letter From Jeremy

Dear you,

Yes, you.

You might already know this, but I dropped a song this May called “OK.” There’s a line in the chorus that goes, “I know it’s a lot sometimes, we’ll get you through it.” The wording is calm and conversational, but the context is a bit darker. If you know the song, you know what I mean. When I’m working on a song it either feels really fun or really meaningful — rarely does a song hit both of those marks, but “OK” does. And it aligns perfectly with Make Sure Your Friends Are Okay’s purpose.

I know it’s a lot sometimes, we’ll get you through it.

It’s such a casual line, but it says so much. It’s a gentle acknowledgement that life can be TOUGH, and an optimistic pledge of support. There were quite a few times where I wished somebody had said those words to me. I can’t say that I have life all figured out. But I do know that things get better with time. And now that I’m currently in a place where I can be supportive to other people, I’m thinking about all of the things I wish somebody had told me. So I, a total stranger, want to be here for you. I want to make sure you’re okay. And I don’t want you to believe for a second that nobody’s there for you.

Whoever you are, wherever this may be finding you, I have a story that I think will help you get through whatever it is you are going through.

I graduated college in 2018, and I got really lucky when my mom, out of nowhere, urged me to start doing therapy. She told me that a lot of kids my age and in my position have trouble navigating post-college life. The boundless social and academic structure of university suddenly disintegrates, only to be replaced by the sensation of training wheels being ripped off and the shock that no one is running behind you to catch you if you fall. Pair that with a casual existential dread and lack of purpose that is so commonplace among young adults these days that one has to wonder what the hell is wrong with the world. I found my own version of these things in my post-college pursuit of a music career. Still urging me, my mom mentioned that if I couldn’t pay for therapy, she’d help me. I’m grateful I had that privilege. Still, I didn’t think I needed therapy. “That’s the point,” she said. She wanted to make sure I was okay.

And two years later, when I was not okay, she was the first person I called.

I’d released my debut full-length album, love is not dying, around the start of the pandemic. Putting together that album had been an emotionally grueling process. I put my heart and soul into it — obsessing and sacrificing my well-being to make it, which I think a lot of artists end up doing. By the time it released in April 2020, I was relieved, physically and emotionally exhausted, and well, scared. We all remember what the spring and summer of 2020 felt like. Among other things, the pandemic made it impossible to experience the fruits of my labor. No touring, no face-to-face interactions with my listeners, nothing. I needed to experience it in those ways to justify what I’d done to myself to create it because if I couldn’t see proof that my album mattered to people, then I wasn’t sure that if I mattered. But I couldn’t see people, and I couldn’t talk to people about it. I didn’t know what to do. Instead, the only logical direction I got from my peers and colleagues was to “just make another album.”

I just had nothing left..

I had no “gas in the tank,” I would say to people, with a light chuckle and a smile to ease the dread I felt inside. I told myself I’d give it a month or two to decompress. When I finally dove in, I tried for two months — going to the studio six days a week from 10 in the morning to eight at night. Every night, I’d come home frustrated, and every day, I’d get a little more frustrated because I didn’t like what was coming out of me, and I couldn’t find anything that felt right to replace it with.

My therapist says to me, “We’re the worst narrators of our own stories.” Nothing is more twisted than the narratives we create for ourselves about our own lives. Being able to identify your own distorted perspective of things is the hardest yet most enlightening thing anybody can do. At this time, I had this narrative in my head that I would never be able to make a song that I liked ever again. I would never be able to make another good song ever again. Fear, frustration, self doubt, aimlessness, built up inside me until I felt myself approaching an inflection point. I realized I was hyperfocusing and hyper-fixating on achieving an unattainable level of perfection. Looking back now, I realize how silly it sounds to be saying this about music, something that is (by its very nature) completely subjective. I cared so much that I couldn’t do anything at all.

So I called my mom. I told her I was really unhappy and wanted to stop making music because maybe it would stop me from feeling this way.I remember saying to her: “I feel like I want to quit music. But I don’t want to feel like I want to quit.” That conversation could have been the last straw. Just the isolation of the pandemic — I think a lot of us hit a breaking point during quarantine. But this was a turning point for me.

Like I said, I’d been in therapy for a while. (Mom was right.) With the direction of my therapist and doctor, I went on antidepressants. I made a promise to myself to stop taking the music so seriously. Before I made the decision to try medication, my therapist encouraged me that it would give me a more emotional room. And it did. In the last three years, I’ve developed the ability to take a moment and have a bit of space from my emotions. Rather than get frustrated, the medication would allow me to be curious. What’s going on here? Why am I feeling this way? I realized that the thing that was making me sick was attaching so much of my self-worth to producing good music. I didn’t want to give up on music anymore; I learned I just needed to remove some of my self-worth from the finished product. I had a new plan.

I'm gonna stop doing this by myself.

I'm gonna bring in people to help me.

In making that my new goal, I had room to recapture the magic and have fun again. Enjoy life more. I didn’t dread my job. And the irony is that it allowed me to create things that I could attach self-worth to in a positive way. Ultimately, I could create and healthily attach to something like “OK,” which gave me what the pandemic stole from me. So many people have sent me direct messages, simply saying, “Thank you for making this.” Some, I hadn’t spoken to in a long time; others, I’d never spoken to before. I didn’t plan for “OK” to resonate like this. It just happened. Really, the groundwork had been laid for something meaningful to happen.

It’s an ongoing practice to train my brain to not attach to things that make me think badly about myself, but not be so disconnected that I don't care about the things that are good. It’s mental gymnastics, a practice of emotional and psychological balance. It’s hard. It took a lot of working on myself through therapy and journaling and leaning into my support system, and I don't think the work will ever end. But I’m not afraid to care anymore.

I had to become a good friend to myself before I could start trying to be a dependable friend to everyone else. But I’ve learned that friendship can be transactional in a really beautiful way.

I’m here for you because I know you’ll be there for me.

I know it’s a lot sometimes, but we’ll get you through it.

The Angel Tee

STAR! Hoodie

By Emmy Hartman