One of the most impactful periods of my life was the time between the ages of 22 and 24 when I was deeply psychotic, delusional, and going in and out of the hospital on a regular basis.
I was paranoid the government was spying on me, had anywhere between 0 and 10 panic attacks a day, and periodically felt God tap my shoulder and nudge me in confusing directions. I was emotionally, interpersonally and ontologically led astray for a long time, and it largely compromised my ability to trust my perception of reality and my impact on the world around me.
I developed strange coping mechanisms. I would walk the same path in the woods 5 times a week in my bare feet and learn every pebble and root–a grounding exercise to “check in” with something constant, to assure myself that I wasn’t completely floating away. I would over-attach myself to romantic partners to create day-to-day consistency I was otherwise lacking, and would create strange recordings and songs of my experiences to keep tabs on my wellness.
All of these backwards attempts at normalcy didn’t really help, though, because they didn’t work to regain a confidence in my own reality, they were actually predicated on the impossibility of any reality.
And as a transfeminine person with no current plans to start hormone replacement therapy, my perception of myself has always seemed completely contrary to how the rest of the world perceives me, hidden under thick layers of fatalism, fear, insecurity, dysphoria. I feel so much anxiety about how my gender expression will contextualize any decision I make or action I take, and each oblique collision of these two realities leaves me dizzy and depressed.
But it all changed when I started seriously studying acoustics after making the leap to full-time freelancing.
I needed to be able to mix quicker and more effectively, so I designed and built bass traps and broadband absorption panels in my bedroom, which transformed it from a living space into a sonic garden. I started hearing nonlinearities in response, timing issues, consistent deficiencies in my mixes–and I became obsessed. I would read articles about monitor design, boundary interference response curves, absorption coefficients, what have you, and I started to rearrange the garden.
This carpet should actually be dampening the northern half of the floor, the speakers should be moved closer to the wall with the low trim set lower, the bed should be by the window, the amperage of this IEC cable is a little to low…my reference level has been far too high for six months! Why was I doing that? When I mount the monitors horizontally, the bass tightens up, but the spectral response falls apart. I need to listen to all these changes for two days before I do this round of mix recalls, just to be sure. The kick drum on that Bedhead record still sounds wrong–why???
But the garden was becoming beautiful, and the madness was subsiding. The changes became smaller and less frequent. Now they have stopped.
It took 14 months, but my bedroom has become an honest place. It tells me everything I need to know, and its lies are now white and rare. I know exactly how loud the kick drum should be, how long that reverb needs to spill out from behind the lead vocal, how hard the chorus should hit the 2-bus compressor. Any sonic decision I make in that room can be made with about 90% confidence, and considering that about 5-10% of my decisions in a day aren’t in front of a computer, that’s a pretty good number. My room loves and takes care of me
I used to leave it to remind myself that the word still existed, that I was real. Now I never leave it because it can tell me so much about whatever the world brings me when I’m inside it. It’s a place where I can be confident in my decisions, my taste, and myself in general–in ways I never could be before.
And it gets so much sunlight.