My therapist keeps telling me that I’m learning a lesson on bearing uncertainty. I have what some may call a control issue, as in, if I don’t have the answers I feel all the way out of control. I struggle with not knowing what’s coming every single minute of the day, every day of the week, week of the month, of the year, and so on. And why wouldn’t I? Life doesn’t ask, and it is increasingly difficult to accept that sometimes, for no discernible reason, things are fucking miserable. What choice do I have, then, but to struggle through the misery? Little to none. But of course, struggling is its own misery.
There is no other way to get to our next joy—and there is always a next joy—than by suffering through the lows. After all, we grow from conflict. And yet, all of this mantra and resolve is absolutely exhausting. Few things are as tiring as waking up every morning scared because you are unsure of what will plague you today. Few things are as draining as living every minute in fear of the next emotion, because you just don’t know what compulsion is going to occupy your mind next, what doomsday scenario, what have you. But you stay optimistic. It only hurts because you’re undoing some deep knots in your heart. It won’t hurt forever. In fact, it’s about to stop hurting. You’re right on the cusp, and you know it. And yet, there is nothing more defeating than being in the throes of struggle.
Boogie knows this all too well. He opens his Shady Records debut, Everythings for Sale, with a potent note on how exhausting struggle can be. How he is sick of fighting, and how others are sick of witnessing him in the fight. At one point on “Tired / Reflections,” Boogie even ceremoniously dies at the hand of a gun rather than wonder at the existence of God. The feeling of rather dying than being surrounded by questions hits close to home for someone that often thought of killing themselves rather than sticking out the lows. There’s a bite and resentment to Boogie’s delivery as if he cannot believe that he still feels so low. It does not sound as if he does not believe in a better future, but rather that he cannot believe he is still confined to his present. The process of living can be so trapping.
Saving my own life has been one of the most dejecting experiences. When you get proper help, you’re no longer depression-bound to bed. You’re free of so many intrusive thoughts, but suddenly, there are all these new and vexing emotions pummeling you. You’ve leveled up, in a sense, but now you have to start all over again with a fresh array of feelings with which you’ve never before grappled. The questions are numerous: How much longer like this? How many more times can I bring this up to my friends before they tell me to shut up, as Boogie tells himself to shut up? How will I ever learn to love myself? And, of course: Still?
“They like, n***a we tired of hearing you pour / Out your heart about how you wanna struggle and you at war / With yourself, and how you not confident and insecure / Tired of that shit, don’t wanna hear that story no more” —Boogie, “Tired / Reflections”
Boogie’s frustration, his bone-deep exhaustion, is palpable. He is speaking from dual perspectives, first as himself to himself, and then as fans to himself. This is critical in that it underscores the way our perception of ourselves warps when we are in the midst of heady struggle. Especially as the fight wears us down, it becomes damn near impossible to appraise reality for what it is—to see ourselves for who we truly are—when we are so deep in a pit of despair. Sometimes, it is more convenient to adopt a narrative of struggle and hardship, to believe we are simply bad people, than it is to accept that life just has the propensity to turn on you. And so we begin to feel guilty for struggling, and that guilt permeates the open of Everythings for Sale.
There, too, is outrage in this opening verse. There is the note that Boogie understands he has every right to be confident, to be past his struggle. Yet, he is embroiled in a battle with himself. The lesson here is that you cannot logic away your emotions, you cannot outsmart the compulsion and the hurt. You can only live through it to the best of your ability. Again, this is an issue of perception and reality. The good news here is that Boogie understands his reality is far better than he feels it to be, and in time we hope that he can internalize that understanding and do better by himself. He’s certainly trying.
The final bar boasts a multifaceted meaning as well. First, we have the anger from whomever we worry overburdening with our struggles. Then we have the anger from Boogie for still struggling, and lastly, we have a hopeful nod. That is to say, by rejecting the narrative of constantly struggling, Boogie sets himself up to get through his emotions and come out a stronger man. “N***a, ain’t you tired of telling it?” he asks of himself. As in, how is this still happening? But also, as in, there is no need to hold on to the narrative that we are broken and need to be struggling. We can exist beyond our struggles. There is a reason to be optimistic about the future.
Though the delivery is irreverent, the ultimate lesson of “Tired / Reflections” goes beyond Boogie’s opening verse. We are meant to come away from the track understanding that we must be kinder to ourselves in order to live through our lows. We must speak kinder to ourselves in order to internalize the good we so desperately are trying to reach. I know I must.
While Boogie continues on admitting he is at war with his reflection, we must learn to be on a team with ourselves. There is simply no other way to do this life than by strapping in and caring for ourselves as if we were a duo. The hurt self and the caring self, and together we can become the people we are meant to be. No matter how exhausting, we must press on, for the sake of ourselves, at least. This is how we regain control over our lives. This is how we get to our next joy and finally feel better.