There's something deep within me, maybe in my DNA, maybe deeper, that wants to self-destruct. My entire life there's been some inner-magnet that's pulled me towards danger, towards what I knew was the wrong choice. You don't end up covered in tattoos and writing about hip-hop for a living unless there's something inside you that sees safety, stability and normality and feels compelled to sprint in the opposite direction.
And while I've (largely) learned to control the impulsiveness that once sent me to the principal's office weekly, most of that control has come in the form of limiting the damage of my self-implosions to others. I refuse to make my wife, my friends, my co-workers, certainly my daughter, pay for my mistakes. But me? I'm still fair game. I'm a very easy target for myself to hit, and so I do. Often.
But as I've aged I've also started to see how those two things - taking care of those around you and taking care of myself - can't be separated. So many of the men I literally looked up to as a child, the men I watched pop dislocated fingers back into place by themselves, the men I saw never turn down another drink, my grandfather, my uncles, even now my cousins, are gone. At 64, my father is the oldest male in his immediate family in two generations. I won't put my daughter through the pain of losing her father too early, so last year was largely about trying to put a cap on my self-destructive streaks in all forms. At the very least, instead of lobbing the occasional grenade at myself, I'd try to only set off fire crackers.
I have to give myself some credit, I did make some significant progress in 2014. Last year I resolved to stop being afraid of stepping in front of the camera, a fear of self-publicity that was its own kind of self-destruction, and I came through. I roamed the streets with a camera talking to strangers, I did live RevoltTV tapings, I can now pretty confidently get in front of a lens and not be a complete mess. I also resolved to expand my musical horizons and relax as a parent, just let my daughter be an insane/amazing/silly four-year-old right now without worrying about the person she's become in 20 years. Missions accomplished, at least for now.
But do you know what I didn't do, for the second year in a row? Smoke more weed. Sweet baby Jesus, what's wrong with me? I can't even make good health decisions when those health decisions revolve around consuming marijuana. Simply put, I drink, and I drink what could best be described as an important amount. Going completely sober 365 days a year is a great ultimate goal, but it's frankly probably unrealistic for now. As a good middle ground though, I came to realize that if I replaced my drinking with smoking, I would be far healthier. And I know there's a stoner joke waiting to be made here, but I'm actually completely serious. I just spent a New Year's Day throwing up a lovely mixture of scotch, champagne and Doritos, a particularly cruel misery that certainly wouldn't have happened if I had spent the night smoking instead. If I replaced that nightly beer(s) with a few puffs, that Friday night scotch to unwind with a joint, I'd be healthier, happier and live longer. Plus, I live in California, so it's legal essentially legal. And yet, I just can't seem to replace my drinking with toking for reasons I can't actually explain. BUT NO MORE!!! This will be the year things change. So here, in front of the internet, I'm vowing to smoke more in 2015. Hold me to it.
And while a health change is a more obvious life improvement, I've also come to realize that there are more subtle self-destructions that I need to take just a seriously. It's taken me far, far, too long, but I finally just set up a 401K (a retirement account) for myself, something that's notoriously neglected by those of us not working regular 9-to-5s. If I really want to take care of myself, and by extension my family, I also need to take my financial health seriously. It's not hard to see the parallel between my "fuck it, I'm fine now, the future will work itself out later" approach towards my body and the way I treat my bank account.
And on a similiar note, I also want 2015 to be the year I embrace ambition. For so long I've viewed deeply ambitious people the way I view people who wear visors; with a mixture of disdain and suspicion. I'm an artiste, not a hedge fund manager. But really, completely avoiding any ambitious streaks running through me was another form of self-destruction, the same force that previously made me hide from cameras. Why do I have to choose between being a millionaire and making awesome stuff. Why do I have to choose between being the meek "creative" and Diddy on a rant binge? I used to believe there was a certain nobility in being the starving artist, but I'm realizing the "do what you love" vs. "do what makes money" debate is a false conflict, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why can't I become a millionaire by making awesome stuff? Why can't I write a best-selling book? Why can't I write an Oscar-winning screenplay? Why can't I turn DJBooth into a new media power on the level of Vice. No, fucking seriously. Why not? The only reasons why not revolve around fear and self-destruction. If I want to succeed on the level I know I can, and I do, I need to put a stomp out those feelings without mercy.
I'm feeling a measured confidence that this year that I can continue to defuse the self-destructive bomb ticking alongside my heart, but I don't know if I'll ever get rid of it though, not completely. In fact, it may just get worse as I get older. Currently, my plan is to develop a serious heroin addiction starting around 80 years old. They say heroin's supposed to feel amazing - like 100 orgasms at once - but what's not so amazing is how it completely fucking ruins your entire life. But when I'm 80 and already facing death, comfortably situated in some nursing home with nothing to look forward to but Breaking Bad reruns on the hologram TV or whatever? What do I have to lose? Dying of an 100-simultaneous-orgasm-overdose is a better way to go out than literally every other way old people die. Let me live to see my grandchildren graduate high school and then some hardcore narcotics are going to start pumping through my veins.
But I've got a long way to go before Grandpa Nathan gets to fade away off that future lean, and if I want to make it there, I need to start smoking more weed, max out my retirement contributions, and pay for it all with a newfound embrace of ambition. 2015 will be the year I stop being a complete asshole to myself. Auld lang syne and all that my friends.
[By Nathan S., the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]