When I started playing music, I pursued it with a stark determination for success, and a willingness to put myself in an early grave to get there. I would’ve rather lived a short and exciting life than have followed the herd. I pushed myself. I was “punk rock”. I drank every night. I made stupid decisions. I experienced things that most people never will, and I don’t regret any of it. But a singularly-directed life is unsustainable, and it prevents any meaningful personal growth.
If I had continued, I would be walking the fence, teetering on the edge of becoming a total cliché. I would be playing with some semi-known band, still chasing the record deal that I had once had and convincing myself that, at thirty, I still had as much of a shot at making it in this increasingly fickle industry as I did when I was twenty. I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone. I have many friends who are still actively pursuing careers in music, and I admire them for it. That road is a hard one that requires fierce determination and a true commitment to your convictions.
When I look back on my own experience, I wonder if I ever really wanted to be a professional musician. Growing up, I was shy, insecure and lacking in confidence. Playing in bands provided me with a sense of pride and confidence that I had so longed for as a kid. It was like night and day. One moment, I was a loner, nothing special to anybody, and then all at once I was cool; crowds of my peers were cheering for me, girls wanted to date me and other musicians looked up to me. That said, there is an important distinction to be made between playing music and pursuing a career in music. To me, music is spiritual. It’s a type of religion. I believe in its power blindly and defend its merits wholeheartedly, without need for tangible reason. A career in music, however, seems like a fool’s errand. You bust your ass only to be undervalued and disappointed.
My time on the road gave me wonderful experiences that I’ll always be thankful for, but I’m glad that I’ve moved on. Life is, and should be, more complex than being fully committed to one path. I don’t miss living in a van, or existing on the social outskirts. However, I’ll always miss the feeling of being on stage and connecting to people through music, the most eloquent and connective artistic medium.