When I was young I dreamed of becoming a cowboy. It made perfect sense to me that I would grow up, magically own a horse, and ride around the countryside getting into adventures. Of course no one had heart to tell me that horses are ridiculously expensive to care for, the countryside has been replaced by subdivisions and strip malls, and adventures are now only found electronically or by traveling farther than I’m willing to go.
As I aged my dreams became more practical, but not by much. I showed a small amount of talent as an artist, and as most parents do, my mother grasped onto that tiny shred and held firmly. Parents are so desperate to find greatest in their children, because they somehow feel responsible for it. When I showed a small affinity for art, I was more than encouraged to follow it. It was presented as really my only option. Of course, I wasn’t talented enough to make it as a straight artist, so I needed a trade. The old saying is 100% true. Those who can’t do, teach. Anyone teaching anything simply isn’t good enough to make a living doing it professionally. Take a look at faculty all over this country. You have unknown authors, musicians, artists, coaches, doctors, and so on. They’re all playing the part of the expert but in actuality they didn’t have what it took to really become a participant in their field. Instead they watch from the sidelines, and hope that someday one of their students will enter the game.
While I possessed a mild amount of talent for art, trying to turn it into a career was a complete mistake. If you ever want to take the fun out of something for me, turn it into a job. Suddenly art wasn’t my escape, it was my life. So what do you do when your retreat has been invaded by the very thing that you’re retreating from? You retreat further.
Enter music. I was born and bred to be a musician. I’m a 4th generation musician to be exact, it’s just in the blood. It wasn’t until I got away from “the blood” that I could actually view this as any type of outlet. Suddenly music was the retreat from art, and life. With everyone telling me that I needed some type of skill, or career, what did I do? I tried to turn music into a career. I dropped out of school, and began focusing all of my efforts on “making it” with my band. I almost want to slap myself for being such a cliche but what good is college if it’s not for falling accidentally into the “anti-stereotype.” Of course the band always talked about “making it” without ever really contemplating what that meant or how we would magically get there. Somehow it seemed perfectly logical that if we just kept making music in the same way, playing to the same crowds, and playing in the same venues, that something would magically fall in our laps. I should have asked myself if I really wanted this to be my job.
Predictably, as soon as it started to feel like a job, I hated it. My retreat was again infiltrated. It got bad enough that the last few shows I played, could only be done by getting drunk beforehand and receiving a pep talk from my then girlfriend, now wife. I still marvel at her patience with all of it. She essentially ran away from home to be with me, yes we are cliche in every way possible, I then drop out of school to be in a band, and then decide that I’m leaving the band. She is now married to the poster child for failure, and is pregnant with our first child. She never said a word. She never complained, or asked how we would possibly support our new family. She showed up to every gig, encouraged me to practice when I didn’t want to, supported me financially, and all for what? So that I could quit the fucking band for no reason other than that I was now bored. I could conquer the whole fucking world, hand all of its riches right over to her, and I still wouldn’t feel like I’d repaid her for what she’s put up with. I don’t know if her staying with me proves that there’s a god, or proves that there isn’t.
So there I am. I’m 22, a failed cowboy, failed artist, failed musician, failed writer (brief stint as an english major), college dropout, mild alcoholic, showering on a weekly basis, changing clothes slightly less often, married to a beautiful girl, and with a daughter on the way. I am 100% a failure. So what changed? Why am I no longer a failure? Well, by the world’s standards, I think I still am. Never went back to college, although people mysteriously tell me that I should and never have a logical reason for this. I never played in another band, and didn’t play drums for at least 3 years after that (did pick up guitar though), and outside of painting with my daughter, art has all but left me. What happened was my daughter was born. Somewhere around her first birthday it dawned on me that I wasn’t my parent’s son anymore. I was a father and husband. If I didn’t pull my head out of my ass my daughter would be left to grow up like I did. Poor, a life of uncertainty, constant stress, being ridiculed. I wouldn’t let that happen. So what did I do? I found a company that could utilize what were, at the time, a seemingly useless set of skills and abilities and turn it into a more lucrative career than any I had pursued before.
I’ve never sold a painting. I’ve never had commercial success in music, although one song made it on the radio and people genuinely seemed to enjoy what we did. I’ve never had my writing published (unless you count the little publish button in my sidebar of my blog). But I have made my wife cry with my songs. I’ve had my daughter actually request MY songs when we’re driving in the car. I’ve put my son to bed while playing the guitar. I’ve decorated our house with my paintings that no one will ever buy. I have raised a daughter that can make my heart feel like it’s about to burst. I’ve created a son that already has a look in his eyes like he can see right into me. I’ve somehow managed to make a woman happy that should never have ended up with an asshole like me.
Not once when I was growing up to I plan on measuring my success in these ways. Not once did I consider this life. I assumed I would lead a great life of notoriety and adoration, not the humble life of a suburban husband and father. I assumed that the masses would hear my music, and instead I play concerts on saturday nights to an adoring crowd of three while they dance around the living room to songs that could be described as anything but dance music. I now live the life that I never expected, and I can’t imagine it any other way.
Yours in failure,