I need you to understand something...
When I left my beloved homeland of Joplin, Missouri to strike off and seek my "fame and fortune" in Nashville, TN, I had no earthly clue what I was doing. There was no one I knew that had ever done it. There was no trail, no path to follow. Hell, there wasn't even a map of the area.
But my heart cried out to me. It didn't promise me anything, but it bid me go.
I had never felt more compelled to do anything in my life. To uproot. To move forward. To chase life. I was fulfilling my destiny, whatever that turned out to be.
I thought it would take no time at all. I thought I was heading towards becoming something bigger than myself. I thought I was leaving to show the worLd what I could do...
As it turns out, leaving everything you know to chase something you don't understand, is excruciatingly difficult. And it takes an egregiously long time. You have to be willing to make mistakes (I was not). You have to be willing to recognize your own limitations (I could not, but they've since become blatantly obvious). You have to learn to let go (I'm getting there).
Luckily, I was protected by my own naivety, and the bravery of a family who gave me both the roots and the wings to take on such a task. No questions asked. They sent me into a World unknown to them. (Side note: It turns out they'd been doing that for longer than I'd realized. Parenting seems really hard.) And all I could think to do was: Not let them down.
There was no pressure to perform from my friends and loved ones, mind you. But my own self-inflicted pressure to succeed was immense. When you're thrust into a town like Nashville, and a situation that defies explanation (the sheer talent of everyone around you, the innumerable odds stacked against you, the realization that you maybe weren't as good as you thought you were, the idea that you have more new things to learn than all of the things you ever knew before you got here) you have an important decision to make:
1) Leave defeated.
2) Get better.
One is quick. One is easy. One can be dismissed with a simple change in attitude. You simply build a grudge against a deck that is stacked against you. You see the inner workings of an industry that makes very little sense, and realize that you are a very, very small part, and you turn around, and you go home, and you do something beautiful and wonderful with your life. THIS IS NOT A BAD OPTION! In fact, it's an option that I felt like making myself at SEVERAL points in my life. It could very well be a decision I will still make in the future.
The other? Well that's a whole different ball of wax. It requires perseverance, rejection, self-doubt, loathing, suffering, intense personal growth, character change (for better and for worse), and sometimes downright self-delusion. Delusion that it will all be worth it some day, that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, that your efforts are not in vain.
But through this process, I've learned a very good thing:
The effort to be, do, create, or try anything in this life is worth it, regardless of the outcome.
Some things were never meant to be. It's just the truth. But sometimes, even if things become everything you want, you are doing those things at the expense of every other thing you could have done with your life.
Think about that for a second... Even ACHIEVING your dream at any cost, renders all of the other lives you could have lived obsolete. And to me, there is a certain sadness in that. Sure, we flatter ourselves into thinking we're living the life we were destined, and that can help the sobering truth of it fade away, but it is there: beneath all that we do.
And we get to make the decision to continue on, or to stop. At any time. Some decisions have greater costs than others, but the result is the same. You either do something, or you don't. That's up to you.
But if you choose option 2, you have to level with yourself. You have to realize:
There is no substitute for time. Patience, humility, and time.
I stumbled into the best thing that ever happened to me: my wife. A stalwart companion, a great human being, a lover, a feeler, my better half. I cannot overstate the importance of finding this person in your life. They will be strong where you are weak. They will fill you up when you are empty. Sometimes you will both be empty, and you will have a friend in the truth that neither of you can go on. And you will break, and you will sigh, and you will be filled up from that experience, and after a brief respite, will continue on again somehow stronger. Somehow better. Together. Whole.
As a result of finding this one that my heart adores, I have had the opportunity to stare my mortality, my iniquities, and myself in the face knowing that there was someone who could remind me how to get back to it. Life a game save. A back-up. If anything goes horribly awry in my heart or mind, I know where the reset button is. It is right by my side. In all things.
As a result, I have lived a life that I cannot even fathom. I used to say that I made decisions that my 14 year-old self would think was cool. But even now, I cannot believe some of the things I've already seen and done. They somehow feel like someone else's life. I just caught some memories, some moving pictures showing at an ancient long-closed theater, and have since been pretending they are mine.
If you told the me that moved to Nashville 14 years ago that he would have his 68 page thesis needed for graduation rejected the week before he walked across the stage; that his band, his girlfriend, and his post-graduation plans would be taken away from him and replaced with a grey mist of unknowing for a great period of time; that he would have his wedding plans flooded, his honeymoon cancelled, his rescheduled honeymoon made difficult by a hospitalizing scooter wreck in a foreign country, have his wife and he lose their jobs, and the house he grew up in destroyed by a tornado, all in the first year of marriage; that he would work a job that provided for his newly-formed family and yet struggle to create art in the demands of a grueling weekly schedule, and that he would one day sit down with his wife and make the decision that art was a path worth pursuing, and spending years on, and losing sleep, time, and money over, and that he would not make a full-length record until he was 34: He would have turned around right then and there and figured something else out entirely.
Because that kid didn't know what the **** he was talking about.
But if you played that same kid the record he would take 14 years to make and say: "This is you."
He would weep.
And he would fret.
And then he would do it anyway.
Because surely, whatever stood between that kid and the music he had just heard, must have been wonderful and tragic; beautiful and dark; and a great adventure not worth missing.