I wrote this blog entry more than a month ago, but I’ve had to go back to it several times to remind myself where to put my heart as I approach my CD release this Sunday. If you’ve ever released your own CD, you will know, it’s all to easy to lose the joy and get lost in the tasks…but here is my friendly reminder to all dream chasers…may we enjoy the journey!
Sometimes I feel like I’m in the back seat of the car, on the journey of my life, and I keep asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Living a life outside the standard parameters of Asian parent’s expectations (“respectable” career, stable income, benefits, etc.,) has caused me to feel like I’m still en route to a destination I can’t see or describe. So much for goal setting. In the wise words of Lewis Caroll, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” That, just about sums up where I’m going these days…
When I was in high school, we had a visit from a motivational speaker whose message still stays in my mind. He said that when you’re in high school you’re always looking forward to university. When you’re in university, you can’t wait to graduate and start your career. When you start working, you can’t wait to get married. When you get married, you look forward to having children, then you look forward to having them grow up, then you look forward to retiring, then you look forward to…well, you get the point.
The truth is, there may never be an ultimate destination. While many of my songwriting pals lament the impossibility of “making a living,” as we scrounge around looking for a viable way. The path of pursuing our dreams can also be a bottomless money-eating pit with the cost of marketing, publicity, production, etc., all in the spirit of DIY. Never mind the time and life-energy spent. All of this to play to audiences for whom music is now like tap water, and not the valuable gold it used to be (remember when you had to save money to buy your favourite CD?). As my CD release approaches, and the next wave of expenditures begin, my left brain can’t help but ask, “Will this be recoupable?”
I am reluctant to whine about the disappointment and discouragement that is so much a part of this journey towards actualization. I’ve had some bystanders comment, “But, you chose this difficult path…” Luckily, I was recently comforted, when a group of songwriting pals echoed in response, “NO! We didn’t! This path chose us!”
I think of Rainer Maria Rilke’s words to the young poet, “Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.” I think that for any true artist, there is the risk of death if we were asked to stop. But, then what to do with all these thoughts and feelings of discouragement? What do you do when you’re on your way, but you can’t see a clear path?
Knowing that you were made to do something (even if that something may never be profitable), and mustering the courage and strength to do it are entirely different muscles. It’s in the doing that we face our most brutal demons. And that is where I find myself these days. Fighting intense resistance that questions my faith, my value, my contribution to this world. Is my music good enough? Will they like me? What if they don’t? Will I still like myself?
It’s when these dangerous thought patterns emerge that I have to fight back. And then I remember that motivational speaker and his message, that all we can have of life is in this very moment. So, if I’m not having fun, I’m not doing a good job. It’s not to say that there won’t be pain along the way, but I was reminded by a mentor years ago, to live life like a dog on a car ride, head sticking out of the window, feeling the wind. The dog doesn’t know where it is going, but it is enjoying the ride. Are you having fun yet?