I have come to a fantastic realization; I have finally stopped following my dreams. I am now following my happiness instead.
I have not given up on my dreams. If a leprechaun were to grant me a wish (aside from the obvious of simply making for me a good fitting pair of shoes), I would have a band full of strings and harmony, and we would be performing hopeful, lightly political music at Winnipeg this summer. We would jam on workshop stages with other musicians and share The Craic long into the night. There are no handy leprechauns, so getting to Winnipeg (or Carnegie) is not a matter of dreaming but a matter of following a series of choices, and not ones I can make.
A couple of years ago, I went to a workshop at Winnipeg about the economics of the entertainment industry. In it, we were given the best possible advice that anyone could give. We were asked why we wanted to be professional musicians, and then told that there is only one “good” answer. “That you must. You can love music, you can love to entertain, you can want to serve, but at the end of the day the only thing that will be worth all of the sacrifices you will need to make is if being a musician is simply what you must do.”
I have spent some time “on the road.” While I will always love traveling I have come to the conclusion that the “romance of the road” is a myth we tell ourselves so we can enjoy the resulting show. For the brief time I was on the road following my dreams. I remember long drives going over in my head what I needed to remember for my part and long drives home categorizing what I needed to fix in my costume or re-living the audience interactions where I should have been brilliant but was not. I remember waking up in a hotel room, and looking for a phone book to figure out where I was.
I also remember specific nights more than a decade ago on where the craic was good. Those were amazing nights and I could certainly see how some people must have that lifestyle. For days after such a night creativity flowed out of me faster than my brain could register. Poetry, writing, or solutions to stubborn problems would seem to come from nowhere. There is not a feeling like it, and the best way to get to that feeling is to be with imaginative people who you don’t otherwise spend much time with. People who have enough in common to share stories, but who have not yet shared their stories with each other. Travelers who come together for brief periods of time.
I have felt this at festivals, at youth hostels, at conferences, at pub song-circles and in the back of a greyhound bus. This, as much as the audience interaction, is what I dream about. This is what the leprechaun would give me, but amazing craic on its own cannot equate to happiness for me.
I wrote some pretty good songs while under the influence of other people’s creativity, but the themes are all of saying goodbye to those people and of meeting again sometime in the future. They are songs of not being together now. I was in my early 20’s, and writing music that was essentially re-living the glory days.
Lao Tzu is attributed to saying “If you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future and if you are at peace you are living in the present.” Following my dreams lead to a few glorious moments of being in the present, surrounded by a a lot of time being either anxious about how I was going to get to a present moment, or depressed about no longer being there. I was not very often happy, and that is what I have given up by not following my dreams.
Shannon and I are building a family. Some parts are harder and more complex than we had bargained on, but with her I am not focusing my energy on a few nights of matchless camaraderie, but focusing on building what we have, every single day. Our short term energy is focused on a fair next week, and the creative outpouring that will entail, but it is a fair we share, and when it is over, we will share in that process as well. After that, we will share trips to see more of our family, and then the next project we choose to be a part of, together. Eventually (no, this is not an announcement) we will be sharing projects with our kids in an expanded family.
Not following my dreams is allowing me to be very, very happy. I won’t need a phone book to tell me where I am; I will be home.