Music Is Not What I Do

musings of a professional dreamer

I am a musician. It’s what I’ve always been. As a kid, I wanted to be a concert pianist, just like Liberace. Nat King Cole made me want to write music that made people believe in things like I believed him. I watched my parents dance so gracefully to songs by Frank Sinatra, and imagined playing songs that lovers could float on, capturing that air of fairytale romance. I banged out meaningless notes and jumped around on the pedals on my grandmother’s organ, trying to make sense of the sound I heard in my head, until my parents sent me to piano lessons and bought me my first piano. I memorised every word of My Fair Lady, and that story of a woman who didn’t know what she had the potential to become, resonated with my heart. I felt the passion in every note of Moonlight Sonata when I first heard it and it’s still my favourite piece to play. And when I finally discovered rock music, it shattered my naïve understanding of perfection and made things perfectly messy, and it was thrilling. Instead of being wounded, I realised I was also allowed to be angry. Instead of being polite and correct, I could be passionate and soulful. This is who I’ve always been. Every part of my being aches and moans and breathes and moves and feels and lives sound. Music is not what I do. It is who I am.

Three years ago I quit my day job to allow myself to be that person. It wasn’t a decision that I made as consciously as I’d made every other decision up to that point. Listening to my songs about self-belief, passion and following your dreams, you’d probably think I made a conscious decision to pursue my dream, but that’s not at all how it happened. I was scared shitless and dove head first, eyes wide shut, into something I had (and still have) absolutely no clue how to pull off. All I knew is that I had to be willing to sacrifice a few things if I was ever going to become anything. And, in all honesty, at the time I didn’t have all that much to lose.

There are a myriad of quotes that encourage you to live life to the fullest, and hearing them repeatedly, they start to lose their meaning. But the fact is, this is it. At the end of my life, I want to be the person that says I tried everything I could to be everything I could be, I loved with my whole heart, I hurt like hell, I laughed and cried because I had people and things in my life that meant everything to me, and I had a blast doing it all. I can put a positive spin on just about anything – you learn that when you’re willing to sacrifice things for a dream that’s important to you – and as a recovering philosopher, that’s a pretty damn good place to be. I’m willing to sacrifice all kinds of things for the people and things that mean the most to me, and I’ve learned that I’m willing to compromise more than I ever thought I would. I’m even willing to compromise my own happiness in the pursuit of happiness. Present sacrifice for future gain. We’re all working towards something, and as much as I’d love to say I’m living entirely for now, because “now is all you have” and “you could die tomorrow”, we’re all subconsciously striving for a better future, a bolder love, a greener grass.

But there are no rules. I grew up thinking I had to be a certain kind of person to get somewhere, that there were rules I’d have to follow to live the life I was meant to live, and if I just checked those boxes, everything would be okay. But it doesn’t work like that. I realise now that the second I acknowledged the implication behind there being no instruction manual, the moment that I let go of everything I thought I believed in, and took more risks and allowed myself to make some mistakes, the more myself I became. Because there are no rules. I don’t have a 5 year plan and I don’t want one. I don’t know where I’ll be in two months time. It’s thrilling. It’s terrifying as hell too, but I can’t change that part. All I can do is feel the fear and do it anyway, and then capture the sound it makes. Every moment of my life is defined by its sound, a soundtrack that drifts and swells in my head. Because this is who I am. It’s who I’ve always been.

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© Shannon Hope 2017