Both Sides Now: Two generations offer wisdom on your current life crisis
Q: My day job has offered me a promotion that would make working as a touring musician impossible. But having money to pay the rent is awfully tempting. How do you know when it's time to give up the dream?
A: Listen, I dated a musician for seven years. He was the drummer of a band on the brink of making it big our whole relationship. I lived through those late nights and long band practices. I was there for the schlepping and setting up of instruments and the frustration of disappointing sets and the bitty door earnings. But I’ve also been there for the rush of assembling chords just so and setting words to music. I was there when big venues were booked, the album got a write-up and when the music was well-received at shows. I know what actively pursuing a passion looks like because I had a front row ticket. It’s a big commitment, and if you’re not 17, the musician lifestyle can be a weird line to squat over when relationships and making a living come into play. No wonder you’re fussed.
Here’s the thing about dreams and goals; they change and morph constantly (that’s why we set new ones each year). And I’m not glazing over your struggle by saying that, either.
Your grade school teacher was onto something when she asked you to write out those pro and con lists. It’s my go-to move and what I always tell my friends to draft when a big decision is up to bat.
Be thoughtful of your own happiness and how it affects others when you write it. And be realistic. It's not practical to think music can sustain you when you’re barely breaking even at shows. If you’re juggling a family life, do you need to find band mates in similar situations? Write it down.
Maybe music for you needs to be more casual so you can pay the bills or sustain a happy relationship. You can still release music online and, who knows, maybe you’ll get huge on Spotify (I believe in you). Or, maybe, you “sell out” and do music in a more corporate sense. Think composing for ads, TV or mixing and mastering.
So, how do you know when to give up the dream? That’s arbitrary. Step back and prioritize what success means to you and find a happy medium that works for you and your life.
As for the drummer I used to date? He’s still pursuing music but switched his primary sights to film and is very happy. I can’t confirm, but he probably made a pro and con list.
— Amy Valm is a Toronto-based lifestyle journalist. Her work has appeared in Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail and Today's Parent.
A: That fleeting moment where everything seems to fall into place. The promotion; the pay cheque; the raise. You’ve finally made it or so it would seem. Then what about your musical aspirations? That one thing you hold close to your heart may have to be placed on permanent hold.
If you ask me, and you have, you’re preaching to the choir. How many 60-year old’s do you know embarking on a career in stand-up comedy? I’d do stand-up for free which is a good thing because that’s pretty much what it pays. It’s my passion. If you’re in a position to afford this, (at this stage in my life that would be a somewhat resounding yes) then kudos to you (and me) I’m livin' the dream.
Maybe it’s possible to work full-time and still work on your music in your spare time.
Take the promotion and raise. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs insists you do so if only for survival. Perhaps you’ll get that car you want; annual vacation. Marry. Settle down. And according to stats Canada, have 1.3 children. Do you think gaining financial security is worth placing your passion for music on the backburner? But the bottom line is, as researchers claim, money as a motivator is short lived. So, when the cash cushion is gone, wouldn’t it be nice to have another type of cushion to fall back on?
Clearly the only one who can answer any of these questions is you. Take it from me, while waiting until later in life to pursue your passion is an option, I don’t recommend it. I’ve regretted it even though it has been somewhat successful, it’s not the same. You’ll be unique but your window of opportunity will be somewhat smaller.
And whatever you do, don’t allow anyone dampen your dream.You know who I’m talking about, the black clouds out there. Delight in proving them wrong.
Try not to fall into the trap of giving up on your dream all together. Challenge yourself! If experience has taught me anything it’s life’s too damn short. Do not allow your musical ambition or any passion to remain unfulfilled.
It will take discipline and a whole lot of juggling to make it happen. Prioritize and stick to a schedule. Life will seem like a roller coaster ride sometimes, up one minute, down the next and occasionally, go off the rails altogether. No one said it was going to be easy. This, I know from experience, to be a certainty.
— Cathy Boyd is a writer, producer, mother, grandmother, Human Rights activist and stand up comic.