My Side of the Table

This past Friday my band and I had the pleasure of playing for the first time in quite awhile – actually for the first time this year. It was a late night: we played from nine to twelve in Greenville, so between walking half a mile before and after the performance for parking and unloading/reloading everyone’s gear, you start tend to get a bit tired by the end of it all. Now, I’m not complaining, but getting home by 1:30 or so was the goal, and I don’t know about you, but that’s a bit past my normal bedtime. And we did make it – me and my bassist, that is – back to Clemson at just about that time. But we didn’t say our goodnights just then: we talked and talked and talked – about things that matter. It seems like late nights do that to people.

We talked about music, of course. What else would two musicians do? But it wasn’t about theory. It wasn’t about how we think our new songs are coming. It wasn’t even about how we thought the night went. We talked about music’s role in our lives, and it all began with the question: What do you think is the meaning of life?

Now, before you start to think I’m too eccentric, or that I’ve started to sound like one of those overzealous artists that has maybe done one too many substances, let me explain. It started with a conversation about Nashville – not next weekend for recording, but the next chapter of our lives – because he’s still treading the line about where he plans to end up. So, I told him how I came to my decision and how I resolved the issue of opportunity. I first answered that question: What’s the meaning of life?

And my answer was a general one, fitting enough to answer such a general question. It was, “The pursuit of one’s own happiness – almost to a selfish extent.” Though it may sound like a self-serving philosophy to live by, it really all depends on how you answer the next question in the series, which is, “What makes you happy?” Is it friendship, love, money, etc., etc.? And the answer doesn’t have to be – and, in my opinion, shouldn’t be – set in stone. For me, I expect the answer to change as the chapters of my life do. Right now, the world is at my fingertips: opportunity has presented itself in so many different forms that it becomes difficult to say which is the best, or better yet, which is the best for me now. But those opportunities will change as the years go on. Some will come and some will go, and that will be the last you see of them. So with that being said, which opportunity is best for me now? Which opportunity makes me happiest? And which opportunity may expire more quickly than the others? Music. Music. Music.

I just recently finished writing a song called, “Nine to Fives,” and I think it’s one of the best to come from me in quite awhile, mostly because of its honesty and relevance to this chapter of my life. I won’t dive too deep into it, but my favorite part of the song is the bridge when I sing:

“Don’t get me wrong now.

I see the beauty of settling down.

I see a wife with kids running around

Later on.

But don’t you think that I’m just

A little too young

To have my whole life planned at twenty-one?

Well, I do, I do.

It’s my favorite – for a lot of reasons – but mostly because it allows for change. It allows for fulfillment from different sources – just in different eras of life, which is perfectly suited for someone with tunnel vision like mine. So, I guess the moral of the story is this: Focus on what makes you happy now because you’re never in too deep to turn around or shift the medium that brings it to you.

So, shortly and sweetly, that’s the gist of it, my side of the 2AM conversation with a friend and musician. But let me offer you some of his. Probably his most significant piece of insight – because I’ve felt it, he’s felt it, and I’m sure the majority of you reading this have felt it – was this: “I just kept pushing back against [insert passion here (though is was music)] because I knew it wasn’t the smart thing to do.” Well, what’s “smart?” Is it settling for something because it’s safe? Is it denying passion or love for financial stability? Is it missing out on something you’d love to do because someone might ridicule your cause or laugh in your face when you say that you’re giving up a life of education for something that carries a bit of risk? I’ve done well in school. Like I said, I’m a bioengineer and have been pretty successful at it, so when I tell people what I plan on doing after college, the most common response is, “Well, at least you’ve got a good back-up.” Yeah, I guess, but it would inevitably and only be a means to an end – a means for making money and supporting myself to make more money. But music is the means and the end – the journey and the finish line – because it’s a self-sustaining cycle of fulfillment, happiness, and (fingers-crossed) financial stability. And I know people will laugh when they read that. I guess I would too if I sat on the other side of the table, where the food is plenty and the wine is good and when you look to the other side you see people like me and all you can think is, “You can have this too,” but you’re too busy eating and working to talk, so you forget why you’re at the table in the first place. Well, on my side of the table, the conversation’s good, and though I may not eat a lot, I’ll eat enough because when it’s all said and done, and you could pick two of those three things (fulfillment, happiness, or financial stability), which would you pick?