I used to be a musician. That is to say I used to play in bands. I'm still a musician, of course. Although I don't play as much as I used to. When I was younger, in the thick of my band days, I used to dream. I used to dream about how I wanted it to be; the perfect band; to be a success in music. What would it be like to be interviewed? What would it be like to play in front of thousands of people? I had played in front of hundreds of people, but never thousands.
The dream would change over time, the music would change, the interviews would change, the venues we would be playing would change, and eventually over time, the dream would fade.
There was a point in my life where I made a conscious decision to let the dream go. I wouldn't stop playing, but I no longer wanted to think of myself as a musician. I didn't want to be one of those guys pretending to be twenty-two, but everyone can tell you're closer to forty. I didn't want to be in a cover band, trying to decide which would be less humiliating: playing the songs we all grew up with and sounding like a bunch of outdated fools, or playing current songs that would make us feel like disconnected imposters. There were other options, of course. But at the time, I didn't see it that way.
I had decided to see where else life could take me. I often thought I would be a writer. But what would I write? Would I write novels? Would I write short fiction? Would I write humor? Satire? I just had to jump into the pool and find out if I could swim. Maybe not the best metaphor for someone who actually cannot swim, but what the heck.
This was right around the time that I came up with the idea for "The Little Red Boat." I had recently purchased a new computer, my first ever. It was an iMac. I guess you would call it a second generation iMac. It wasn't the one that looked like a lollipop, it was its younger, more sophisticated cousin. It wasn't bright orange, or purple, or green. It was a nice smokey gray. The back of the machine was translucent, so you could see the inner workings. It looked like a small portable television from a science fiction movie, but without the antenna.
I had joined the modern age. Granted, I was a bit late to the party; pretty much everyone I knew already had a computer. I was also the last person in North America to get a cell phone, but that's a subject for another day.
I was no longer a starving musician, spending weeks at a time traveling around from one dumpy bar to another, making no money, but having the time of his life. Now I was a former musician, married, living in a small rambler in a quiet little suburb. It was a cute little house, complete with an updated kitchen and a big backyard. I now was a person who owned a lawn-mower. I had rakes and shovels, garden tools. I even had neighbors. It wouldn't be long before I'd be having conversations with them out by the mailbox, talking about lawn care, home improvements, and the best way to get rid of moles.
I still had my shoulder-length hair, a remnant of my rock-and-roll days, which somehow seemed like another lifetime. It was all a bit surreal, to be honest. But I didn't really give it a second thought. Didn't want to, I suppose. This was my life now. I lived in the suburbs. I had a wife, a cute house, great neighbors, a backyard ... and a brand-new, space-age computer waiting for me in the spare bedroom. It was time to go to work.
I started to write. I wrote a lot. It wasn't good. In fact it was terrible. But I kept at it. At least for the time being. I carried a notebook with me in my car. I was working as a delivery driver at the time, and in my spare time, I would jot down ideas.
I lived in that house for seven years. I lived there by myself for a couple of years after my divorce. I couldn't really afford the place on my income, but I stayed there for a while anyway. It had become my home, and I wanted to feel like something was still mine. I wasn't quite ready to hit the restart button just yet. I had just gotten comfortable with John 2.0. I wasn't feeling very enthused to move on.
I did, however, reintroduce myself to music.
If you're a doctor or a lawyer and you're going through a mid-life crisis, you buy a Corvette. if you're a forty-something delivery driver, fresh off a divorce and contemplating where it all went wrong, you buy a guitar. I took some of the money I didn't have and I bought a brand new bass guitar and a little amp.
I spent a lot of time down in my basement, playing my brand-new bass. It was the nicest musical instrument I had ever owned. I didn't see the neighbors very much for a while. All I did was play. I got pretty good, too. I wasn't really sure what I was doing, but I was enjoying it. Music had been such a big part of my life, it felt good to actually be enjoying it again. But I started to wonder: Was I installing John 3.0, or had I just uninstalled 2.0 and replaced it with the latest update of version 1?
It felt an awful lot like denial, to be honest. On the one hand, I wasn't hurting anything. I had spent a little money I shouldn't have spent, but it wasn't that much. On the other hand, was it keeping me from finding out where else life could take me?
Eventually, it would take me to a New Year's Eve party where I would meet the love of my life. We've been together for more than ten years. We don't live in the suburbs. We have a house in the city. We're happy most of the time. We have a whole 'nother set of plans that aren't necessarily being met, but we are making our way through life together.
Who's to say which road you should take? You never know if the road you're on is the right one. Plans are important, though. Even if your life doesn't go according to that plan, it gives you a direction. Even if those plans aren't the most well-executed, as was the case with me, they get you moving. In life, we face many decisions about which path to take, but you'll never get to make those decisions if you haven't yet chosen to move forward. You'll never reach that fork in the road if you're not already moving.