This is a repost of a Salon blog essay written in May 2011, just a few months before I was to relaunch my Etsy shop, which has since been an explosion in creativity. I probably needed to grieve in this essay for who I had been before I could move on to who I would become. As Lady Gaga is rumored to be coming out with a new disc very soon, it's interesting to revisit what I was feeling just over two years ago.
Lady Gaga is everywhere. When I scan the channels there she is--in yet another interview, another video, another performance, another commercial. And I admit, I can't get enough of it.
But while I'm enjoying the ride, there's a lingering malaise that's sitting in the pit of my stomach like an undigested dessert, and I'm getting a tummyache.
It's strange listening to Gaga, because her music has reignited a love of pop that I haven't felt in a long time, and I feel something like a teenager again, when music was the sustenance of my existence. But here's the rub: I'm not a teenager anymore--far from it, in fact--and all that went with my love of music in those days is long gone.
For example, when I listened to pop music as a young person, it stoked the dreams of me doing that myself one day, and so much of what I chose to do was put towards making those dreams a reality. As a kid, I dutifully took my music lessons, and as I got older, I joined bands, developed my songwriting and performing abilities, put my own band together, and hit the road. I recorded and released two CDs, was a critics' darling, and came close to publishing and record label deals, which always ended up falling through.
Undeterred, I kept at it, but as the years began to pass, an eerie feeling soon emerged, which was this: If my dreams don't come true, if I don't end up a truly professional singer/songwriter (who no longer needs the day job), then what will happen to me? Who will I be without my dreams, or worse, without those dreams fulfilled?
For years, even decades, I didn't allow those worries in, because like any good young person, I thought I would live forever. And I believed, perhaps naively, that provided my heart was in my work, as long as I didn’t sell out, then everything would turn out fine. There was nothing to be concerned about. I worked hard, my music was good, and I was committed. What could go wrong?
Well, what went wrong far exceeded anything that I could have imagined in my wildest dreams, as my health, which was never very good in the first place, took a dive in 2004 that brought me to a full stop. And just like that, it was all over.
While I’ve pursued other creative interests during this time, like writing and painting, and even dance for awhile, music will always be my first love as songwriting is what I do best. But when I became so ill and was racked with such unrelenting pain, there just wasn’t anything to write about anymore, and I knew I was done for a very very long time, maybe for good.
Whether it was creative exhaustion or the inability to put physical suffering into a song lyric (or a combination of both), I knew that my music days, for the most part, were behind me, but I was just too sick at the time to grieve over it, as most of the time, I was just trying to stay alive.
But in the last few months, I’ve noticed that my spirits have picked up, which has led me to picking up my guitar again, right around the same time Lady Gaga began promoting the release of her new disc. While her songs inspire me so, I painfully realize that I’m no longer the teenager who can fantasize that I’ll be like her one day. And frankly, I don’t know what to do with these feelings.
In short, I feel like crying all the time it seems, despite my rebounding spirits, because the days of dreaming about a music career are over. Let’s face it: No record company is looking to hire a 52-year-old pop star.
Some have suggested that I get back into the game as simply a songwriter, but even that takes money (to record demos), hence the realization of another grim reality: I’m flat broke. This illness has wiped me out so completely that I live in a Section 8 HUD apartment, am on Social Security disability, and am in chronic pain most of the time. This is NOT how I expected my life to turn out.
So when I see Lady Gaga in all her glory, talking about how she “stuck to it” to achieve her dreams, I think of the millions and millions of other aspiring performers who also gave it their all, sometimes for their entire lives, and have ended up with absolutely nothing, other than some wonderful songs that no one knows or cares about.
On a positive note, I’m so skilled as a songwriter that I no longer have to hone my craft for a lifetime in order to pen a tune. Instead of dreaming about it, I can pick up the guitar or sit at the piano and just do it, provided the inspiration is there, which is a BIG proviso, by the way. Without inspiration, I’m no better than a no-talent hack with nothing to say.
But the negative note seems to be ruling the day, it seems, for at least this day. I just heard a passing car blasting Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory,” which is an edge I sat on for a very long time. The scales just never tipped my way, and there’s a giant ache now where my dreams used to be.
Maybe it’s time to grieve for them, as I gave up everything to have them…marriage, children, and careers in other fields. I went for it 100 percent without a net, and now I’m splat on the ground after having fallen off the wire.
I don’t regret it—not a bit. But I feel just so so sad.
New in the Shop!
To leave a comment, click "Comments" below (or the blog post title) if they're not already activated.