A friend of mine called me tonight, full of insights and excitement after spending a week in an intense seminar of self-discovery. He had identified and released the demons that were holding him back from pursuing his creative dreams. We all have them – those fun, “impractical” things we clearly love doing as children and put away once fear sets in. Maybe that’s why there are so many more accountants than ballerinas.
My friend is a writer. His dream is to make his voice heard – to tell his stories through books and movies. But he’s not doing it. As he explained to me, his voice is blocked because he’s giving his words to a corporation to express its stories, not his own. I’ve been there. Most of us have. Henry David Thoreau’s described this sacrifice we make on the altar of Responsibility in his book Walden, when he said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Those words have stayed with me since junior high school - an example of the cog in a wheel that I didn’t want to become, but did.
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re a musician or you’re interested in music. Maybe like me, it was your childhood dream to sing. If you’ve pursued your calling, I congratulate you. But if you haven’t, what’s stopping you? The pursuit of pop stardom is more democratic than ever before. Every network TV channel has a nationally televised competition designed to expose and discover untapped talent. With a smart phone, you can record your own video, broadcast yourself on YouTube and be seen and heard around the world.
Not everybody wants to be a pop star. Not everybody can be a pop star. But a lot of people do love to sing. Dance. Write. Play baseball – or basketball. And very few of them actually do. I don’t mean professionally. I mean they don’t do these things at all. And that’s the tragedy. In his poem “The Voiceless,” Oliver Wendell Holmes expressed the heartbreak of a lost love better than I ever could:
A few can touch the magic string,
And noisy Fame is proud to win them:--
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!
Think about what you love doing. Are you doing it? If you’re not, I’m sure you have a lot of really good reasons: It’s far too competitive a field. You have responsibilities. You’re too old. You’re not good enough. You don’t have the time. You can’t make enough money. It’s too hard. And if you’re particularly honest with yourself, you’re afraid.
These are some excellent excuses. I’ve used most of them myself. But in the end, you’re only denying yourself. Life is short, and you are wasting precious time. Because if you’re not doing what you love, you aren’t going to be happy. Find a way to make it happen. Join a choir. Take voice lessons. Sing for the elderly. Audition for a talent show. Write a song. Record a song. You get the idea. Step by step, whether it’s singing or anything else, work it into your life.
When I sing – even when I just talk about it – people tell me my face lights up. I believe them, because there’s nothing I love doing more. Whatever it takes, get past your excuses. Do what you love, and let it bring you the joy that’s yours for the taking.