I am a Peak Experience junkie. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m an alcoholic or a drug addict (though I can’t say I haven’t wondered), but it does mean I love exciting experiences that give me a sort of “high” and that I have often foregone the healthy ones in favor of the more immediate less healthy ones. I am sure that this condition exists in most of us. In myself it is prevalent.
In George Carlin Unmasked, Carlin talks about two lives: The A Life and the B Life [see the REFERENCE SECTION]. Here’s how I interpret it: The A Life is the one where we strive to be disciplined, to be looked up to, to “have our shit together” – and it is also, consequentially, the more “mainstream” path. The B Life is the one of rebellion – of living on the edge, sometimes without responsibility – of growing the hair long, so to speak. For Carlin, his challenge most of his life – until he really started to find his voice in his early 40’s – was balancing the two lives. This couldn’t be more true for myself.
For me, the struggle began when I discovered Jazz music. Ironically, Jazz sprung out of an environment of drug use and civil and racial disillusionment, but has somehow evolved into an extremely straight-laced art form, perhaps because of its demand for lifelong discipline. I remember as far back as age 14 or 15, refusing an offer to play with a professional country band because I considered myself more of a “jazz musician.” When I auditioned for colleges and conservatories, I tried hard to maintain that straight-laced demeanor, but was derailed by the B Life – in this case, the demands of other social pressures.
All through my college career, I experienced the massive conflict between my A Life and my B Life. In my A Life, I wanted to be a great student and an exceptional jazz and classical performer. I wanted to compose, perform, and record my original music in a pop or rock band before audiences even at the same time I was performing the duties of being a student. In my B Life, I wanted to have an active social circle – but unfortunately, I associated that with unhealthy forms of recreation, a psychological disadvantage that lasted through three schools.
By the time I transferred to the third school, it was becoming apparent that I was not at all clear on my academic direction. Although my major had remained jazz piano performance, I had still showed teetering consistency in the areas of dedication, practice regimen, and punctuality. I remember staying up late partying and sleeping through important classes the next day, or showing up tired. I also recall the disturbed reactions of my fellow students, and of many of my professors.
I can think of so many instances of my difficulty balancing the A and B Lives: my halfhearted attempt to join a fraternity at the same time I was preparing for my Eastman School of Music audition, my short-lived double major in jazz piano and composition, my late-night lifestyle, my inability to stay in one place, and my constant need to rationalize it all.
As this erratic juggling act continued, the pattern evolved into a larger problem of my actions not reflecting my words and my words not reflecting my actions. What started out as an A Life/B Life conflict became a larger problem of personal misrepresentation.
Recently, this incongruence has caused some deterioration in my personal and business relationships. My failure to really know myself, brought on by years of misdirection and confusion, has led to distrust among my friends and fans. I am aware of it, and I am not pretending it is not real.
After lengthy contemplation, what I know to be true is that these setbacks are a result of an unclear vision from the start. My love for variety, though beneficial in a professional sense, has been detrimental to my focus. Thinking I should be anywhere than where I was, I ended up not embracing any one style of music, venture, or path in my life.
In the past, I have blamed outside factors for my floundering indecision. Advertising, social media, and even people have been past targets. Some of you may even remember some public rants I displayed on Facebook. I am not proud of these.
My Kickstarter campaign for my first ever album, put up in April of last year, was unsuccessful, largely due to my failure to keep fans engaged. Long before the launch, I should have been putting out lots of musical content – and had not been, thus not providing possible funders with any examples of what I was asking funding for. After the launch, I did not post consistent updates. During the two months when I should have been most active, I instead displayed ambivalence.
This being said, I am where I am. My past has brought me to a point in my life where I now have no excuses left. I am in a place where I am neither here nor there… but I do not think I am the only one who feels this way.
I just discovered a wonderful new book. It is all about this very phenomenon. It’s called The In-Between by Jeff Goins, and it follows his journey and the journey of others as they struggle to find meaning in the space between the Big Events, or, as I call them, Peak Experiences. I was relieved and overjoyed to find that I am not alone in this journey.
“I’ve spent my whole life longing for the next season, hoping better things would come when I graduated or got married or gave my life to a career worthy of my talents. But now I’m not sure holding out for what’s to come is the smartest strategy. And I have a feeling that I’m not alone.” [Jeff Goins, The In-Between: Embracing The Tension Between Now And The Next Big Thing. Moody Publishers, Chicago: 2013. 16.]
He goes on to say that the real meaning lies not so much in the experiences we wait for, look forward to, and work toward, but in the confusing and “taunting” space in between (hence the title). This space is, by nature, seemingly insignificant, so we distract ourselves with social media, nights on the town, and urgent meetings, filling up the space-time that forces us to reflect on our lives and cultivate the difficult virtue of patience. [Goins, 16-19]
This is basically what I was referring to at the beginning of this post when I talk about going for the cheaper experiences. For some of us, these experiences can include such things as alcohol or pot, which in my opinion are not in their nature bad, but can be abused and destructive to the quality of our lives, as well as cause trouble of other kinds that ripples out into multiple areas of our lives and forces us to slow down even more. I am currently going through a place in my life where this is the case, and I have been forced to go through it again and again – until I learn.
Finding myself in the wonderful town of Louisville again, I know that I made the decision to return here for a reason, even if I cannot consciously name what that is. I did love Nashville, and found a profound sense of connection there that I regret having left. Still, I have learned to trust myself, rather than question myself at every turn. I am here for a reason – perhaps many reasons.
Why should you listen to anything I have to say? Well, there is absolutely no reason to. I am not qualified to talk on any subject, not even the one which I claim to be my specialty. In fact, my past behavior of false promises, lukewarm intentions, and non-follow-throughs should only serve to deter you from reading a single word that I post publicly, or listen to a single note of music that I share on the Internet, or anywhere. I do not seek approval or forgiveness. I do not even expect attention from anyone. But still, I wish to impart a few final words to my readers, if there, indeed, are any at all.
I would ask you, if you are a friend, a fan, a subscriber, or simply a person who has stumbled onto this post and read this far, to be patient with me as I go through this “in-between” stage. I would also ask you to be patient with yourself, as I am sure you have gone, are going through, or will go through, a similar stage in your life. I would say, above all, to remind yourself that it is OK, that although you may be going through intense doubt and confusion, or pining over some decision that led you to the in-between, know that the in-between is actually where the magic happens. Where the growth happens. Where the Old You dies and the New You is born. And, in the great words of a man who was inarguably caught in the in-between many times during the course of his still extraordinary life, and whose song is playing in the coffee shop where I write these words at this very moment, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”
- Goins, Jeff. The In-Between: Embracing The Tension Between Now And The Next Big Thing. Moody Publishers, Chicago: 2013. 16.
- I failed to find a direct source for George Carlin Unmasked, though I know that it was part of a series by SiriusXM Radio. I am unaware of the date of this program. The entire program was uploaded to YouTube, however, but because I am not sure about the legality of this upload, I will allow the reader to search for it him or herself if he or she so chooses.