Being a musician is a great adventure. You make that decision and you think you’re ready to become a pro. As you step outside, you got your bag full of goodies: you have your technique neatly packed, the one that’ll save you in any situation, you got your listening skills, not as popular as the technique, but you know you’ll use it everyday, it’ll come in handy, you also have your persistence, the one that will not take “no” for an answer, the one that will help you overcome any obstacles, the one who will get you clamped to the idea of being an independent musician like an oyster is clamped to its rock.
And so, you think this is enough. You will wrestle the monster and tame it and you will be victorious. And then you step outside, and you walk right into the world of music. And, at first you are successful. Because, lo and behold, here you are, with your instrument in your hand and you are able to make a living. The gods are looking favorably upon you. You have money in your pocket, money that your earned while making sweet sweet music! And you go to your landlord, and BAM! you give him the rent! You go to your electricity company and KABOOM! you pay their bill! And so on and so forth. It feels great! People are very impressed, you can hear them talk behind your back: “This is the young Jim Morrison, they say, look at him, he’s a musician! He made it! His name will stay in the firmament of all that is sacred!”
And you basked in that satisfaction. You know you have made it and you are so proud of yourself. Now that you are doing good, you take on more and more assignments. You go on tour non stop for 19 months without a break a la Van Halen, who, incidentally, proceeded right after to record an album in 3 weeks and went back on tour to promote the new album. Then you make another album, and you’re on the plane again for the new record, and rinse and repeat.
You look at your life from above the clouds. You think this is all right. After all, you’re young and full of energy, this is great fun to travel all over the world, to discover new people, to have romantic relationships on 3 continents, to share your art with the planet. Of course, everything is not rosy: you need a little drink before you step on stage, you’ve always been shy that way. Sometimes it goes overboard a bit and you wake up in strange places with strange people. In the same vein, you do hurt some loved ones, whether it is your old friends that you don’t see anymore, or the estrange son you made a while back and hasn’t seen you in 10 years. But these are minor details after all. Because your music is going strong! You can sacrifice a few valuable things to share the beauty that you have within.
And it keeps on going like that. But, as music progress and eats more and more of your existence, the problems keep piling up. Your drinking problem has transformed into a cocaine habit. No worries, though, it keeps you on your toes since you have so much to do. Your custody problem has transformed into a legal battle. Now, you spend more time and money on lawyers rather than practicing. You have a big house that needs a small army of helpers to manage: gardeners, cooks, cleaners, pool people, etc. You haven’t read a book in ages. You don’t remember the name of 3/4 of the people you meet.
Then your body gives you trouble.
First, whatever habit you were sustaining, it is now carving your shape and your personality. A solid belly pouch for beer drinkers, the disappearance of your nasal wall for cocaine abusers, a nervous twitch that doesn’t go away for alcoholics, a propensity to lie for seducers, an empty wallets for gamblers, extra blubber for compulsive eaters. You are now going deeper into the disease. Which disease? Depression, my friend, depression.
You do have to have a few requirements in order to become a musician. You will need some kind of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You will also need to have a little bit of autism in order to shut the world out and be able to practice. A dash of borderline personality with an ability to not care what people think will be of great help at first.
But the world was not made for you. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the other way around: you need to adapt to the world. Cockiness and ignorance are close cousins who are messy and will put you in trouble, always.
You should have done more thinking before you signed that contract with that prestigious record company. You should have refrained from picking up that bottle when you got sad from being away from home. You should have been more careful with that lady when you got lonely. No, I am not condescending. Not at all. You are my brother in arms, you are my most honorable sister. It’s just, you have not been warned until today that you needed to have a hobby on top of music in order to be a healthy musician, nobody had told you to leave some of the opportunities, some of the money on the table, to not go after everything that is proposed to your greedy eyes.
You need to stay balanced at all times. That is the secret. Sting’s habit was in running and reading until he discovered yoga. Bruce Springsteen doesn’t drink, doesn’t get messed up, he keeps his band close and his family closer. And, yes, I know about Keith Richard, how he cheats the devil every day and keeps a smile on his face while his veins pump nicotine, cocaine, alcohol, etc… Yes, I know all that, but we’ll call him the exception. And we’ll call Jim Morrison the warning. Be careful! Think, think, think! The goal is to go a long way.
Balance in life is a very very tricky subject because we all have very different needs, very different ways of approaching reality. My balance is certainly not the same as yours. But my philosophy is this one: be productive, be involved, and don’t take on more than you can do, your body is your vessel, manage it with care, your mind is not without limits, manage that carefully too. And replenish your energy and your mental strength by spending time with your loved ones, by remembering who you are and what you build. Stay honest with yourself, keep the voice in your head clear of static, of stress. Balance will serve you greatly, it will be a wise companion when the nights gets cold and the days get lonely. Balance, balance! Walk that rope and never fall. Have yourself determined to stay walking.