One Year on the Road

It’s been a while since I properly blogged. Somebody the other day messaged me, asking if I had lost interest. The answer is very clear: Nope! My head is bursting with ideas, there are so many things to write about but the days just move so fast. Anyway…

It is July 19, 2016, which means it is now exactly one year and three days since my last day at school, which means I am officially on the road for a year now. To some, this might not seem like much, and speaking purely time-wise, it certainly isn’t, but it is the first landmark in what I hope a line of many to come. Last week, I was invited to my former students prom-night and repeatedly I was asked how my life was going. Specifically: Did things go as you hoped? Looking back, do you think you made the right choice? I’ve had many deep discussions (well, as evening and alcohol progressed, discussions got significantly less deep haha!) about this with former students, parents of former students and former colleagues and I thought I’d give you a quick run-through if you’re interested.

So, let’s take a short look back. The main question I would like to ask myself is: Did it go as I hope it would?

To begin with, I would like us to travel back in time and start in late 2014, the time when I approached my headmaster and school board with the wish to quit at the end of the year. All through the last year of my time as a teacher, I had found myself struggling more and more with depression, with burn-out and experienced anxiety attacks on a regular basis. I was afraid that I was throwing my life away, I was afraid I wasn’t living up to people’s, students’, parents’, colleagues’, friends’ expectation, I was afraid I would not be a able to handle my life anymore and would one day, in many years to come, stand in front of a mirror, looking at myself, having to admit that once upon a time I made a wrong choice that had ever since haunted me. I was not only counting down the weeks or days, I was actually counting down the number of lessons I still had to teach. At this point though I remember that one student once asked me if I chose to quit school because they (the students) were giving me hell. It is probably important to say this: No, they weren’t. I liked teaching. I still do. I have been told repeatedly that I did a good job and that some students actually miss me (which is nice to hear especially since these kind of statements NOW will not help improve their marks haha!). And to be honest with you, I can still see myself going back to teacher at some point in the future. It was simply the right job and the wrong time in my life.

So, July 15 was my last day in school. I remember driving home that afternoon, thinking that from now on, everything would be perfect. Turns out, I was wrong. You know, life on the road isn’t quite as romantic as I originally thought it was. When you work in a daytime job and tour during (in my case) school holidays but are not really relying on the shows to make you any money, it is great, because you can play, book, travel, write without the pressure of having to pay your rent, because your daily job will pay for all of that. If you make money from shows, it’s a bonus, if you don’t, it doesn’t matter as long as the majority of shows are good. Never before in my life have I felt money pressure in a way that I’ve been feeling it over the last twelve months. I am not poor, I am yet to struggle paying for rent and/or food, but I certainly feel it. You open your calendar and you see that there are only three shows booked in one of the coming months and you do now that this is by no means enough to match your bills and you start to worry… well, at least I do, maybe because I am a born worrier, who knows. Also, my sleeping rhythm has changed. I usually don’t go to bed before 3am in the morning, I usually don’t get up before 10 or 11 am, even when I’m not on the road. In general, I sleep significantly less than I used to do. I spend the majority of my time in my car, about 80% of that time on my own. Unless you are a successful artist (whatever that means) and you got yourself a driver, maybe even a night liner, hotel rooms every night and massive catering, living on the road is probably among the unhealthiest lifestyles I can think of, and believe me, there is the Great Wall of China between my own career and the above mentioned luxuriates. Having said that, I never expected to have access to all these things, so I am certainly not complaining.

Have my fears and anxiety attacks or my spells of depression gone away? No, they haven’t. I used to believe they would all just vanish in the air once I could get a taste of real freedom on the road. Turns out, I was wrong again. They didn’t. My anxieties these days have different reasons or anchor points, I fear different things. I no longer fear to throw my life away, I fear that what I do doesn’t matter. I fear that people will stop coming to shows and that “my career” is just make belief. I fear that I will lose my creativity or that I will never be able to write another song again. I sometimes fear that I might never find the key to true and everlasting and rainbow-esque happiness.— (IMPORTANT: Please note, this is not fishing for compliments and this is not my everyday state of mind, ok? :) )

On the other hand though, within the last year, I have made countless new friends and allies in various parts not only of Germany but in Holland and Spain and France and England and Scotland and Austria and Switzerland. I have found myself on the receiving end of gratitude by audiences, by promoters, by fans, by policemen and sometimes even by random strangers. This doesn’t mean that all shows are good and all people are always friendly. No, some shows suck big time, some audiences are terrible and some promoters are assholes. But the vast majority isn’t! If they were, I would probably give up already. The most valuable lesson that I have learned over the last twelve months is that mainly people are just nice and friendly and welcoming. My job bit by bit gives me back some faith in humanity, which I desperately need, given the times that we live in these days.

When I look back at the last twelve months and find that I have become a better performer and a better songwriter. Also, I have become more open when talking to people. Whereas I used to be really shy and recluse and used to really suck at small-talk, I have become much more open-minded and I love that. Even though my depression has by no means gone, I still think higher of myself than I used to do.

Am I happy that I took a step out of what people have described as my “comfort zone” (which is ironic, since I wasn’t feeling too comfy in it after all!)? Yes, I am. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. And this, to me, is the main thing, you know. It’s more important than money, than success or fame or recognition. It’s the pride I take that for once I had the courage to do something “crazy” and it’s the knowledge that my job, like no other, has the power and the potential to make me happy. I do really take pride in the fact that I followed what I considered was the right path for me, despite people warning me and trying to talk me out of it. They say that eventually everything connects or everything makes sense. By no means have I reached that point yet, but I do feel I have passed the first landmark on a road that has much more to offer.

So, I look forward to the next twelve months, to the release of my new album with high hopes that the songs we have put on ‘Ghosts’ will help me find my way into many more open ears. I look forward to the next twelve months, to many adventures on the road and to many great shows. I look forward to the next twelve months, because I know I have only started yet and the road has so much more to offer to those that are willing to look for it.

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