By: Paul Tobey
Do you recall the day you traded in your guitar for a job at the bank or gave up your piano lessons to become a doctor? Have you been thinking about rediscovering your musical roots as soon as your retirement kicks in? Are you still hoping that some day you’ll get to dust off your sax and join the local jam session? If this sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s more common than you think for people in the latter stages of life to get the itch to return to their musical beginnings.
Like most closet musicians, you likely arrived at a turning point in your life where you had to decide between the certainty of a job and the uncertainty of a life in the music business. And, like the vast majority, you chose the more stable path. Do you ever wonder though, what it would have been like if you had enough courage to pursue the other path - even if it would have totally freaked your parents out?
As a professional concert pianist I have people say to me all the time that they would give anything to do what I do. A lot of these folks wish they just could turn back the clock and get another shot at it, even if it might not have been the responsible thing to do.
That’s why I’m so grateful for the path I have chosen, not only because I love it but because, I never have to worry about what I might have missed. The truth is; I love music and what it does for my soul. I wake up every day with excitement because I really don’t know what’s going to happen or where I’ll end up. That to me is a gift, not a liability. The only thing certain in my life is uncertainty and that I can always count on.
But, our society is not programmed to think in these terms. We’re groomed in school to play it safe, get a job and pay the bills. It’s definitely the easy thing to do but is it the right thing? I think we were all born to learn something new and exciting every day. For most people who go to the same job day after day, a job they most likely hate - how is this learning?
Many people find themselves at a turning point in their latter years when they think to themselves, “What exactly happened to my dreams?” But, then you think to yourself, “I got married and had kids, it would have been completely irresponsible of me to follow my dreams because so few actually make it.” That’s true, except why couldn’t you have been one of the few?
In any case, I often say to people, “Why don’t you quit your job now while you still can?” To my mind, living every day in a situation you hate will only lead you somewhere you don’t want to go. It’s important to choose a goal in life that you really are passionate about because, that’s what will make your life exciting and challenging. Anybody can get a job.
But, even if you absolutely cannot give up your job, why not take up music seriously at the same time? For now, start practicing in secrecy. Then eventually you’ll be good enough to perform for others. And, if you’re passionate enough, you may even get to be the performer that you’ve always admired from a distance. You know, the one you’ve often cheered for with mixed delight and sorrow because, you know you could have been that person?
The good news, it’s not too late!
Take my friend Bruce for example. With three years left to go to his retirement as a bank executive, he reintroduced himself to blues guitar. Shortly thereafter he reunited his high school band and now they’re actually booking themselves for dances, concerts and private functions.
And, my friend Mary Ann is doing the same thing. She had a music degree in classical piano which, she eventually gave up to become a family doctor. Now, several years later she’s formed a jazz quartet with some friends and another doctor on drums, and the band performs at least 5 nights a month around town.
These are just two examples of people who understand that they can have it all; both a successful professional career and a life in music. Like them, you don’t have to wait for your retirement to get back to doing what you love.
So next time you feel the need to rejuvenate your life with music, come on out of the closet. Because, the truth of the matter is the only thing stopping you, is you. Take my advice and start living your life the way you want and not the way everyone else expects of you. Live the rest of your life doing what you love because, the only risk in life is not taking one.