28 July 2015

A Sum of its Parts (Life as a full-time Dad, musician, gamer and programmer)

I was at a Porcupine Tree concert in Toronto, Ontario. Opening for the prog gurus was a band called Kings X. I’d never heard of them, but – according to Craig – I definitely should have. Right before they walked off stage, the vocalist took to the mic and said something that I will remember for the rest of my life. “It’s a shame to not do what you love every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.” Musicians have always been held in high regard as poets, we’re certainly well versed in profundity, but this particular sentiment didn’t really strike me as profound until life wasn’t so great.

I was raised to believe success means financial stability and that everything else can be left aside as a serious hobby at best. There’s truth to this, a desire to learn and develop a skill set is something everyone should strive for, but where I was mistaken is that your skill set needs to pander to the middle class and up. I’m not here to tell you to drop everything and start painting; all I’m saying is never put the brush down.

So I took the advice of Kings X. Every day I would take some time to lose myself in something I enjoyed. Sometimes as a means to de-stress, other times as an explorer of boundless opportunity. What I was doing wasn’t important, only that I made time to ignore the routine, break out of the status quo and express myself in some form or another.

Something funny happens when you do something every day; the passage of time has a lasting effect on skill sets… you tend to improve. This means ignoring the days where your projects may wind up in utter failure and revering those that bore fruit. This is the true nature of hard work and reward, the feeling of accomplishment. You can always tell the difference in quality when someone loves what they’re doing, even if the product isn’t considered marketable or favorable for a target audience. If life has taught me anything, you have to be happy with what you create, since it’s all that will be with you in the end.

I think life is extremely sarcastic. Life strikes you down; simply so you can prove to yourself you’re strong enough to get back up. The human condition is of guaranteed doom, yet we awaken every morning and toil on. Life brings you no end of misinformation and lies through media, politics, advertisements and insurance, all to show you what great evil exists so we spend that much extra effort looking for truth and serenity. Music is my truth, the arts my life experience, video games my escape, and my family the universe that unveils itself to me.

You can always tell what’s true in life; it will remain largely unchanged with the passage of time. Music will always be part of me, even after I’m gone. My children will sing their songs as I join the chorus of those that passed before me. Genres may change, instruments will come and go, but music as a whole is incorruptible. I am extremely elated that life gave me the means to tap into the invisible airwaves.

Organized noise as it were, a language deeply rooted in mathematics and logic, yet has the ability to completely control the way we perceive with the senses. Any good movie or video game has excellent music. To this day Nintendo and Nobuo Uematsu’s work is played all over the world (and by extension into space!). Music changes us, helps us grow, lets us know that at some particular point in time, someone on this lonely rock felt and struggled like we did. Music connects us to the planet, to space, to each other; a brotherhood of infinite quality, showcasing our deepest dreams and emotions. You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate music, and that’s how you know it’s true.

So here I am, entering my 30s. Two kids, full time job, competitive gamer and professional musician (and you thought your life was busy!). You know what my secret is? Grind, grind, grind. Quit talking about it, and make it happen, even if you’re completely terrible at first. Doesn’t matter what it is. You want to lose weight? There’s no magic pill, find time to work out. You want to learn guitar? Even the greats started with a C Major Scale. Want to paint miniatures perfectly? Practice, practice, practice. I’m telling you now, chances of being “discovered” are about as low as becoming president overnight. If you want to see your talents and skills payoff, refine them, practice, and love every minute of it. My father always told me “Love what you do and it will never feel like work.” I used to think this only applied to my career; I soon realized a career is something you do to afford what you like (and food). There is no truth in money, it’s merely a system created to rationalize our avarice and greed. Music will be with me, even if I don’t make a single cent, and it will always be my greatest love.

So there you have it, how does one balance children, competitive gaming, painting miniatures, production of music and programming as a career? The same way you grow any skill set, practice. If you truly love what you do, you’ll find a way to do it a little every day, and you’ll find that you grow to love what you’ve accomplished. Find in this world what brings you joy, then, bring joy to what you find in this world.