I was on stage and looking out into the crowd, 3 songs into my set. Sweat was already dripping down my face and the usual smell of beer and musky bar covered both me and my instruments. A few friends had shown up to my gig but the bar was mostly filled with people who were there to get drunk. Exhausted didn't even cover what I was feeling at that time. I'm surprised I could even hit the drums and play the piano let alone carry a 45 minute set. Still I kept going. I was desperate to try and make something that I loved into something that I did for a living and a day to day panic had set in. Days and weeks of inviting people to turn up had completely failed and I couldn't help but count the number of people who were there to hope I'd covered my outlay on the door. It was clear that was not going to be the case. The familiar knawing in my gut took over and I soldiered on. I finished the gig, sold 2 CD's, managed by the skin of my teeth to break even. Then began the laborious packing up of my instruments as the DJ who was playing after me did his best to tut as loudly as he could because I was apparently taking too long. Then home time, upload pictures, say your thank you to those who showed up and have the next morning to recover until you start the whole process again. But there was a problem. For years this was enough. The joy of playing, making and the frantic dynamic of all of this filled my heart but now I was just mostly tired.
I remember the moment when I realised. It came out of the dark at 4am with a clear voice. My passion for music just wasn't there any more. I knew it and had tried to fight it. I had even tried to bury it under hard work. I had tried to convince myself that it was my ego, self sabotage or any other number of things but the truth was loud and clear. It was then I made a big mistake...I kept going. I worked even harder for even longer until eventually I sat there, physically ill, emotionally exhausted and at the beginning of one of the biggest creative blocks I have ever faced. I preached passion back then to anyone who would listen but in hindsight I didn't know the first thing about what I was saying. I was in an active fight with it. Passion is fluid, it is something that moves through you and changes you and then, it moves on. It may move to a different part of your life, it may grow into something else but whatever it is I've come to learn that it can't be bartered with, created, coerced, bribed or faked. You can only accept it's invitation. Now thankfully passion would turn up in my life again but not for another 2 years fully. When it showed up again it was more developed, less constrained. I had tried to funnel the passion I was feeling into one area of my life and in doing so betrayed it and myself. When I developed a new relationship with it I was so thankful to feel anything connected to it again I was humble enough to listen.
When passion lead me to art, I painted. When it lead me to writing, I wrote and when it eventually rekindled my love for music I sat back at the piano and played. I am now back in the creative “sweet spot” I used to be but I am not the same person within it. I revel in it's dynamic instead of trying to channel it to places it doesn't want to go. For those of you who have been to my house you'll have seen the instruments and artwork on the walls. I live a creative life, always have but it was so intrinsic to my being that I took it for granted. I mistook marketing strategies for spiritual truths and chipped away at myself. The world will tell you to find your passion and build a business around it. Find a way to make it profitable. The problem is that passion is fluid. If I built a business around everything I'm passionate about I'd have 18 business' right now. There is a difference between passion and a calling. A difference between finding that space of infinite wonder at the heart of who you are and earning money to keep your belly full. I do recommend that you find your passion whereever you can but treat it more like an alter. A place to be quiet within. Be ready to follow.
Thank you for reading,
Ryan James x
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