How Music Saved My Soul

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Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. – Plato

I bought my first guitar when I was 13 years old. I still have it. It’s a Fender acoustic, and it’s an absolute nightmare to play. It has taken so much of a beating over the years that it’s not even worth fixing, but I will always keep it because it reminds me of when I started on something that would, one day in my 30s, save my soul from eternal depression and boredom.

I played guitar through high school and college, and a little bit in my 20s, but I never took it seriously. I never wrote songs or played in a band. I remember in 2011 and I was just starting my writing career, I thought that it wouldn’t be realistic to have two creative outlets (writing and music), and that I should focus on one. I choose writing, as you can see. Lately, however, I’m starting to think I made the wrong choice.

Over the past year I’ve been practising religiously, sometimes for as much as 3 or 4 hours in a day. I’ve not just been noodling my time away. I’ve been building my knowledge of the instrument, doing exercises, running drills, learning complete songs, and memorizing scales. I’ve been focusing on weak areas of my playing and improving them. I’ve been looking for new techniques and adding them to my repertoire, practising all the different aspects of musicianship from ear training to songwriting. Lately I’ve been going to open mics and I’ve even met some like-minded musicians and we’re starting a rock band.

This is what I have always wanted!  Perhaps it’s what I always should have been: a rock star. I have been having an absolute blast playing guitar and making music, I’m starting to have misgivings about my decision to become a journalist. They say you should do what you love and pursue what makes you happy. Well, I love making music and it has become an incredible source of endless joy in my life. Writing has never made me feel the way that music does. They are worlds apart. Music is fun and brings people together. Writing is thankless work, and a solitary task.

There was a time in my life very recently when I felt as though music was the only thing keeping me sane. Last year I was ready to hang up my freelance writing hat for good. I was severely burned out, and I had lost a lot of clients so the money wasn’t flowing as it once did. I had lost my enthusiasm for writing and I was out of ideas. I needed to do something else, so I ended up getting a job at a cosmetics manufacturer.

I was working on a production line making barely more than minimum wage. It was honestly the most tedious and monotonous job I have ever had in my life; nothing but mindless, repetitive tasks for 8 hours a day and a complete lack of autonomy since every aspect of the work was dictated. It was the polar opposite of being a freelance writer.

I needed a break at the time, but this line of work made me profoundly unhappy. During these difficult days working on a factory line I always had music in my head. It was the only way for me to get through the day without going insane. All day on the line I’d be singing a song in my head, imagining guitar solos and lyrics, conjuring melodies that I might use in my own playing. I worked afternoons, so I had mornings to myself, and I always took the time to practise guitar for several hours. The only good thing that came out of all this was that it enabled me to practise like I had never practised before, and now I’m far better with the instrument than I have ever been.

I am certain that if not for music in my life, I would have quit that job in under a month. In a life where I have no one in my corner offering moral support, music is always there. It saved my soul from eternal depression and boredom. There were times when all I could think of was walking out of that place and never going back. I was constantly pissed off and unhappy with what my life had become. I Want To Break Free by Queen became my anthem. I wanted nothing more than to break free from that miserable factory job.

Now that I have broken free, I’ve finally found people to start a band with. I’m going to open mics, and I feel as though I have finally found “my tribe”; something I’ve been missing for so long. Somehow, I have not found my tribe in the world of writers and journalists.

This is the thing that really drives me, and it doesn’t feel like an insufferable chore like that factory job, or like the freelance work I was doing before. Now that I’ve got music in my heart, I will never let it go. Music saved my soul, and for that I’m forever grateful.

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