Midlife crisis: I could have been a singer!

I'm a mom with a 1-year-old and my life is passing before my eyes.

By Cary Tennis
June 22, 2007 2:02PM (UTC)
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Dear Cary,

Midlife crisis!!!

OK, so I'm about to turn 38, and I think I'm having a midlife crisis. I've been married for almost three years (together for seven), and we have a beautiful 1-year-old son. The problem is this: I'm nowhere near where I thought I would be in my life. I have a decent career doing work for the public good, but I haven't done many of the things I had hoped to do when I was younger and now it's hitting me that I'm probably too old to pursue those dreams. I'm stuck in a small town, married to a man who has no ambition beyond making sure he TiVos the latest reality show, and I'm itching to just run away.


I won't do that, of course. I have an almost obsessive sense of duty.

Still, I need to find out what I'm still worth. My youth has trickled away and I'm feeling trapped and helpless. My dream life of pursuing a singing career is nothing but a faded memory now.

Is my life over? Is there any hope that I can someday break out of this small-town, debt-ridden, ho-hum life of mine without hurting the ones I love in order to do what I love? Or will I just wile away the rest of my life thinking "shoulda-coulda-woulda"?



Coulda Been a Singa

Dear Coulda Been a Singa,

Here are four questions for you to answer:

When? When are you going to sing?

Where? Where are you going to sing?

What? What songs are you going to sing?

With whom? With whom are you going to sing?

Write those questions down and stare at them as if they were demons that you are going to light on fire with your eyes. Or alternatively stare at them as if they were deep questions whose answers will open the secrets of the universe.


Try answering one. Answer the "where" one. Do you have a place where you can sing or do you have to find one? Can you sing in the woods? Can you sing in the house? Can you sing in the studio of a singing teacher? Can you sing in the rehearsal hall of a band? Can you sing in church? Can you sing in your car? Pick a place where you are going to sing. Pick a place that feels right to you, where you will not look over your shoulder.

Then answer another one. Answer the "when" one. Do you have any time? With a 1-year-old, how do you get time? Do you steal time from your kid, is that how it feels? Well, maybe you need to make a withdrawal of some time, a small amount, for your singing. How much time can you withdraw? Can you get an hour? Can you get half an hour? How long can you sing before you are tired?


Then the "what." Pick a song to sing from beginning to end.

And then the "with whom." If you find the place, the time and the song, you can sing it alone, or you can sing it with someone. Or you can just write "alone" in that section for now.

So then:


Start singing.

If you contemplate the difficulties before you start singing, the difficulties may win. So do not recount the difficulties before you start singing.

But it is important to be real here. So let us recount the difficulties, numerous and legion:


To have a band is hard. To play shows is hard. To show up on time is hard. To rehearse is hard. To get along is hard. To hear is hard. To demonstrate parts is hard. To play in tune is hard. To fix the hard parts is hard. To make the hard parts sound easy is hard. To get the guitar player to change keys is hard. To communicate with the drummer is hard. To see yourself as others see you is hard. To absorb criticism with equanimity is hard. To keep working to improve is hard.

What is not hard?

It is all hard.

So mostly we don't bother. But then awful thoughts of waste come into your head. The thoughts of waste hurt.


So you sing.

It is necessary to sing. It is necessary because you can't go around whining.

Have you got a calendar to write things in? You can get one at Office Depot. I got mine on sale because it was already April. So Lord knows I am no shining example. How long did I walk around saying I was going to start playing the guitar again one day? Was it how many years? How much of a whiner am I? How much do I procrastinate? How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky?

It is hard to devote many hours a week to playing music and attending to the incidental business and networking tasks involved in promoting a musical career and also meet your other social, psychological and economic needs. It is hard to live a day life in which you work for a company and a night life in which you rehearse, perform, write and socialize (or "network").


As you struggle to do these things, your heart may decide it wants a kitchen window and a kid or two. Your heart may decide it wants certain things that are not cool.

The price we pay for ignoring the heart is high.

So sweetheart, in a nutshell, just sing. Pick a time, a place, a song and, if necessary, a person. Write it in your little calendar.

I like this bit from the Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Book": "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace."


It implies arrival after long travel. It implies a stopping point.

It implies, Give yourself a break.

There's nothing you can do about the past. But you can find some time to sing.

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