I turned 42 this month. 42. Which, for the record, has a MUCH better ring to it than 41. I knew this might be a very good year when my husband began the birthday festivities with surprise tickets to see The Indigo Girls. We had dinner, walked along the Susquehanna River, and then headed to a fantastic show in an intimate space. I love the Indigo Girls’ music, but one of my favorite parts of the concert was when Emily and Amy would say, “Thanks, y’all!” after each tune. They were having so much FUN up there – the utterances of thanks were so genuine. I am not sure if they were thanking each of us in the audience specifically, or if perhaps they were just thanking the Universe for putting them in a place where they could be channels for musical miracles. Either way, they were so present with every note and lyric, so connected with each of the other musicians on stage, sending out their trademark harmonies and ending each song with an effervescent, “Thanks, y’all!” Magic.
Weeks prior to the concert, I had been suffering from musical deprivation. Members of my own trio were on vacation, so a concert preceding the return to my own night to sing was a most welcome surprise. I was still riding the wave from sharing space with the magical, musical Indigo Girls when I reunited with my own music-making friends the following evening. I adore the moments when everything falls into place, when the music happens in a new way that makes us giggle like we’re the only ones who get the joke – we notice the playful new nuances, the silly mistakes, the feeling of communion. Words are hard to find.
At times like these, I sometimes wonder if I should have done more to make my way as a starving artist – doing all in the name of music or performing. What would life have been like if …? But then I remember I am no good at focusing on any one thing for too terribly long without it feeling like work, and I frankly prefer my art as a vacation. The Thursday night gig is a beautiful thing because it’s once a week, which makes it a welcome break and release. I fear too much hard work or discipline would make it less novel and exciting and much more like a job.
Not to mention that on any given day, my artistic fantasies come in a variety of media, and the mastery of each requires time, discipline and practice. I can imagine going back to my 20-year-old self and changing my major to many things: English, art, music, architecture – there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to do and learn all of the things I want to do and learn. How is it that a person reaches the age of 42 still unsure of what she wants to be when she grows up? Some days, it is the music I crave. During my best musical moments, songs seem to flow through me from someplace else. Some days I want to be a writer, and I pine for hours of solitude, during which I can allow words to flow through me; a pursuit similar to the music-making, but without requiring the presence of other people. Still other days I want to be a painter. I go for a run and stare at the sky, wanting to capture it on canvas, to leave my mark in the clouds. I see the scenery around me in watercolors, and I think to myself that if I only had hours each day to practice, maybe I could be a decent painter. But the truth is, I don’t want to learn how to paint. I just want to paint.
At 42, I may be asking the wrong question. Perhaps instead of asking, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” I just need to ask, “What do I want to be TODAY?”
Today, I am a writer.
And a mother.
And a wife.
And a friend.
And the likely chef of grilled chicken or turkey burgers for dinner.
Tomorrow, I may get to be a singer.
Or a painter at the kitchen table with my daughter.
Or the mentor to my son as he practices his violin.
Or the host and cursing-monitor of a swath of neighborhood tween boys playing football in the yard.
And likely the chef of some sort of grilled chicken for dinner.
I am the bus driver who picks up my children from school, as another summer has come and gone in my very grown-up life.
The Indigo Girls closed their show with a rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” featuring violinist Lyris Hung. Lyris Hung was amazing to watch throughout the show. Of course, the youtube video doesn’t hold a candle to being there live, but… Enjoy.