Viewing: The Journey Within - View all posts

Knock on wood 

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way.  Like, a REALLY.  Long.  Time.  I had a great and long conversation with a friend yesterday after eating a ton of crawfish with another good buddy of mine and his 3 kids.  And now I’m listening to Kyle Hutton’s weekly radio series on KOKE-FM, Real Life, Real Music while I’m writing this and about to get ready to go play some golf shortly.  Kyle’s guest this week is Paul Overstreet, who has written a ton of memorable and well-known songs for himself and plenty of other acts.  I love listening to, talking about, talking with other creative folks about what drives us, especially when it comes to singing, writing, and playing music. 

But, yesterday, my energy level and excitement could not be contained.  I’m very transparent when it comes to all of that.  So when I’m connecting and get the ability to dream about the possibilities that, at this exact point in time last year, I thought were gone forever it’s hard for me to not finally feel that it might actually happen soon.  My lifelong dream of playing inside the sacred circle at the Grand Ole Opry stage inched just a little bit closer yesterday and I’ll make the official announcement about it tomorrow, so stay tuned because, to quote Deryl Dodd, “Things Are Fixin To Get Real Good”. 

I titled this entry, knock on wood, because there's still a small part of me that's waiting for the floor to drop out beneath me because every time I've gotten my hopes up about my musical dreams, something always happened that altered, dissipated or changed my trajectory permanently and sometimes left me worse off than I was before.  When I was talking to my friend yesterday and the subject of my time at NGL came up, it was a sore spot and not for the time I spent there but for the things I thought I had to give up in order to live what most people consider a "normal" life.  I had steady income, stability and although it was going to end abruptly, I considered it a long term career in which I'd finally be able to settle down, find a wife, have some kids and raise a family out in Colorado.  Obviously, a little over a year later now, that wasn't meant to be the case and I'm finally coming to terms with that after years of trying to push it away.

I came to the realization in the last couple of weeks that no matter how hard I try to push it out of my life, music is and always will be a part of me.  My energy changes when I talk about it, my mood changes and I talk about it like I'm a kid in a candy store.  It recharges me, fills my spirit and every time I get a chance to feel the passion that resides within me, I love daydreaming about the possibilities that are waiting ahead of me on the road that I've strayed on a thousand times, but never left.  My destiny was always there waiting for me to embrace it, no matter how hard I tried to ignore, dismiss or sacrifice it for a life of convenience and keeping up with my bills at a job I was never going to be as passionate about as I ever have been with music.  That, and I've got plenty of great stories to fill up a whole bunch of new songs and another chapter in my musical backstory that I know folks will enjoy hearing more about soon.

Anyway, I’m going to head up to the driving range soon to see if I can improve my skills before we tee off in a couple of hours.  I’ve only played twice in as many months, so my game is completely off.  When we played last Saturday my buddy and I lost at least a dozen golf balls between us and then when we played on Super Bowl Sunday, it wasn’t much better and injured my elbow.  I’m probably not the only shitty golfer out there who can get hurt while playing golf, but hey - what else is there to do on a Sunday Funday?  It’s going to be a good one, so if I see you out there later, I only have one word for you: 



If you’re going through Hell, keep going 
-Winston Churchill  

Sometimes you just know.  I mean you feel it in your bones, in your soul, in your heart and even though it’s there, it can be hard to pry it out when the shit is constantly hitting the fan.  Over the last few years, even while I was working for NGL, I spent a lot of time traveling around West Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, several states on the East Coast and then through Washington state.  I met a countless amount of people during that time, getting to know all kinds of diversity from all walks of life.   

The topic of conversation was, for the most part, work related and my helping to take care of their needs as their field IT technician.  In many cases, I’d have to be at sites for a few hours at a time or even all day.  Invariably, when the conversation turned more personal and I would get asked what I did before this job, I would tell them that I was a full time touring country musician, the tone would immediately change, as would my energy while I was talking and reminiscing about all of the things I did when I was out there.  And since the majority of the people I talked to on the job sites were in their late teens/early 20’s, when I said that I was on Spotify, it was like they felt like they were in the presence of someone famous.  It was always a great ego boost because, to the majority of the younger music listeners out there, Spotify is where your music is if you’re truly successful and well-known, even if it really isn’t all that hard to get on that platform.  Be that as it may, I never missed a chance to enjoy retelling all the stories to the guys that were out there, in most cases, by themselves with no one to talk to during their 12 hour shifts but tanker drivers and traveling IT technicians.  One younger guy out in West Texas even asked me to autograph his hard hat, having heard of me and was even a fan.   

It was during those times, which I never grew tired of, that I joked that I was living vicariously through myself.  The job, while having its perks, wasn’t something that I aspired to do as a career, even though I was good at it and enjoyed the people.  Working in the IT industry over the years was only something for me to do to keep my musical aspirations going.  But once I arrived at NGL and was making a good salary with benefits, it seemed to me that those days were likely over, and I would spend my remaining years feeling like the door had closed, despite every single time talking about being in music and always fondly remembering the best days of my life.  And you could see my energy change during the entire conversation - I would light up like a Christmas tree when I started talking about all those cool memories with friends and co-workers.   

I remember very specifically a conversation with one of my friends there who was a Texas Country music fan, and loved hearing all of my stories and revealing to others when we were out at a bar somewhere or at the company Christmas party 2 years ago.  A few days later we were all flying over to Wyoming on the company plane, and Eli and I began talking about our pie in the sky dreams and what you’d really want to be doing if you could do anything.  When he asked me about mine, I took a long pause in thinking about it because it wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I no longer had one.  My pie in the sky was always performing in front of a crowd traveling around the world and being able to sing for people.  So when I told him I no longer really had one that didn’t involve music in some way, I didn’t know how to answer the question anymore.  It really bothered me to feel like I no longer had a goal or a dream in mind, and that I had essentially surrendered my entire life to a job that would eventually be letting me go in a matter of months.  That was one of the bigger reasons why I was so crushed by losing it that day - everything I did for so many people and the sacrifices I made to work as hard as I could, and then being dismissed so callously struck a very painful blow that I, only recently, have been able to start getting over. 

That was, until yesterday happened.   

I went in to work for a few hours and since I was only there with 1 other coworker, I spent my time doing my job and listening to a podcast hosted by Jack Ingram as he interviewed Wade Bowen, 2 guys I’ve met a few times over the years and have a tremendous amount of respect for.  I would highly encourage any fan of either of these two artists to give it a listen because, over the course of the 2+ hour interview, Wade went into depth about a lot of personal things that I related to, and really made me think long and hard about what it’s going to take in the next step in my musical journey.  As I was listening to the podcast, my manager Roy texted me to let me know he and his wife April would be coming into town to see my old friend and fellow roster artist Aaron Navarro play a gig at Unbarlieveable downtown.   

I was in relaxed work mode, but decided to run home and clean up before the 2 pm gig and get into ‘artist mode’, which I’m very glad I did.  Throughout the course of the gig, Aaron brought me up to sing 3 different times, and after the 1st song, this mostly college aged crowd of people were cheering, screaming and getting into me singing ‘Killin’ Time’ by Clint Black - a reaction I did not expect from mostly guys who were watching the football game.  When I went back to sit with Roy and April, several people came up to me to give me props and fist bumps on the performance.  It was like being back in my element again, and the energy that I had been missing for so long immediately returned.  The crowd, which had surprised me by their reaction, refueled the return energy I needed to remind myself that the next chapter is just around the corner.  Once Roy, Aaron, April and I started talking about the things we want to accomplish as we all move forward together, the hairs on my neck started standing up and I felt that energy again.   

And I can’t wait for you all to be along for the ride and see, along with me, what we’re going to do.  

The Last Day of My Life (or so I thought) 

I’m normally at my most creative in the early mornings when I first wake up, and I like to write about just about anything to get it down on paper.  I’ve got just over 2 hours before I have to head over to work, so I thought I would talk more about the events and the actual day I had my major anxiety attack, in part to possibly help others who may be suffering or have suffered from one.  I also wanted to because my friend Mary, whom I regularly play golf with, mentioned it and how much she enjoys reading my blog entries.  I repeated to her a long standing joke I’d been saying to others for years, “I think I’d be able to write a pretty good autobiography if I can only get famous enough for people to want to read it.” :) 

(What follows is a bit of a lengthy entry about the day I had a major anxiety attack that sent me to the ER, but also some important context about how it finally got to that point and why.)

When I was working for NGL, I was on top of the world.  For over 2.5 years I had that job, which was the equivalent of the longest drought of not having one after I moved back from the UK in 2015, and it was finally putting me back where I needed to be.  I had freedom, independence, good money and people who respected the job that I did.  I also got great perks like the trip we had to take out to the East Coast, where I saw my first Boston Red Sox game, eat some great seafood and see and stay with one of my best friends and his wife while in Vermont, as their house was only miles away from the site we were working.  Then I was sent out to Washington state, and got to see another family I knew who had moved out there from Texas, while seeing some amazing scenery on the drive from Spokane and eventually to Portland, Oregon throughout the week.  I also got to check off several bucket list items during my time with them including finally seeing Mount Rushmore for the first time, but also getting to see Devil’s Tower National Monument in the same week.  I’d seen ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ so many times that, when I was driving up to it, I was in awe of finally being able to see it, still in disbelief that I did.  Even as I eventually drove away from it, I could still see it in my rearview mirrors, smiling at the memories I’d made and can still picture in my mind’s eye, even while writing this. 

Many of the people I worked with became good friends and, since my family was so far away, they had become my support network.  I was on call 24/7 which left little time for having much of a personal life outside of work, which was fine for me because I was happy doing what I was doing and it really didn’t bother me.  I’d become pretty much of a homebody, and enjoyed the downtime, whether it was in Midland, Texas or Fort Collins, Colorado.  I may have been alone, but I was not lonely out there by myself because, come Monday morning and the rest of the work week, I was back helping the people who relied on me out in the field, and hanging out with my friends in the Denver area do the same when I’d make the trips down there.  NGL was my whole world during that time and I had planned on making that job last, at the minimum, longer than my longest job previously, which was 5 and a half years. 

I had driven down to Denver that day with the expectation that I would be discussing a project I’d been working on with my manager, who was flying in from Tulsa that day and wanted to meet with me to talk more about it.  When I got there, I looked around and talked to my friends while I was waiting there until he finally saw me, and summoned me over to, what I thought, would be one of the conference rooms nearby so we could talk about the project.  My heart began to sink into my chest as we passed it up, and we were on our way to the HR office where 2 other HR reps were there waiting for me as well, as I made my way over to a table in the corner where I was told very succinctly but bluntly, “unfortunately today is your last day at NGL.” 

I was devastated, and completely stunned as I had not only NOT seen the decision coming, but was totally unprepared for what I was being told.  I began to cry - a lot.  The news hit me like a Mack truck, and I was suddenly faced with a myriad of consequences and uncertainty that were about to find their way to me now that my only source of income was being stripped away from me.  My family was 1000 miles away and all of the memories, trips, but most importantly the coworkers who had become my close friends and extended family were being ripped away from me.  All of a sudden, it felt like I had nothing left in the world and no idea how I was going to recover from such a devastating and heartbreaking loss. 

A whole week went by and I managed to summon the strength somehow to get a suitcase of things together and flew down to Austin.  I was still in a mental mindset of anxiety and already had a tough enough time thinking straight, since I had spent most of the week drinking whiskey and in shock, but I put 2 and 2 together and eventually made it back to my parents house here in Northwest Austin.  During this whole time, even though I never told anyone, even during the plane ride back, my chest around my heart had been in pain and had been very tight almost all week, and I thought I was having some issues.  I kept that a secret because I didn’t want to panic myself or anyone else even further, and figured it would eventually go away.  But it didn’t.  It ended up getting much worse. 

I woke up early one morning and my chest pain had gotten to the point to where I was getting a little more lucid and by that time, after spending all that time thinking about what had just happened to me, wondering what my life was going to be like, how I would go on from there, I began to feel concerned that this was about to be my time.  I was genuinely afraid and feeling certain that, the next time I closed my eyes, I would not wake up again.   

I decided that one of my final tasks would be to write a very long letter to everyone who meant anything to me, and also a will to make sure all of my possessions went to the people I wanted to have them.  One of my dearest and lifelong friends had passed away before Thanksgiving and did not have one, which made things difficult for them, and I wasn’t going to make my family try and figure out what my final wishes were.  So I wrote.  And wrote.  And wrote.  I wrote as long long as there was a thought in my head about the people that I thought needed to hear my final words to them as I was certain in my mind that this was it.  I also wrote a few words on a hand-written note with my phone, laptop and other important passwords to be able to see the entries and access my personal info.  It was, at the time, the closest I thought I’d ever been to my final days here on Earth and to me, making sure that everyone who meant anything to me knew it. 

Well, fast forward to today and I’m obviously still here.  What had felt like a full on heart attack was a major anxiety attack which, at the time, I was unaware that the symptoms are extremely similar.  One of the EMTs that worked on me and was monitoring my EKG even told me I had the heart of a 20 year old.  And although my days at NGL are over by almost a year next month, and as excruciatingly painful as it was, I still think it was the universe’s way of helping me get back to where I needed to be and the path I needed to be back on.  As hard as the whole process was for moving myself back down here to Austin, I reminded myself and others who cared about me of this: 

“I don’t think whatever benevolent force is out there would kick me out of a job and out of Colorado only to send me back home to fail at the one thing I’ve truly loved more than anything else in the world, which is music.” 

I still believe that.