What Kind of Person Does It Take?

artist, music, self-love, Songwriting Musings

I went to law school. For one day. Two lectures! But only one day. I enrolled because I wanted to do something good in the world, to do something meaningful that would also pay for my parents’ retirement. I also enrolled because I had just spent four months living in a hostel in London and everyone kept telling me that it was just a phase. Eventually, I’d have to get a proper education, a 9-5 job, and a house. I could still travel during summer and I would have time for music on the weekends, of course. But after one day of law school, I realised something. It wasn’t a phase – I was a musician, and travelling and making music are a part of my life.

I go through phases, as I think everyone does. Some mornings, I wake up and wish I had studied something that would’ve given me a fast pass to a job, like accounting. I have to specify here: a job that pays. It’s demotivating working towards something that you’re not sure will ever work out. Devoting hours to practice, to writing, to networking and performing, only to have to work as a nanny to pay rent. Music doesn’t always pay. Neither does writing. Both are still hard work.

Sometimes, I get to go home to visit family – who are so supportive it’s as if the sun shines out of my ass. But then I also see childhood friends, and sometimes, they ask: “So, what’s the plan? You’re not gonna keep working as a nanny, are you?” The truth is, I don’t have a clue. The whole project hinges on hope, despair, and Plan B, C, Y, and Z. I have a million backup ideas in my head in case the music thing doesn’t work out. I can do a master’s. I can start an internship in marketing. I can keep working as a nanny until I drop dead.

In Berlin, I’m surrounded by a surrogate family of people who all believe in the cause. They’re all musicians, most of whom are making money solely from music. I don’t but I haven’t tried hard enough. I haven’t gone busking or taught music, I haven’t even booked a tour yet. For all the years I’ve been playing, it feels like I’m perennially just starting out. I’m always halfway out the door. I’m only ever half trying to be a musician.

I have trouble committing to things. I don’t know why but I can’t commit to people properly – whenever something becomes serious, I look for a way out. I can’t commit to career paths – I’ve started five different degrees and only finished the one because I had already racked up student debt. I can’t even commit to dreams – wanting to be a musician one day, a writer the other, but then deciding that maybe a 9-5 is the way to go. I’m flaky, and most of my friends know this about me.

Maybe that’s why this music thing is not working out the way it should. Maybe that’s why I’m working as a nanny and exploring other options. Because I don’t actually believe I can do it, and if I never try, I’ll never find out. I’m not talking fame or fortune. I just want enough money to cover rent and groceries. And another part of it is that I never know who I want to be – do I want to be the soccer mum or the hippie traveller? Do I want a family, a house, a job, or a whole lot of uncertainty? But the truth is – I do know what I want because I’ve been tentativily choosing it this whole time.

I chose to live in a hostel for two years and collect stories. I chose to move cities twice to sustain my music. I chose to study Songwriting and to perform and to stand in line for open mic signup in rainy London in December. For all my flakiness, I have never given up on being a singer-songwriter and a bit of a nomad.

So what kind of a person does it take to be a musician? Probably someone with a little more faith and a little more stamina. Someone who has no other options. One of my closest friends struggled through lockdown, trying to figure out whether he should consider doing something other than music. But through all of it, he said: “I don’t know what else I would do, though.” And maybe that’s the kind of person it takes to be a musician. The person who has no other plan, the kind of person who’s all in.

I’ve weighed my options. All of them. And being a musician and a writer is terrifying and hard, but it is the only option that brings me joy, that makes me feel alive, and that makes me proud of what I do. I have just spent two months veering every which way trying to figure out what to do if not music. But it didn’t work. It never does. So, this time, I’m in. I’m all in.