I remember leaving high school with utter relief. Phew. Now we’re done with that crap, I can head out into the real world, do something I love to do, be really great at it, and make stacks of money.
That’s what the prospect of employment looked like to me. Anyone who was working in dead end jobs, or jobs they hated – well, they were just lazy. They haven’t tried hard enough, or applied themselves or found their true passion and committed to it. Work is what we end up spending the larger part of our lives doing. It’s how we survive and how we contribute. It’s what defines us. At least, that’s what I had always thought.
So I finished school, went to uni, and, after some trial and error, I starting singing and people started paying me for it. I had found a job that made use of my skills and passions, it earned me decent money and it offered me the freedom to work for myself. I knew making a living as a musician was supposed to be tough, but it seemed like I was doing it. Paying rent. Getting gigs. Kicking goals, etc. I felt pretty damn good about myself. But being a singer wasn’t simply my job title. It felt like it was who also I was. It was in my blood, in my bones. Something I had always done and would always do.
Fast forward to four years later. I’m going through customs at LAX airport. I get my photo snapped and my finger print taken and then a customs agent asks me “What is your occupation?” I pause briefly, then I pathetically burst into tears.
Barely a month earlier I’d been forced to stop singing. Physical, and medically insurmountable issues had arisen and rendered me incapable of performing at a professional level. What was basically anyone else doing a sad, pitchy performance at a karaoke bar had become my reality and I was beyond devastated. Not just because I had lost my voice, and by consequence, my work, but mainly because I felt like I had completely lost who I was. Being a singer defined me, and not being able to proudly proclaim that any longer on my US customs form, well, it left me pretty broken.
Upon meeting new people, one of the first things we ask is “So, what do you do?” We think their response gives us a good idea of what sort of person they are; how they spend their time, what is important to them. So it’s no wonder we are prone to over-identify with our occupations. Creative professionals, in particular, love to blur the lines between what they do and who they are. But this surely leaves us open to some dangerous ramifications when we get made redundant, stop booking work, can’t sell our products, or something happens physically/psychologically that makes us incapable of performing our roles any longer. Not only are we dealt the punishing blow of losing income and pride, and having to suffer the disappointment of wasted time and money, but losing the idea of yourself in the mix, that sense of who you are – that sort of loss is debilitating.
So how to separate the two? This is the challenge. The lifelong search to find a deeper sense of self, to not have to seek constant validation from the outside world, and to truly exist without demands or expectations. It’s bloody hard and I doubt I’ll ever get to full Buddha Mode. But after the initial shock and struggle, being forced to surrender those superficial ideas of who I was and what defined me was a huge relief, and ultimately liberating.
And sometimes I think maybe our passions are purer left uncorrupted. Maybe we don’t have to try and take everything we love and turn it into some money-making scheme. Some of the most miserable people I know earn a living doing something they “love to do”, doesn’t mean they “love doing it” for money. I think that that good intentioned advice a lot of us had to “do what you love to do” got quite a rude shock when we started doing it, and realised that our lives didn’t suddenly transform into a glittering oasis of happiness and contentment. Of course, I’m not advising you go do something you hate, just know that a job’s a job. Even if there are parts of it you love, there will sure as hell be parts you don’t and that’s fine. Just know that it’s not everything. And who you are – well, please know it’s a helluva lot more than a desk, a cubicle, a microphone, or 150 unread emails you’re reading this blog to avoid.


I used to read a helluva lot of biographies back in high school. Book after book recounting the extraordinary lives of rock stars, actors, comedians and such. The stories were captivating and almost a blueprint of how I wanted to shape my own life. It seemed simple, you have a dream, and you go out and get it. Of course there’s a great deal of hard work involved. A lot of people you need to get out and meet. A lot of shit you have to put up with before the good stuff happens. But it seemed doable.

So I started taking steps towards living the life I always dreamed of. A creative life, that made use of my unique talents and helped share them with the world. First I quit a job that made me miserable. Next (with a little help from my friends) I fell into the right crowd and formed a band. Started singing at clubs and pubs. Soon we were playing functions and weddings. The money was good. And the job was fun. I loved the feeling of being up on stage, of helping people celebrate their birthday’s and graduations and weddings, and mostly being able to be my own boss and make money on my own terms. We starting writing our own songs. Recording them. Last year we released our first originals EP. It seemed like everything was falling into place.

Although of course, it wasn’t.

After months and months of struggling with vocal issues. Treating myself for pyschological disorders. Coming home after gigs crying because I couldn’t understand how my voice was degenerating in such a way…. “I’M DOING THIS FOR A LIVING NOW. I’M SINGING MORE THAN EVER. I’M GOOD. I’M SUCCESSFUL. I’M LIVING MY CREATIVE LIFE Wait? HOW CAN I BE GETTING WORSE!??!”

After a few inconclusive tests and vocal therapy sessions, all signs (kinda) pointed to vocal paresis. A condition that partially disables one or more of the nerves to your vocal cords, rendering it exceptionally difficult to support your voice and control breathing, pitch and tone (basically the main requirements to be a professional singer.) There was no fix either. Maybe some expensive therapy. But then who can afford that when you realise that you don’t have a job anymore?

It was excruciating. In an instant it felt like my whole future went up in flames. Everything I had been working for for years. Gone.

“If you can dream it, do it.” “Dream big.” “The biggest adventure you can take is to live your dreams.” “Never let go of your dreams.”

Well what fucking happens if your dreams let go of you? No one writes biographies of those people. The unlucky ones. The partial-achievers. Lets be real – the failures. But they’re out there, I know, because I’m one of them.

So what’s next? Start again, I guess. Right from the beginning.

Take a blank page, and make a mark, however small.

Who knows, sooner or later, things might bloom.