As of February 28, 2014 I am 21 years old. That’s a big deal to me, but perhaps not in the traditional sense. I don’t drink much. Never have, never will. It’s just not something I feel compelled to do. I’d take a can of Arizona Sweet Tea over my friend’s favorite brew. But that’s not what this is about. This is about reaching a milestone in my life and becoming a less impressive person.
I started writing about music when I was 17 years old. When I was in my senior year of high school, I began a music blog to vent frustrations and praise things I listened to. On the side, I started a fan community for a “supergroup” band of sorts with some other Internet people. This was later sanctioned by the bands label and gained me a small bit of notoriety in my own little circle of the Internet. It was through these ventures that I made some contacts in the music industry that would later lead me into an ownership position at Under The Gun Review and a job offer with Alternative Press. Both before I had even walked across the stage or flipped the tassel.
I didn’t take the Alternative Press job at that point because I had committed to a technical school 4 hours south of its offices. I regret this. In hindsight, the school I attended was a general waste of two years and a few thousand dollars. I should have moved to Cleveland, but I didn’t.
Over the two years I spent in school, I worked hard at various projects for my major, my high-paying Internet job that paid my way through school, and my various music industry ventures. In that period of time, I was very busy and making good progress in what I wanted to be doing. Not that any of what I was doing made sense to my friends and family. The music business was and remains on conceptual par with Chinese Calligraphy as far as they are concerned. Still, by their standards, I was impressive. By my professors’ standards, I was impressive. Even by my often begrudging peers’ standards, I was impressive. I was doing things they didn’t think I was capable of doing in a field they knew nothing about.
It wasn’t just those close to me either. “Holy shit, you’re 18?” was commonly asked during interviews in which I was supposed to be asking the questions. Musicians, publicists, and journos were often surprised when they learned my age. “I took you for 23,” they would say. This was fair. I was 6'1 when I graduated and could grow a moderate amount of facial hair when I so chose or forgot my razor at home. Enough to gain access to R rated movies and side-stage spots at concerts, at least.
I didn’t boast my age either. I felt that doing so would put me at a disadvantage. The real secret to working in the music biz is looking like you know what you’re doing. That’s what I did and it worked.
If I was impressive at that point of my life, I didn’t feel it. I often felt a little jaded, stagnant even. There eventually came a point where I wasn’t moving forward at the pace I wanted to anymore. Most definitely not for how much time and effort I was putting in. I think a lot of that can be contributed to a raw deal that was made with a media company that would end up holding my website back for the following 3 years, but I digress…
Being a teen with articles read by thousands monthly was cool. I liked knowing my words were being read. Having a blog post written by a pop star with my name in it was incredible, a peak in my career I often wonder if I’ll ever top. Then of course there are the many opportunities I’ve had to meet and engage with people I admire. I probably took advantage of those opportunities at times and there were probably times I didn’t take full advantage of them when they presented themselves. Regardless, I was a kid doing things kids don’t normally do. I was impressive.
Now I’m 21. I’m working a retail job because my online job is in a slow period and my writing gigs don’t pay. I still go backstage at shows and interview musicians my friends listen to in their cars. I have all of the opportunities and twice as many contacts as I had in my teens, but it’s not the same. These things aren’t as impressive anymore. They’re expected.
The real world is bearing down. I have an Associates Degree in Music Industry Management and no job in the industry. I’m running a website that gets a couple hundred thousand views a month for which I see no ad revenue. I have a lot going for me, but I’m not seeing progress. I’m just another cog in the music industry. Of course this doesn’t mean that I can’t do impressive things anymore. I don’t really believe that. I’m simply a directionless man stuck in the days when people looked at me like I was going to be something huge. A traditional failure to live up to expectation.
I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. And now that I am grown up, I still have no clue. I’m ok with that, but that’s not exactly what’s expected of a person my age. I should have a plan, but I don’t. So maybe that means I can continue to do what’s unexpected of me after-all. Maybe if I keep pretending I’m a young buck who knows what he’s doing I’ll actually accomplish something. That will take some work and bit of the motivation I’ve been lacking lately, but it’s possible. Maybe I feel older than I’m actually perceived. Maybe, even though I don’t feel it, I’m still impressive.
We’ll find out.