A friend of mine recently shared this New York Times Magazine article, The Rock and Roll Casualty Who Became a War Hero, saying, “I saw him play in both bands.” “Both bands” means Nirvana and Soundgarden, bands of my young adulthood, though I didn’t see them live until long after Everman was gone. So that’s why I read the piece.
I’m linking to it now because Everman’s story has been echoing in my head ever since. His experience echoes that of myself and my clients. He had the dream. TWICE. He was living the rock and roll lifestyle, the one every kid is fantasizes about, and yet, both times, once he had the thing he thought he wanted, the thing everybody said was the height of success, the darkness overwhelmed him and he retreated and lost it.
But when things ended the second time, he didn’t give up. He didn’t decide it was game over and descend into numbness and death. He didn’t let the darkness win. He did what I did when my entire life fell apart 5 ½ years ago, he did what I work with my clients to do: he finally listened to the promptings of his heart and followed another dream. HIS dream.
It wasn’t an easy dream to follow. It sounds like it was really, REALLY fucking hard to go that route. But he put himself into it 100%, and he let nothing get in his way. Something about being an elite professional soldier fed him and fulfilled him in a way being a famous professional musician never did.
Here’s the thing: for many of us, the dream we pursue isn’t our own. Frequently, the dream we pursue is the thing everyone’s told us we want. Society, parents, our peer group, people who matter have led us to believe that if we follow THIS dream, we’ll be happy because of x, y, z. Often, we follow that dream because we think the thing we pursue will give us something else that we’re longing for: money will give us security, fame will bring us love, authority will give us protection from doubt and fear. But then we achieve the dream, we grab that brass ring, and that’s when we realize that we didn’t really even want to be on the merry-go-round at all. Because we’re not happy on that ride. We feel trapped and scared, and the darkness is so, so present and we’re despairing because we don’t want to live the rest of our lives on this dizzy circle.
But for so many reasons, we’re committed. We’ve worked so hard, and there are people depending on us, and to move to something else now would be to betray something or someone and we’d have to completely reinvent ourselves and it’s too late to start over, so we’re going to stay on the carousel and hang on tightly, even though we hate the ride and have always secretly wanted to be on the bumper cars.
Here’s what I do with my clients (and what I did for myself when my world fell apart in 2010), and what it sounds like Everman did when he decided to join the Army:
We get quiet. We listen for what’s under the loud music of what everybody else says. We pay attention to those things that speak to us, that small voice of truth that says, “Yes. This. I want this.” And we move in that direction.
This is not an easy process. In fact, sometimes it’s really, REALLY fucking hard. It’s scary to admit and go after what you want. It’s painful to say good-bye to the things you’ve held onto to keep you safe. It feels unshelled and vulnerable and so, so risky.
My job as your coach is to help you hear those quiet yeses. I help you face the hard things and remind you you don’t need the stuff that’s holding you back. I ask the questions that help you clarify your vision and figure out what you need to do to get there, both in getting off the merry-go-round safely and in finding your way to the ride you actually want to be on. I hold your hand and have your back as you step out into the New and the Wanted and the Fulfilling.
I don’t let you run away from yourself. I help you remember how much your dream means to you. I point out where you’re succeeding when you aren’t able to see it yourself. I sit beside you in the bumper car while you figure out how it works and what you can do.
If you can do this on your own, AWESOME. That’s absolutely fantastic, and I am cheering wildly for you. Because I know it can be done without a coach; I’ve done the serious work of self-exploration and rebuilding without one. But I had the tools in my toolkit already. For those people who need someone beside them, I’m here. I’ll help you find your direction and then build the skills and the confidence so you can do it on your own, too. Even if it’s navigating something as tricky as the road from rock star to career soldier.