Strange the turns life takes. 10 years ago, already 31 years old, and with a relationship crashing and burning and a music dream going nowhere—a solo album was not selling and my studio in Atlanta, where I was trying to record bands, was not booked—I felt I needed to do something serious with my life, the kind of thing a grown-up does. I had always been good in school, so I decided that maybe I could find success as a college professor. I just needed a Ph.D. I decided to turn away from music.
Was that the wrong decision? In a way, yes, since I now see that, for me, a life outside of music is clearly wrong. But there is another way in which any decision that doesn’t kill you cannot possible be wrong, if you’re willing to learn, and becoming a political psychologist (while I’m not a research academic anymore, I taught political psychology at the university level and left my mark on the field co-writing an essay in The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology) was a necessary journey of self-discovery. Political psychology, for me, was just a window into psychology generally, and I think I was drawn to this field to discover, finally, who I am. Who I am is a practitioner of music.
Already a piano player, I had dabbled with guitar several times in my adult life—each time for perhaps one or two weeks, giving up after realizing how vast was the desert I’d have to cross to become a real guitarist. The last time was around the time of my divorce, and in my early 30s, I decided I was simply too old to begin this journey. This life, for Everett, would not include being a guitar player. Sigh.
10 years later, I was married with children—young girls—I never thought I’d have. Largely because we had put down roots and weren’t willing to follow the academic job market far from Tallahassee, my academic career was on life support. I think it’s fair to say I was carrying with me a sense of melancholy, a sense that life was passing by quickly, and that I had done a lot of frantic “doing of stuff,” but had somehow lost a sense of purpose.
One day, I ran into an old friend, a Rabbi whose daughter I had gone to high school with. “How’s Becky doing?” I asked. Well, she was a cantor for one of the biggest congregations in New York City. She had always known she wanted a life in music—and now she had one. I realized that I had always known I wanted this too, but had become distracted by a parade of noises, not least of which was the pursuit of rock stardom (and without the requisite good looks, long hair or dance moves!) in lieu of purposefully living a life in the art I loved, and allowing my career to simply lead wherever it led.
I saw an opportunity: if I could take up the guitar, and really get somewhere with it, I’d be literally the only person I knew who had started guitar in middle age and crossed the wide desert all the way to the other side.
That was in 2010, and now I’m a professional guitarist, with a new record, a new teaching practice and I’m working on line of guitar instructional and inspirational books. It took me a long time to learn the difference between chasing every fleeting dream and committing to a life in what you love, but I suppose it could be worse: I could have reached the end of my life without learning this. As a piano teacher once told me when I was a young child—and of course, I didn’t listen, but I do remember it—“Music chose you.” I still wonder how I spent so many years not able to see that clearly. That’s water under the bridge, though, isn’t it?
Today, I try to live as an example to my daughters. As my song “Until You See the Sun” says, “Find the thing you love,” and then “let the road take you…no matter where you’re going.”