In what I do, there is a particular brand of functional exhaustion. Following the busiest time of year for myself and my company (we just worked a 10 day music festival/conference in Toronto) in a hazy realm I hopped on a plane to the UK, for another work trip. More exhausted than I’d likely ever been, I knew I had to pull it together and be on-point.
This one-off trip to London and Brighton was to link up with the band I manage, HIGHS, and have them showcase at The Great Escape festival in Brighton.
From a work perspective the trip went as planned. New connections were made, meetings had, business discussed, and drinks consumed – the usual. I love what I do very much, so I don’t mean to minimize it, but I want to focus on one of the days in particular on this trip that somehow went my way.
With a max of 3 hours of sleep each night, my brain has been on autopilot. Hustling and focusing on moving forward, getting through each list of meetings, and pitching what I do and my band to everyone in sight… It’s easy to not notice time and its subtle ticking, or the beautiful Brighton beachfront begging to be photographed.
My second last day started normal and I was on the move, shmoozing as per usual but, slipped in to my schedule, was an unassuming set from one of my favourite singer songwriters Kevin Devine. At 8:15pm, no sooner or later, he would be playing a set at the Unitarian church. I had to be there, so close to the time I escaped the bustle of the festival and found myself in a big open church which I found mostly empty before he started.
I sat right in the front by myself, leaving my industry friends networking in hotel lobbies while I fed my inner super fan. It’s easy when you work in the music industry to move so fast that you whiz right through these moments. You miss your favourite band playing down the street because you are trying to woo a booking agent, or worse, you fail to even get excited about your favourite song being played in a set because you’re worried about who is in the room. After 15 consecutive days of industry schmooze there was no way I was going to miss Kevin’s set.
Before I go any further I should explain my connection with Mr. Devine’s music. His prolific catalogue runs the gamut from emo singer-songwriter melodies, to infectious pop ditties, all the way to post rock aggression. The first time I had my heart broken by a boy Kevin’s “Make the Clocks Move” was the only thing I could listen to on repeat. When I moved to Toronto, “Put Your Ghost to Rest” was my book of anthems, and when I was dealing with a financially devastating situation last year, “Between the Concrete and the Clouds” walked me through it. I’ve grown up with these songs and his diverse catalogue has adapted alongside my life’s ups and downs.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him many times in different settings but this time was different. He was playing solo. He walked himself up to stage and set up his own guitar and just started to play. At this particular time of day in Brighton the sun was setting and the room was somehow painted in turquoise natural light. The room filled up and my eyes stayed glued as he played his imperfect songs.
When he played my absolute favourite of his songs, Carnival (one he usually leaves off the set list), I was struck with a total and utter calmness. A peace that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I got an overwhelming chill and a strong feeling that I am exactly where I belong and that I am lucky for the amazing opportunities my life, my job, affords me. In the moment, and even now days later, I feel 1000% ok and happy with everything in my life. Personally and professionally I feel everything is as it should be. I am on the path to where I want to be and I simply let go of any stress I was carrying.
So often I feel consumed with obsessing over all the things I want or need, or the things I need to change. Of course that motivation and constant drive leads me to great things, but I think in this moment, on that church pew, with Kevin’s shadow projected across the white walls, I learned to find peace and happiness along the way; to be totally happy with where I am in the moment while still understanding and being ok with all the things I am working towards. I felt comfortable in my loneliness, in my skin, and in my position in the world.
It felt powerful and it still does. I could have sat there for 5 more hours that evening.
Though Carnival’s lyrics are eloquently dark and tortured, there was a line near the end of the song that rang out to me in my specifically emotional moment…
“this is the life you went and earned…”
I thought. Hey, that is true. I like this life I’ve worked so hard for.
I couldn’t stop smiling to myself knowing that only I was there in this moment to experience it the way that I just had. No amount of money can buy these moments and I certainly couldn’t have forced it. It just happened because a series of things fell in to place, the way I was hoping they would, and I woke up exactly where I belonged.
Sure this is just a story about a great song, a great performer, a setting sun, and a magical exhausted moment, but I don’t doubt that something about being so far away from home, and alone in it, was surely an important piece of the puzzle. Sometimes you can be too busy or focused to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Decide that you won’t be, and make room to love your life. These moments fuel and focus us. They remind us that even though you are on a path to where you want to be, you can still be happy and satisfied exactly where you are.