Framing The Rock Star Dream: A Lesson in Context

I have, as most kids, had several big ‘dream what you’re going to be when you grow up’ moments throughout the course of my life. The one I’m currently working to fulfill is being a writer/author/rock star of the written word.  You’re helping with that just by being here, so thank you.

Dreams are a funny thing. As a child, we’re taught to dream. Dream big. Dream out loud. The word ‘impossible’ hasn’t become part of our vocabulary (and if we’re lucky, doesn’t for quite some time in to our adulthood). The blessing and curse of childhood dreams is that we don’t truly have a grasp of the concept that there will be some work required to actually seeing these dreams come to fruition.

I dreamed of becoming an Astronaut (along with DJ, spy, best-selling author, rock star). This was fueled by Buck Rogers, Space1999, Battlestar Galactica, Battle Of The Planets and any of the other dozens of sci-fi media I swam in as a youth.

 As I was walking to class one morning, I saw on the television in the middle school library a sight that brought the reality of that dream home. I saw the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. I didn’t stop dreaming of being an astronaut and seeing space, but the reality of the danger kicked in. And my mind crafted the dream to have different facets. Could I get in to space without going the military route?  Would there be a point in my time where DJ’s, spies, best-selling authors, or rock stars would be sent in to space?  The author brain of mine certainly conceived of that reality. So…I was good. The dream of astronaut wasn’t abandoned, just put on the shelf for a time when other things fell in to place. Like becoming a rockstar or any of the other things I wanted to be as a child.

I work in IT by day (and at times by night).  I make a living. I’m happy with the work I do here. I help people. I help keep a large number of retail stores operational across the country.

Is it my dream job? I’m not sure that’s a fair question. When I was a kid, there wasn’t any such thing as ‘IT.’ The only truly glamorized career tract in that venue was the ever nebulous and nefarious ‘hacker.’
Could IT be a dream job for a child these days? Sure.

Could I get bitter about the whole thing? I mean, at first blush not a single one of my childhood dreams has come to fruition. So what the hell man?! Let’s take a look at that for a second,though. When you get down to it, it’s really a matter of perspective.

The only dream jobs of mine that I haven’t actually done outright are astronaut and spy.
My first DJ gig was in Junior High. I deejayed a party on a spring afternoon at the Westerville teen hot spot known as Flamingo Isle. Club sound-system. Yours truly spinning vinyl in the booth.  I wasn’t very good.  I deejayed a few parties in the 30 years since. Truth be told, I’m still not very good. I have albums. I have turntables. I can weave a decent set. But at this point it’s no longer a dream. Just something fun I do that’s probably more annoying than anything. So…DJ. Check.

Rock star?  Dude. Yeah. In the early 90’s I was the Keytar/Harmonica/African Wooden Flute/Garage-sale Turntablist/Backing Vocals/Co-Lyricist of the seminal FoodCore Metal band…Columbus Ohio’s very own Devilcake.  I re-joined the band later for a few years in the early 2000’s and we wound up playing side stage at Polaris. They’re still playing as I understand it, albeit minus a certain chubby keyboard player with a samurai hair-do.

And that’s not where the rock star dream ended for me either. I had fun being on stage with Devilcake. I fed off the energy of the crowd. But in 2008, that was elevated to a whole new level when I entered a contest on Guitar Center’s web site…and won. So for 6 days and 5 night…4 cities, I was a rock star. Tour bus, guitar tech, roadies, tour managers. The works. It was surreal. There are a ton of posts on this very blog about the experience (look for the label “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp” over on the right hand sidebar).

It gave me some serious perspective.  And yes…it was actually a dream that came true.

But Todd…you’re not still a rock star.  How can you say that the dream came true?

That’s a very good question. And I’ve thought a lot about that. It comes down to framing and context. As a teen learning to play harmonica and guitar, there were the inevitable dreams of being a rock star. Then later in my college years, with Devilcake. And again in my 30’s with Devilcake. But it wasn’t until the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp that I can I honestly say that the rock star dream was fully realized.

And here’s the weird thing, the thing that melts my head when I really stop to think about it. When the dream actually did come true, I realized that it didn’t fit. It didn’t fit the way I was wired.  I’m sure there are aspects of the life I was living at the time that cloud this perception and that if I were to win that same contest again today, it might be different. But the simple answer is that I’m simply not wired to be a rock star. There were some amazing moments during that experience. But there were also some terrifying moments of self-realization.

But the fact remains. For 6 days, I was a rock star. I was in a band that played to sold out crowds at the State Theater in Phoenix, the Hard Rock Casino in Vegas, the Fillmore East in San Francisco, and the House of Blues in L.A.  And no one can take that away.

And now this dream of being a writer.  I am a writer.  It has been a murky pool of self-doubt over the years as to whether or not I’ve got something something write that people actually want to read.

Truth of the matter is, though, whether 10 people or 10,000 people or no people read this or anything else I write–I will still write.

I no longer view being a writer as a dream to be fulfilled. It’s a calling. I have stories to tell. Whether I use the written word, music, video, or photography–I will tell the stories floating in my head and on my heart.

I have no choice. I can’t not write.

That’s how I know I’m a writer.

The fact that more people are reading this blog is how I know that I’m settling in to “my voice”–that particular style or flavor that let you know who you’re reading.

When I post these little ditties up here in the blogosphere, I keep track of how many times I click on a page before it’s fully ready (usually 4). Any count higher than that–even if it’s only 1–is one step closer to the dream.

My writing dream has shifted.  I used to dream of seeing my name and work on the New York Times Bestseller list (and don’t get me wrong, that will still be a nice thing to see when it happens), but recently I have shifted the dream and goal for my writing.

I want my writing to inspire.

I want someone to read this and think, “Wow…here’s this dude. This everyday dude from Ohio just putting his heart and soul out there for the world to see and not giving a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about it. If he can do that, maybe someone will want to read my story.”

Everyone of us has a story. A dream. A thing that drives us. It’s inspiring, as dreamers, to hear of other people achieving their dreams.

You know what else is inspiring? Hearing the story of someone struggling on the way to their dream but not giving up–just going for it anyway.

THAT is the shit that keeps me going.

And that is what you, dear reader, provide for me when you come here. When you click on the link to this blog. When you tell your friends. When you share the link because something I wrote resonated with you on a fundamental level.  Each time you do that, you light one more candle on my path. You bring me once step closer to fulfilling my dream.

And for that, I am blessed and eternally grateful.

If it’s ok with you, I’m going to keep writing. But as a writer, I’m also a reader. So tell me, what’s your story?

Perhaps it’s time to start writing…


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