BY JEFF BETTGER
I spent my twenties touring the country playing music in various clubs, festivals, churches and wherever my bands could finagle somebody into giving us a PA system and a small audience willing to listen to noise. It was part of who I was and what I did. I was a musician in a rock n roll band. I thought I would do that for the rest of my life. Playing shows was part of my identity. It gave me meaning, value, and worth. It was something I cherished and valued. The more people paid attention and cared about the work we were doing, the more I felt affirmed and validated as a musician. Over time this validation began to grow into affirmation as a human. I became what I made in some bizarre kind of way. Everything I did was consumed with my desire to create and be affirmed by others enjoying or criticizing what I made. Either way, attention was being paid to me.
When my wife and I had our first daughter things got really complicated and it became more and more difficult to find time to make music. I continued to make things work, but was often frustrated by the complexities of being an artist and a father. A few years later we had our second daughter and life got even more complex. I tried to continue doing what I thought made me me, but it was not helpful to my family or myself.
I had traversed into something common and sinister. It was a belief that my value and worth as a human were contingent upon what I made and how other people reacted to it. I was having what one might call an identity crisis. Everything I had built was crumbling down around me, yet there were these two amazing little girls who had come into my life and changed everything. They were dependent on me. They needed me. I would look in their eyes and couldn’t believe how fortunate I was. This new life had brought new joy and meaning to everything.
I was challenged to reconcile who I thought I was with who I actually was. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved to make music, but this new thing was liberating and real and was not contingent upon my performance. The girls were my kids and that was that. I felt fortunate I was able to reevaluate and reprioritize what made me valuable and gave me meaning. I realized I was meaningful and valuable just because I AM. The same way my daughters were meaningful and valuable just because they came into this world as a blessing to my wife and I.
I began to enjoy life for what it was and playing music has become a hobby. Music is still a part of me, but it does not own me or control or define me. It is now something healthy as opposed to obsessive. Every one of us makes things and all of it is good, but the things we do and make are not the ultimate thing that makes us human.
This weekend I am playing music as part of our South Park: Live concert series. The show is in my neighborhood at my favorite nano brewery. I will spend the night enjoying friends, good beer and probably butchering some songs I have written over the years, as well as some songs others have written. RSVP at our Facebook event HERE.
Come down and enjoy a celebration of simply being.