Why being an ex-muso isn’t so bad after all

Posted by Craig Borlase on 27 April 2018

TeachingWhy being an ex-muso isn’t so bad

I was 19 when I decided that I wanted to be a guitar player. So I cranked the volume up on Paul Weller’s Wild Wood and fumbled along to every riff and chord on the album. At about the same time that I could play the whole album in my sleep I started to get asked to play in a worship band. 

Then came The Bends, a rediscovery of the genius of Johnny Marr and an introduction to the music of Jeff Buckley. The worship band did its thing at various summer festivals, and we had a couple of - unsuccessful - visits to recording studios. Music was a vast universe, and it was a privilege and a pleasure to lose myself within it.

Screen Shot 2018 04 25 at 10.00.01Screen Shot 2018 04 25 at 10.00.03For a few years back at the start of my twenties I took delight in the way those name badges and event passes would define me by that single word. I was a musician. Enough said.

So it came as a surprise to me when my appetite vanished. I was 26 and over the course of one single summer I lost my love for being in a band. I went off playing and quit altogether.

At the time I didn’t have the skills to process the reasons why it had happened – though I had a sense that some of my reasons were better than others. I certainly didn’t have what it took to understand the impact of stepping away from my past pursuit. Instead, I packed by guitars away under the bed and tried to forget all about them.

In truth, it was tough. I spent years standing in big meetings, listening to worship bands, feeling awkward (which, of course, is just a euphemism for jealous). I found it hard to concentrate in worship, my thoughts and feelings jumping wildly within me like a garden hose that has worked its way free from a sprinkler. As a true Gen Xer I retreated to my default position of cynicism. Generally, I was a bit rubbish about the whole thing. 

Almost two decades have passed since then. I’m not a musician any more. I write books and other things for a living. Recently I had some success with a book and was able to add a new line to my bio that I’d been hoping to add for years. It felt like a big deal. I felt like a big deal. And when I realised that I’m not such a big deal after all, part of me wondered whether this was a prelude to becoming an ex-writer.

I’m such an idiot.

Thankfully, God is patient, loving and kind. Circumstances collided to reign in my ego, cool my head and remind me of a couple of vital lessons – much the same ridiculously obvious lessons that I suspect I missed all those years ago. 

1. Identity is primal.

If we put our identity in our social status, we’re screwed. If we make an idol of success, we’ll wind up disappointed and miss so much of God’s good stuff in the process. And if we think that we can step away from something we were so invested in as easily as a snake sheds its skin, we’re mistaken. 

2. There can be great lessons to learn in loss.

By the time the decades rack up, most of us will be an ex- of a lot of things. That’s OK. It’s good even, as it suggests we’ve embraced the freedom to try new things. But every time we shed that skin, there’s an opportunity to reflect again on who we are, what we value and how we truly see ourselves. 

I’ve still got my guitars in my office. They’re a little dusty and the strings are way overdue a change. But I’m glad they’re here. They don’t taunt me about the fun times I left behind, but nor do they act as trophies. Like childhood memories and loved ones whose passing I’ve grieved, they’re a part of me that helped make me who l am today. And maybe I’ll play again tomorrow.

Craigs Guitars 3

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