Rendered Fat Content

A Different-Shaped Guitar

Imitator of
Juan Gris: Still Life with Guitar (1913)

" … a success or a failure might depend upon nothing other than whether …"

At some point in their career, everyone hits their wall. The fortunate find more than one. The experience fully qualifies as the most discouraging anyone ever encounters because it represents the end of a long and satisfying dreaming period. The Wall, at first innocuous, eventually becomes a serious barrier, impossible to go over, under, around, or through. What's a protagonist to do in the face of this flummox? The standard answer responds "Something else." Anything else.

The 'anything else' comes as a forced choice, a coerced alternative that nobody would ever wish upon themselves.
It hurts to come to the end of a dream and find that it came false instead of true for you. For this to happen to you, one who had been so faithful, seems incredibly heartless and cruel, and some seem utterly broken by this experience. Betrayed, they expend their remaining days Honing grudges. The fortunate find something different to pursue, often something utterly orthogonal to their original intentions. This is how singer/songwriters become insurance salesmen and how everyone comes to understand their gifts. Yes, it sure would have been nice if that first attempt had succeeded. The world, though, and those of us in it, have greatly benefitted from all those who, at some time in their career, splatted on their wall and somehow grew beyond it.

The world beyond the wall was previously unimaginable and seemed hardly worth imagining, for there lay the everyday, the utterly pedestrian, the people who seemed only capable of remembering when. It seemed the land of lost dreams, a punishment, a purgatory compared to how this world was supposed to be in your dreams. For me, it meant no more playing my guitar for a living. It meant taking a desk job, cutting my hair, and riding a bus to work with a briefcase in my lap. It meant I would never be discovered. It meant salvation, though I couldn't quite get the hint at first. I heard myself recounting my sorry history of abandoning my budding career as a singer/songwriter, but I explained it differently that time. I finished by noting that while I'd set aside the guitar I'd played, I continued engaging with the same passion I used to apply only to my art. I heard myself insisting that I was "just playing A Different-Shaped Guitar."

And that's the insight that made it seem alright to lose my dream before it came fully true. I lost nothing of substance when I hit that wall. I only lost a medium that, truth told, had not been working for me for a very long time. Dreams, even the best of them, can only ever sustain a dreamer so far. The dreamer, though, steadfastly focusing upon their star, will likely fail to notice when their dream stops propelling them anywhere. Idling in place as if still advancing apace, their wall replaces any possibility of success under familiar terms. At some point, choices force themselves upon even the most dedicated dreamer, and some differences appear. Nobody ever knows precisely where the story will go from there, just that there's a story and some forward momentum again; whether the transition's a success or a failure might depend upon nothing other than whether our hero can adapt to playing A Different-Shaped Guitar.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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