A Teenage Passion
I've been a major Rock and Roll fan since 12 when I saw a young guy with a strange name on TV, Elvis Presley. In that moment I became a diehard Rock and Roller. Over the years I attended many live concerts and listened to countless hours of recorded music. My favorite genre is 70s Rock and Roll. While I never considered why I'd actually stopped listening to music, or that it was a decade ago, I got why in a flash a few days ago. My musical renaissance was liberating, joyful, and sad, all at once. I doubt I'm the only boomer who ever gave up a passion without consciously knowing why. I hope my experience reminds other boomers of their surrendered passions.
My partner Sarah has asked me on several occasions in the past few years why I didn't play music in my home. I could never verbalize a reason, but something about her question always made me feel anxious. Still, I gently pushed the topic aside without ever explaining why to Sarah, or to myself for that matter.
She didn't have an agenda around music, and I think she sensed this was something troubling me that I had to figure out on my own. A few days ago I purchased an iPod and signed up on an online music site where I could listen to 70s Rock and Roll to my heart's desire.
Oldies But Goodies
I unpacked my iPod and started listening to my favorite groups, The Stones, Creedence Clearwater, Van Morrison, Bob Seger, and dozens of other Rock and Roll artists I'd listened to regularly. The music I'd loved since the 70s lit me up like a Christmas tree. I smiled and sang along for a while, and then suddenly, I began to cry. I let the sadness wash over me, trying to figure out what was behind my alternating joy and blues.
The answer came quickly as I realized that not listening to music was a way of continuing to grieve my youngest son Jesse's death a decade ago. I remember making a conscious choice at the time to keep my home quiet. I was continuing that choice, years later. Living without music had been an ongoing, unconscious choice that I didn't see any point continuing.
Giving Up Joy
I attended a Robert Bly workshop 25 years ago, during which Michael Meade, an Irish storyteller, talked about his father who had emigrated from Ireland to America. His dad had been a well-known dancer in Ireland, but after coming to America he never danced again. Michael didn't know why, but he suggested that many of us give up something we love for reasons not always clear.
Listening to Meade I realized I'd given up drumming, a passion I'd enjoyed for many years. The only reason for giving up drumming was that I associated it with playing Afro-Cuban jazz when I was a teenager, and for some foolish reason I thought it was time to grow up and move on. Clearly growing up has nothing to do with surrendering a passion.
Here are a few thoughts to jog my fellow boomers' memories and hopefully cause some to revive an old passion.
What did you love doing for a long while that you no longer do today? Go back to your childhood and work your way forward. Nothing is out of bounds, so don't gloss over something that gave you joy even as a young boy or girl. Is the passion you gave up associated with a sense that you outgrew it? Did you give up a passion to please someone else? Was giving up your passion affected by external events or was it related to a feeling that developed inside you?
I haven't stopped smiling since I reconciled my feelings of grief with my love of Rock and Roll. It's something new that's actually old, and I'm thrilled I finally figured out what was troubling me on an unconscious level and moved on. I'm finishing this article listening to The Allman Brothers Ramblin Man, with a big smile and raw feelings about the past. If you're missing a passion you once loved consider digging into your psyche and rediscovering it. It's big stuff.
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