November 16, 2013

Aging & the Beat. ~ Brooke McCarley

A couple of months ago, the band I’m in was playing a show at an all ages venue on what can be called a school night.

Due to it being a school night the crowd was sparse, but it didn’t stop us from having fun playing our songs. After watching all the bands I left in a tired state.

To be clear, I have no sense of direction.

I left going in the direction I thought was right but turned out to be the farthest wrong possible. Soon after I realized how wrong I was I also realized my situation. I was a lone woman in a truck that had easily a thousand dollars of music equipment plus a bunch of beer cans in the bed of my truck. My truck had been used as a trash can of sorts.

I didn’t want a cop to see me driving in circles on these sketchy dark roads, but I also didn’t want anyone else to notice me driving in circles on these sketchy dark roads.

I finally found my way out, but the night left an impression on me.

The next day I thought about that impression as I waited on the bright-eyed moms and their sweet children at the library. None of those women spent their previous night lost in a dangerous part of town with a cab full of music equipment and a bed full of beer cans. I would bet the $40 our band made on it.

That impression left me to ponder over being a female, getting older and playing music. Do those three things go together? Can they?

I guess they can, just as easy as I can sit here and type out this story while I listen to my co-workers talk about home improvement, curtains and crock-pot recipes.

It is not that I don’t appreciate those things. I love a good crock-pot chili. I like a quiet night in with my boyfriend watching a movie. However, I also spend at least one night a week with a bunch of guys writing music in a storage space off Green Springs. I leave work, and I grab a bite to eat, a couple of beers and my bass, and I head over to the storage space where I spend the next couple of hours writing music and drinking beer.

I write about this topic because I feel this pressure from my mother who likes to ask me when I am going to give up “all this music stuff.”

She tries to ask casually, but I hear the disdain in her voice as if I am living as a 16-year-old who delivers pizza and is holding on to the dream of being a rock star. I have my full-time job. I have my insurance; medical and dental. I have my closet full of skirts, blouses and pants that are only seen by my co-workers.

I also feel this pressure from an internal dialogue due to social stigmas of what a 35-year-old woman is supposed to be doing.

I work  in a library in the middle of the wealthiest and most conservative community, I see a lot of women my age whose lifestyles are so different from mine that we might as well speak two different languages. I see this opposite version of me so much that on some particular gloomy days I question what I am doing.

Where are my husband, my three kids and my white picket fence? Where are my days that are filled with taking children to their lessons and preparing dinner?

Truth is, I know my life didn’t work out that way either based on luck or because somewhere deep down I designed it that way. I know if my life did follow this more conservative lifestyle then I would be bored.

I mean, what would I do after I made dinner?

It is also easy to let paranoid thoughts sneak in forcing me to ask myself  if I am too old to get on stage and play music, or if others think I am too old to play music. Maybe people are judging me in the crowd by my frown lines and encroaching turkey-neck. Yet I made peace with those paranoid thoughts and the random mornings I shuffle to work with bags under my eyes. It is a hobby.

It is fulfilling, and I don’t think I am too old to have hobbies, especially kick-ass hobbies that allow me to play shows, meet new people and travel.

There was a time in my life from mid-twenties to early thirties that I was not playing music and I wondered if I was going to play with people again. I questioned even if I should since I was getting older. Somehow I dusted off the guitar, tipped-toed over to a friend’s house and timidly started playing music again.

I write this because since I have started playing in bands again, I have noticed a trend. To me it seems like I see a lot of musicians are still playing into their thirties and beyond. I have seen people in their thirties return to music after years of silence as well. I feel a sense of reassurance when I see someone older playing music. Maybe I feel a sense of solidarity. I know it is always inspiring.

Also, my friend’s ages range from early twenties to forties and beyond, and many of these people are all still playing music. Some play music together. Some of these musicians have a wife or husband and children yet they still find time to balance their life.

I think life should be celebrated at every age. When I use the word life I mean the things in your life that you are passionate about. For me it is playing music and writing, but it could be art, comedy, crafts, acting, writing a novel, writing a picture book, writing a poem or anything that allows you to live life and celebrate who you are.


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 Editor: Renee Picard

{photo: courtesy Brooke McCarley}

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