I began playing music when I was seven years old, but it was in me since the moment I was conceived.
My father plays more instruments than I have fingers. Growing up, from the moment I was born, there was music in our home—whether latent in the taut strings of wooden heirloom instruments or emanating from his hands and throat.
I carried the torch, as did my brother, bringing our music up through the family tree so it could reach the sky and tickle the tender underbelly of the heavens.
By the time I was halfway through high school, I was writing and recording my own songs. Music was my outlet, my drug of choice, my salvation. I sang my feelings and wrote my struggle. Angst wept from my fingertips as I pushed myself ever farther down the avenues of acoustic exploration.
Through the burgeoning years of my 20s, I made music my mistress and then my career. But finding the pressure of monetary provision to be too great a burden for my music to bear, I surrendered myself to a life in which I played and wrote for my own pleasure alone.
My notes and melodies and punctuated rhythms were happy in this new space of intimate performance, serenading only the walls and windows of my home. There was intimacy in the resonance of our arrangement, and I felt free to create the lilting melodies of conversation between a man and his heart.
When I got married at 23, I wrote a song for my wife and played it for her at our wedding.
And while she was pregnant, I carried forth a song from the summer haze in our tiny house on Crestmore Street and sang it through piano keys so that our firstborn daughter would come into this world with music in her bones too.
Those were the only songs I wrote for the entire six years we were together.
In the time since we separated, I’ve come to understand music as my barometer for emotional fulfillment. My heart conveys its sense of safety by its willingness to speak to me in rhythm and verse. In a way that befits no other art form, music runs like a river through my soul, communicating in quiet babbles the health of my emotional watershed.
I didn’t see it then, but as I look back, I should have known more of my own quiet suffering by the complete and utter silence of my songs. This isn’t to say my wife was to blame for my songlessness. My state had as much to do with my lack of boundaries, authenticity, and communication as it did with anything about her.
Within a week of my relationship dissolving, I wrote my first song in four years. Then another, and another.
In the wake of my dissolved marriage, I began to date the woman I now know and love as a genuine partner. Through our early months together, I wrote incessantly, my heart singing faster than my fingers could scribble. It had so much to say—my heart—and I realized from its tireless exuberance how painfully quiet it had been in the years preceding.
It was as though the world opened up to me, reminding me of its language, and I could finally, once again, hear the melodies awash in the trees and the cars and the screaming children. As with written poetry or prose, the inspirations became innumerable and unstoppable. If I could capture them as they floated by me, unprovoked and unexpected, I could become the vessel they sought through which to become manifest.
I believe we deserve happiness. And I believe our hearts speak to us in myriad ways—some of which we might not expect.
I feel wholly the resonance of my world when I myself am emanating love. When music bubbles up from my core and pours forth from my mouth and hands and chest, I can feel the divine moving through me. It is in these moments, stooped at the piano in the darkness of 2 a.m. or cradling a guitar in the sunlight of a winter morning, that I know my heart is alive and well. It may be aching, or it may be jubilant, but in any case, we’re on good terms and my heart knows I’m listening.
So this is my wish for you. I hope with all my heart that you find your music and that you listen to what it has to tell you. I hope that you find something you love and embody as only you can, something that fills you up and whispers secrets from the great beyond into your eager, waiting ears. I hope you learn the language of your heart and find the strength to sing along. And I hope you give to yourself the gift of honoring the startling truths this river reveals.
May you join forces with your passions and pleasures, forging forth through the darkening forests of your becoming, and hold in honor and reverence your fluency in the language of your heart.