In Defense of the Weekend Rockstar

There's a feeling out there as a musician, a dancer, a writer that if you are not dedicating your entire life to your art you are not an artist. From 20 to 23, I wanted people to see me as "a real musician." I felt extreme pressure (from myself? From the music community?) to figure out a way to make music a full-time job. I started putting in a lot of effort. Within 3 months, my Facebook fanbase grew from 600-800 to 3,000 people. Within 6 months, my music was featured on national TV. I was offered an exclusive audition with producers of The Voice.

And then I disappeared. It's been two years since I've recorded music. I burned out. I pushed too hard. I was having full-blown panic attacks before gigs. Even though exciting and cool things were happening with my music, I was miserable. Music became a job, lost its joy and I wasn't making enough money to call myself an adult.

These years have led me to believe that there are two different types of people in this world: There are people who need a career that defines their identity, and there are people who need a career that funds their passions. I am the latter.

Before full-time employment I thought a 9-5 job would kill my creative soul; it's done the exact opposite. Full-time employment as a web developer means steady income. It means moving out of my parents' home. It means choosing to live on my own instead of with a roommate. It means paying my own bills and having extra money to spend. It means not having to choose between real groceries and ramen when saving up for a new guitar. The regular work schedule puts predictability in my life, which helps me carve out time for creativity.

I think back on who I was in high school and college, how determined I was to be a rockstar, and I'm so glad it never happened. Even just a taste of a career musician nearly killed my creativity. When I started working full-time, I felt like a fraud identifying as a musician. I felt guilty singing and playing guitar, as if full-time employment meant I had given up on myself. For anyone else who is experiencing or has experienced this, know you're not alone. But also know that the weekend rockstar lifestyle can be a really great life.

Carrie Ryan