Oh, You’re In A Band… When Is It Time To Give Up The Dream?

When I’m watching a band in a dingy club sing and strum their hearts out, 90% of me is pure admiration. The other 10% wants to shake them, kiss them and sit them down to go through plan B.
Publish date:
January 2, 2013
amibitions, giving up the dream, in a band

New Year is the time for resolutions, big plans, fresh starts and maybe, for some, a career change.

I went to a corporate ‘do the other day, and the hired performers were a boyband. Well, a manband – each of the five members was at least 35. With their One Direction waistcoats, just about bearable harmonies and lack of instruments, the whole vibe was a bit, well, lame.

It wasn’t the style of music or the cheesiness so much as the sense that these guys seemed a little past it. But, like everyone else at the event, I smiled and nodded throughout the set. Who was I to judge how a man old enough to own a teenager should spend his time?

I couldn’t, however, deny my inner eye-roll. The fact this group was still trying to ‘make it’ made me cringe, and also genuinely a bit sad. Each member was old enough to have forged half a career by now, and yet here they still were at the bottom of one, crooning their way through business events with a entirely forgettable forward-back dance move and finger click routine.

Naffness apart, these men were – are –Chasing The Dream. They had a name and a ‘style’ and an ambition.The latter is commendable whatever my take on the former. But I still couldn’t help thinking perhaps it was time these fellas tried something else.

At one point we’ve all dreamed of being a rock star, a footballer, an actor, an actor slash DJ,or something equally fabulous. But only a select few of us carry on trying to make it happen beyond, say, 15. The rest of us settle for something less remarkable.

When I’m watching a band in a dingy club sing and strum their hearts out, 90% of me is pure admiration. The guts, the confidence, the work involved, the lugging around of equipment, the nerves. Especially when they’re really good. But the other 10% of me wants to shake them, kiss them and sit them down to go through plan B.

It’s just not feasible that everyone who wants to ‘make it,’ will. And making yourself sad and poor with tunnel vision is a high price to pay for a potential Big Break. Perhaps that manband didn’t have the lofty ambitions I’m imagining; perhaps the corporate performance circuit is where their aspiration ends. But I doubt it - there’s just something inherently more ambitious about people who crave success in the most competitive professions.

The saddest X Factor auditions to watch involve the people you know aren’t going to give up after their rejection. Everyone can see the tough, pointless road ahead except him or her.

That’s not to say everyone who wants to sing or act or other is untalented and deluded. Sometimes it happens, sure. But most of us will never get the chance to break box office records or play to a crowd of thousands. Not because of a lack of talent, but because that’s just how life is.

The people I know trying to make music or acting their career are frustrated. Perfectly normal, lovely people quasi-cursed by their innate desire. Their lives are soundtracked by a subtle hum of disappointment, interspersed with the ecstatic moments when they perform or get an audition.

Chasing success is the new stable job. In the past, a dependable way to make a living was the prize. Now we’re told to follow our dreams whatever the cost. Society tells us we can do whatever we want, if we just try hard enough. Only, that’s not strictly true. I can’t help thinking ‘Keep on trucking’ might not be the motto to abide by when it comes to ‘making it.’ That pushing and pushing more often than not leads to further unfulfilment.

Maybe this is actually a grass is greener argument - ‘be happy with what you’ve got.’ And maybe I’m just a Grinchy, cynical, dream-crusher.

Maybe it is never the time to say, ‘Enough is enough, it ain’t gonna happen for me.’

Maybe it’s the giver-uppers to feel sorry for. Maybe the joke is on those who relinquish their dream before it even starts, whose down-to-earth jobs took the place of stargazing before they ever even gave it a shot.

Maybe the difference is being ok with your future being ‘maybe’.

Is this a non-issue because everybody gives up eventually plus we need dream-chasers to counteract dream-crushers like me? And, more importantly, were you ever in a band? I was. It may explain a lot.

Sally's ranting "I coulda been a contender" on Twitter @sallygriffith