The Year Ahead

Most writers have likely given you their lists of accomplishments and goals from the year past, as well as their thoughts and desires on the new one in which we find ourselves. However, as you’ll soon find out, I rarely operate on the expected schedule often determined to be the best path in life.

I spent a fair portion of 2015 in front of this computer, talking, writing, and exploring the vast world of music and culture. The opportunities afforded to me in the past year went beyond the expectations I have given myself. I was fortunate enough to connect with a varied list of talented and interesting people; struggling musicians and their popular national counterparts, proprietors of venues and cultural centers, and makers of all things food, art, and life-affirming. I have been able to spend significant portions of my time awash in the parts of life I love the most. To quote South Bend musician Dena Woods, in 2015 I found “that which is soul-filling.”

My path was not always one that pointed obviously toward professionally delving into my interests. I look back to my years following high school, when friends and peers moved on and away to pursue dreams and create careers. I stayed behind in rural Michigan, unsure which road to travel, unsure how my personal interests translated into the future set before me. I toiled in jobs of every variety, from factory work to tending bar, from retail to janitorial, from nearly every role available in an eatery to each task one can accomplish out of a toolbox. As I saw my friends creating their lives, I concerned myself with how I would appear when reunited with them. I worried often that I’d missed an important page in life’s instruction manual.

Nothing feels more natural to me than writing. It is a task I have occupied myself with as long as I can recall, one that satisfied my boredom and carried me across the struggles of life. While I worked to figure out where my life should lead, I turned to the emerging world of blogging or, as we referred to it then, “writing”. I made friends and gained community here and across the globe. I found like-minds and encouragement that instilled confidence and led me to exploration and adventure. I found my way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and into the highlands of Scotland. I picked up a camera and started making movies. I grabbed a pencil and started creating stories. I convinced musicians and artists to sit and talk with me. I continued my writing and found an audience willing to read it.

We have a motto at Anywhere The Needle Drops: “life is an adventure, life is a story.” The spirit of that motto is that there is no correct or safe path in life. Certainly, more secure paths exist and there are people who can tell you about them. I am not one of them, though I do advise you listen to their counsel. I also advise you to then bend those rules and, occasionally, even break a few.

As you look into the future, into the new year, or simply into next week, remember that it’s important to pursue that which speaks most to you. Remember that the adventure of life is a short one that ends in the same place for everyone. Remember that, as Shepherd Book once told the audience of Firefly, “the journey is the worthier part.” Remember that, if you find yourself uncomfortable, you are probably doing something right. It will not be easy, but anything worth doing rarely is. It will not be the sure and secure path in life, but to quote Julia Cameron “safety is an expensive illusion.”

In 2016 and any year that follows, pursue that which speaks most to you. If a guy in rural Michigan who loves music and movies can find a way to speak to his favorite artists, write and talk about the culture he loves, and have an audience that reads and listens to him, then that is proof enough that you can achieve what you set out to do.

These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.

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