One of the biggest surprises of my life wasÂ growing upÂ and discovering that life was very different than I expected it to be. I didn’t become a professional athlete or find a job that I loved.
Fact is that out of college I went through a bunch of jobs before I started to figure out what it was that I wanted to do with my life. Hell, it probably took until I was around forty or so before I really started to get it figured out and even then it wasn’t completely clear to me how or what I needed to be doing.
One night a few years ago I was listening to a conversation Bruce Springsteen had with the audience right before he started singing The River and something clicked for me.
It wasn’t the first time I had heard that cut or listened to the album. Â It easily could have been the hundredth time I heard it, but it was the first time I recognized that I thought of the “speech” he gave as a conversation and it made me think.
Because the reality was that a conversation usually involves more than one party speaking and that didn’t happen there, it was just one person.
But that is not how I responded nor is it how lots of people responded. It is one of those gifts certain people and performers have. They can stand in front of a room and hold the entire place captive.
And that night I started thinking about how I hadn’t really thought of myself as the kind of writer who could make money from telling stories. I hadn’t thought seriously about how maybe I could do that too.
I thought about my favorite books and about how sometimes it felt like I knew the characters or wanted to know them.
And I wondered how Bruce did it and if there was anything that I could take/learn from him. But mostly I thought about working on my writing skills so that one day I could hold a room captive the same way he did.
Not because my ego needs to be stroked in that manner but because I figured if I could do that I could profoundly change my life in a way that I think would be quite fulfilling.
Sometimes Music Is Life Changing
I want to tell you about how I did it and how that night led to the publication of my best selling novel and that I made so much money from it I was able to do everything I dreamed of, but I can’t…yet.
The only thing stopping me from saying it is doing it and that is my challenge to over come.
But the point isn’t whether I have or haven’t done it. The point is the opportunity is there and it is up to me to go for it.
You never know what kinds of surprises, challenges and gifts life will throw at you, but you do have some say in how you respond.
You’ll find a copy of the conversation I referred to and a link to a video just below this sentence.
Hiya doinâ€™ out there tonight? Thatâ€™s good, thatâ€™s good.
This is ahâ€¦ When I was growing up, me and my dad used to go at it all the time over almost anything. But, ah, I used to have really long hair, way down past my shoulders. I was 17 or 18, oh man, he used to hate it.
And we got to where weâ€™d fight so much that Iâ€™d, that Iâ€™d spent a lot of time out of the house; and in the summertime it wasnâ€™t so bad, â€˜cause it was warm, and my friends were out, but in the winter, I remember standing downtown where itâ€™d get so cold and, when the wind would blow, I had this phone booth I used to stand in.
And I used to call my girl, like, for hours at a time, just talking to her all night long. And finally Iâ€™d get my nerve up to go home. Iâ€™d stand there in the driveway and heâ€™d be waiting for me in the kitchen and Iâ€™d tuck my hair down on my collar and Iâ€™d walk in and heâ€™d call me back to sit down with him. And the first thing heâ€™d always ask me was what did I think I was doing with myself. And the worst part of it was that I could never explain to him.
I remember I got in a motorcycle accident once and I was laid up in bed and he had a barber come in and cut my hair and, man, I can remember telling him that I hated him and that I would never ever forget it.
And he used to tell me: â€œMan, I canâ€™t wait till the army gets you. When the army gets you theyâ€™re gonna make a man out of you. Theyâ€™re gonna cut all that hair off and theyâ€™ll make a man out of you.â€
And this was, I guess, â€™68 when there was a lot of guys from the neighborhood going to Vietnam.
I remember the drummer in my first band coming over to my house with his marine uniform on, saying that he was going and that he didnâ€™t know where it was.
And a lot of guys went, and a lot of guys didnâ€™t come back. And a lot that came back werenâ€™t the same anymore.
I remember the day I got my draft notice. I hid it from my folks and three days before my physical me and my friends went out and we stayed up all night and we got on the bus to go that morning and man we were all so scaredâ€¦
And I went, and I failed. I came home [audience cheers], itâ€™s nothing to applaud aboutâ€¦
I remember coming home after Iâ€™d been gone for three days and walking in the kitchen and my mother and father were sitting there and my dad said: â€œWhere you been?â€ and I said, uh, â€œI went to take my physical.â€ He said â€œWhat happened?â€ I said â€œThey didnâ€™t take me.â€
And he said: â€œThatâ€™s good.â€
A transcription of Bruce Springsteenâ€™s conversation with the audience on the live version of The River on the Live 1975-1985 box set.Â My thanks to Cathal Garvey for his unknowing help with this.