When I was growing up, there were a few kids my age that I went to school with from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation. I went to a small school; my graduating class in high school was only 50 students. Probably at least a quarter of those kids were friends and acquaintances I’d had for 10+ years. Even so, I haven’t maintained any of those relationships since graduation. I still run into people on occasion, but that isn’t a relationship. I don’t know their lives, their families, none of that. They’re mostly ghosts.
I’ve reached a point now where the people I know around Missoula — some merely acquaintances, some a little more than that, and others genuine friends — are some of the longest running relationships I’ve ever had (outside of family, a couple marriages, and one obnoxious mutant offspring). These are mostly artistic relationships, people I started playing shows with back when I first started playing live around Missoula again in the late 90s. Hell, Jimmy, the guy who plays guitar in my band, and I have been rocking together essentially non-stop since 2000. I’ve seen his family grow up . . . hell, I’ve seen HIM grow up. Other music friends have married and started families as well. Most of them have, in fact. And I see them fairly often around town, at various functions we all seem to gather that, or via social media.
I’m grateful for what all this has brought to my life. Maybe what I’m grateful for is how playing music has enriched me. No, I never got rich, never got to do a lot of the things I hoped to (but I ain’t done yet!), and hardly anyone will ever hear the music we make. But it’s filled my life with people and experiences. I’ve met people I feel like I will know and be friends with forever, and continue to do so regularly. When ghosts from the past rise up and seem shocked that I still play, this is the reason I will give them for why I do.
I’m equally grateful that writing, which has eclipsed music as my primary creative outlet, appears to be doing much the same. Friends at home, and friends scattered all around the country that I can visit on my travels. Who can really ask for more from a practice of any kind?