Surviving vs. Thriving

“Jesus. I feel busier now then ever before.” Was all I could think the tell my counselor of six years.

She chuckled “You sound better though. At least better then you have within the past couple of months.”

“I do feel a lot better!” I agreed “Well, half the time I feel better.”

“What do you mean?” She asked

“Half of my time, I agree with you, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Like I’m really, finally, coming into my own as not only as a writer but as a person.”

“The other half?”

“Two words: Sheer. Panic.”

A little over two weeks ago I left my secure full-time job as an apprentice to a violin technician for a major music company.

For the past two years, I’ve been learning the ins-and-outs of the repair technician industry. Specifically fixing stringed instruments. Think violins, cellos, violas (essentially the fatter, uglier, yet more talented sister to the violin) giant string basses, and guitars.

This purposefully non-specified music company wanted to train me to be the replacement to my aging mentor who was planning to retire in the next five to ten years.

Thing was, I got the job by…lets call it, “exaggerating” my abilities as a repair technician. Basically, before the job, I had never owned let alone used any tools larger than a screwdriver.

A violin tech uses all kinds of crazy stuff to bring instruments back to life. Weird smelling glues and hand plains that get so small that they make one specifically sized to fit an index finger. Not to mention the craziest assortment of clamps that any sex dungeon would kill to have.

Clamps for days!

So it’s fair to say I was a little out of my depth.

I’ll be the first to say I don’t have much in the way of marketable skills. But two things I can do: I’m a fast learner, and I can talk to people.

Before my apprenticeship, I was a salesman for a music store. A natural fit for someone who can talk to people right? Not for this huckster.

I can talk to people sure, doesn’t mean I’m willing to sell my soul to the devil by convincing a kid’s parent to buy a shitty acoustic guitar.

A guitar that is more or less guaranteed to break in a week or your money back. (Sorry sales people out there. You do good work. Most of you at least.)

I wanted out. I heard about becoming a technician for the company instead of working in sales. I saw a way out.

I got the district’s head of repairs number and started spamming away. I was relentless. Emails, texts, voice-mails, all communicating, not how I needed the job, but that they are doing themselves a disservice by not having me hired already!

Now, I want to be clear here. I was not lying. I could sort of repair stuff after a while. All while giving telemarketers a run for their money harassing this man, I was teaching myself how to fix guitars. I was talking to actual technicians, reading books and experimenting on my own axes.

After about six months I broke the distract manager down, and he took me on to meet the crew. See if I could do what I claimed.

I was nervous, I did know how to do some of the basics by this point on guitars. The problem was, they wanted me to prove myself by setting up a violin.

I had no idea. I hardly ever even touched a violin let alone set it up for someone to play, and there was no time for me to learn. So I decided to play to my strengths.

The shop I was hoping to work in belonged in the middle of nowhere it a tiny little town between cities that actually mattered. So I thought about the people that would be hiring me.

Come interview day you better believe I was wearing blue jeans, flannel shirt, worn boots, and my southern accent made a miraculous return after many years.

During the course of the interview, I never even touched the violin. We got to talking. Traded farm stories. Liked me so much, I was hired.

Of course, after the first week, my mentor figured out I knew nothing. They weren’t thrilled about that little factoid, but if they let me go after just hiring me, the higher-ups would think they were the dumb ones. So, they taught me.

I learned quickly and proved my worth. I was never the best tech in the world, but I did a passable job. I did genuinely try during my time there. I worked long hours and the occasional weekend. Was even once asked to work down at the Texas branch to help them catch up on repairs.

I didn’t love the job, but it was working. I was surviving, and that’s all I ever did. Survive.

I didn’t have much in the way of family to catch me if I fell. Both parents were abusive and useless. Stepfamily was even worse.

Only people I ever had were my grandparents and my two brothers. We grew up poor, sometimes without. But we lived. We were survivors.

But I couldn’t merely survive anymore. I was an artist at heart, and I loved writing and storytelling in particular. My soul craved more than just settling for what was a predictable paycheck.

For me to continue, I couldn’t just survive anymore. I needed to thrive.

Surviving is living every day in fear. Doing everything in your power just to make sure you have food at the end of the day and a roof to sleep under. If you weren’t scared about what the end of the day held for you, you still thought about what may happen the next day. Or the day after that.

When you live your life to merely survive, you feel like you are being consumed by an all-consuming fear monster.

Thriving is something more. Thriving is making a life worth living for. When you’ve had enough of being a victim of your particular circumstance, and you take life back.

Thriving is when you don’t have crippling anxiety or dread on Sunday night about the following Monday morning. Frustrated with the job you hate and know that you’re better than.

When you thrive, you live your truth.

It’s when you actually believe the saying that ‘every day is a gift.’ For me, that was being the storyteller I was always meant to be.

When you are merely surviving, you’re a corpse waiting to pass from this world.

Only when you thrive are you ever actually alive.

Thriving is scary though. There is rarely certainty when you commit to thriving. It takes risk. It takes work. And most days you need to be prepared to join the congregation of hope because it will take a lot of faith in hope to believe you will pull this thing off.

But you will and I will.

That, dear reader, is where you find me now. And where I was at a few days ago with my long time counselor.

-“I do feel a lot better!” I agreed with her “Well, half the time I feel better.”

“What do you mean?” my counselor asked

“Half of my time, I agree with you, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Like I’m really, finally, coming into my own as not only as a writer but as a person.”

“The other half?”

“Two words: Sheer. Panic.” I paused and chuckled “But you know what, I feel like I’ve finally given myself permission to thrive. And for the first time in a long time, I feel alive.”

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