What Happens When Music No Longer Defines Who You Are?

When did it happen? How did it happen? What happened? Let's start with that last one. Unless you are one of an elite few or have a prodigious amount of time to crawl through music-blocking sites, iTunes, podcasts and blogs, at some point in your adult life you look up and realize that music and your passion for it is no longer the dominating central force of your life and identity.

This is a very odd thing to realize if you've spent a decade or two relating to yourself, to those around you, and to the world in general primarily through some sort of musical avenue. Granted, there is a continuum of intensity to this kind of relation - it can range from buying lots of albums to attending hundreds of shows or playing in a band - but if you've been anywhere on that continuum then there's a good chance you've had a similar realization.

Standing on street corners late into the evening after shows deconstructing the set and dropping into a binary code of obscure band speak. Agonizing over the making of a mix tape (yes, as in cassette tapes) or CD to subtly communicate the crush you have on someone. Popping into every record store you see for two years in pursuit of the Devo Live Japanese import or the Dead Boys "Sonic Reducer" single only to be thwarted time and again. You know - music as way of life. Music as identity.

But eventually, things change. Jobs come and go, perhaps a career gets started. Endless late nights slowly become less appealing. Maybe you get married, even have some kids, and one day you wake up feeling a hell of a lot closer to bourgeois than you'd ever imagined you'd be.

After all, it's pretty hard to be an anarchist lawyer - well, at least not without a crapload of cognitive dissonance - or an ironic rocker girl with a newborn baby (well, unless you're Kim Gordon). And, let's be honest, no one wants to be that creepy 50-year-old dude at the underground show.

There are a lot of questions that come up on the morning of that realization and the days that follow. But if you're lucky, there's also a sub-realization that happens, which is the recognition that that fundamental passion for music is still there. It hasn't gone anywhere, and, really, how could it since it's such a part of you?

So then the ultimate question presents itself: How has this passion changed with your life, and how do you continue to satisfy, incorporate, indulge it in this new idiom of existence in which you find yourself?

Do you continue to expand your range, learning ever more about, jazz, classical, electronica? Do you ween your kids on The Clash? Do you haunt the few remaining community record stores? Is "Baba O'Reily" your ringtone?

We at Rocks Off would like to hear what you do to keep music in your life, and hope you check back next week as we begin to explore this conundrum.

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Sarah Webster