Someday can be today
Monday night was a good old fashioned Leuven night: sitting on Oude Markt on a hot (not just warm) summer night with a bunch of friends, hopping between different patios (all the tables and chairs are so close together, it's pretty hard to tell where one cafe's territory ends and another begins). Martin was visiting Leuven, a bunch of uni friends were out & about, and two people I know were performing. This one cafe, Apero, has a singer/songwriter night every Monday. Two people who write their own material and perform on their own get about an hour each to show the world what they are capable of. No cover, no demos for sale, no big heads. Just a guy with a guitar (in this particular case, a guy who bartends at Stuk) or a girl behind a keyboard (on this particular night, a girl I went to high school with) singing about lost love, memorable moments and waking up to find that you've turned into a person you never wanted to be.
There was a great sense of potential about the entire night - hanging out with 20 somethings will do that to you. We've all done our duty: got that high school degree, got that bachelor degree, went through a break-up or two, did some random jobs. And now it's time to take some steps out of personal inspiration. Like the guy who's studying to be a theatre director. Or the girl who's in film school and loving it. The various people trying to take their music up to a higher level, playing gigs, recording demos, networking, improving their skills. The girl who's going to Sweden for a couple of years to do a masters in jewelry design (she's designing a ring for me as we speak and it's going to be just perfect) - right after she's shown some of her stuff at a local gallery (the opening is tonight and you can bet I'll be there). The girl who's interning in Hong Kong for another few weeks and is then returning to LA to finish her Master's. My friend who's already working two jobs, and the one who gets to do a PhD, but also the many friends who are applying and emailing and calling and begging for that first paid stint. It's not about how far you go geographically, how artistic your ambitions are, or how much money is involved (though that is bound to up the "ooooh" factor, an "ooooh" that covers both sincere admiration and sour envy). But about accepting that even if you can't always call the shots in life, you can sure as hell set the tone. Between the trial and error, the lucky breaks and the dark moments of frustration, we're all taking steps forward - in varying degrees of decisiveness (not everyone's proudly marching). Chances are a lot of us are going to fall flat on our faces, and a few of us are going to do absurdly well (and not necessarily the people voted "most likely to" either). But we're all doing something, alone or with a partner, in our hometowns or on the other side of the planet. We're hungry to find a place, a space in which to put our needs and aspirations, to make an outline for our biographies.
Five years from now, several of us might still be found on Oude Markt on hot summer nights, drinking a Palm, watching a live gig. I wonder what kind of position we'll be in, professionally, and personally. If we'll remember what we planned on doing and becoming back when we had just graduated and if the doors we knocked on ever opened. To what extent we will have scaled down our expectations, if we will have chosen security over risk, comfort over uncertainty, familiarity over the unknown. What we will have lost, gained and held on to. Regardless of the outcome, it's going to be a fascinating journey.