The Highway Man

Written by Michael
December 2017

During my laborious, and sometimes grueling transformation from full-time Americano to expat, I have fielded many questions from curious onlookers: “Where will you be living?” “What will you be doing?” “How long are you staying?” My responses to these questions have usually been met with genuine curiosity and support, although, on rare occasions, incredulity. However, one question in particular had me digging in the deeper layers of my psyche long after conversations of moving abroad had ended: WHY? WHY are you moving to Spain? A simple, one-word question that requires, for me, a not so simple answer.

Giving the common, almost cliché answers to this question such as “I love new adventures” or “I want to gain new experiences and skills” are true to a degree, but barely scratches the surface as to why I decided to make such a drastic change. Perhaps a better question would be to ask why do I seem to be adamant about never putting down roots for too long? To clarify, the decision to move to Spain to be an auxiliary was not a solo act by any means but was a joint effort to engage a life “reset.” With that being said, I have never felt comfortable about staying put for very long. Whether it’s a vacation, party, or just a quick trip to the store, I get antsy and at times, a little annoyed at any lack of momentum, and I am not really sure why. Impatience? Annoyance? Nature? Nurture? Who knows? But regardless of this odd mystery, movement always feels like the right thing to do!

For those who are lucky enough, permanently leaving one’s hometown and family is a very easy feat to accomplish. Initially I had big dreams of being a famous drummer (a concept that I now have no vested interest in), but was completely clueless of the difficulty in that proverbial doozy of a first step: getting out.

Early On
It’s not surprising that I ended up living a life all over the map. Whether it has been by choice or circumstance, I have been, for the most part, always on the go. My childhood was a traveling caravan that saw us living in various parts of the midwest: Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, and then back to Ohio where I lived up until my early 20’s. During this time I became very restless and dissatisfied with everything around me, and though I had no children or family to support, it was the most constricted I had ever felt in my life. I decided that I needed to make some drastic life changes, starting with figuring out how I was going to get out of my hometown. Even before this first-world crisis began, I had always felt the need to just go. Go where? Never any intended target, but the thought of coming home as opposed to staying at home for long periods of time was more appealing.

Home: A place that was uncomfortably comfortable, but a place that I knew I didn’t really belong.

From Rock ‘N’ Roll Hero to Rock ‘N’ Roll Zero
My maiden flight from the coop started in 1994, with me moving to California to attend Musicians Institute of Technology. I was initially stoked to be out on my own and, as most musicians, had dreams of making it big while in California! However, I spent the next two years incredibly home sick, introverted, confining myself to a practice room for 8 to 10 hours a day, and completely uninterested in Southern Cali. I finally tired of the horrible traffic (I had to commute from Riverside to Hollywood everyday), and my waning focus, and decided to tuck my tail in between my legs and move back to Ohio. The high of being back home dissipated quickly, and I was right back in the funk! Back into the funk and feeling like a complete failure that I had returned home because of something ridiculous as home sickness and in denial that I was scared to death to leave home again.

A year before my failed conquest in California. circa 1993

For some un-earthly reason, there was no quick fix for me and other than making some great music with my bro, Marty, I lived the next four years in the most depressed, non-focused, cess pool of dysfunction one could imagine. I was clearly miserable but complacency was my morphine; as long as I didn’t have to deal with the “G” word (go), I was content with a zombified existence. I had clearly thrown in the towel, and was unable to figure out my malfunction.

By some miracle, I pulled myself from my pit of self-loathing and despair and moved to Boston in September of 2000 to attend college. I was hell-bent on “curing” my annoying ailment of fear-based laziness and procrastination because I knew that ultimately my future was predicated on it. Deep down, I knew that movement was the cure. Looking back, I believe that it was fear working in reverse this time; fear of losing infinite music opportunities to learn and grow (music saves the day again!), and fear of knowing that the next time I moved back home, or if I had stayed in Ohio, that would more than likely be my swan song. But the most sobering realization for me, and it still is to this day: the realization that I am in complete control (Yeah, I know this sounds a bit ridiculous, we all want to be in control right? But do we, want 100% control, 100% of the time? Probably a better subject to be addressed over pints.) In fact, regardless of most exterior influences, I have been given carte blanche to design my life. I am the architect and demolisher. I have full control of the yoke but the autopilot switch is always within reach. 

The Sludge of Neutrality
Fear is a great motivator to do NOTHING. Complacency for the sake of fear, is even worse. Complacency, or neutrality, is like that obnoxious buzz kill that somehow always shows up to every party; even when it’s not present, you know it will eventually show up. It’s not so demonstrative that it requires an immediate escort to the door, it just hovers, slowly grates on you, and eventually lulls you into acceptance. If you’re lucky you eventually get to a point of clarity and separation where you ask yourself: “How in the hell did I ever get used to THIS?” Now don’t get me wrong, neutrality has its uses, like staying out of a heated argument between two knife-wielding, meth-heads, and I get the allure of compliancy. It’s comfortable to sit back and watch, there’s relatively little work required.

 Of course there have been times in the past that I have questioned my overt restlessness and wondered if I was making the wrong decisions, even though they felt right. I have always lived paycheck to paycheck, have very little savings, and to be totally honest, find absolutely no value in living a life of neutrality for the sake of security. Domestication is not my jam, though I thought when I was younger that maybe it was. I spent many years disconnecting from my societal conditioning, while fighting the aversion to something I thought I wanted. Now this is by no means a judgement on anyone else’s life choices. I just really don’t care and have no interest in obsessing over a career or what some call the The American Dream.     

Life hangs in a precarious balance. Those that have experienced a major life trauma know this all too well. In the past couple of years, I have realized that I may have crossed the rubicon of more years lived than years left, and as we all know, the older you get, the more that time seems to accelerate. I have never once regretted my nomadic life style (five states and two countries in the last twenty years) and never will. It has given me a fulfillment that a white-picket fence in suburbia could never match. All because I decided to keep on moving. Like the purge of my material possessions before this move, I remember and look back fondly on the experiences I have gained and not what I “lost” to get here.

I leave you with the words of the great Roger Waters:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day

You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.

Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town

Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

One comment

  1. Let it be known, that even though at times your brotherhood is severely missed, I support your dreams! Your explanation clearly defines any questions “why”. I struggle with my personal thoughts of, “do I envy, or am I inspired?”. I think it is both. When my responsibilities end that keep me anchored, I too already know that my flesh will move on from these boundaries of home town. For I do not fit the protocol of complacency but have only conceded till the proper timing.


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