Guyside: How old = not giving a crap anymore?

Posted by on Apr 30, 2014 in anxiety, Guyside, Inspiration, men, musings | 4 comments

Portrait of an artist not giving a crap

Portrait of an artist not giving a crap

When I was a kid, I was a shy kid. Not shy enough to be tortured by loneliness. But a bit shy in specific contexts. I was fine playing saxophone in a concert band or in a marching band. I was cool with speaking in public or being part of the debating society. I would speak up in class, even crack a joke from time to time.

But there were things that just hit all my buttons. I first took guitar lessons when I was about 11. But other than an awkward and brief performance to get my one and only Cub Scout badge (before I quit for unrelated reasons), I went through YEARS where I only played in my room. And I NEVER sang.

That years was actually decades. And then, things changed. Why? Well… the summer I turned 40 I got diagnosed with bladder cancer. That was not a good summer. And one of the things that I decided to do to follow my heart a little more, to stop putting off ’til someday, was to start hosting house concerts. Those are gatherings in which you invite a professional musician to perform a show in your house, then invite friends, neighbours and colleagues to come and pay the performer for his or her or their work.

Once we decided to do that, we set a date in February, my partner’s birth month. And then I decided to open the show with a couple of songs. Which I had never done before. Not an open-mike night, not a house party, not a campfire.

It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. I stood in front of my partner, some of her and our friends, her colleagues, with a guitar and an amp and a microphone in front of my mouth and tried to get through two songs. It was petrifying.

I still struggle with stage fright. But I’ve done a fair amount of playing in front of other people since then. A few years after that, we were on our way to a friend’s cottage for a long weekend. “Bring a guitar,” he said. “We’ve never had a guitar at our cottage!”

One afternoon that weekend, I found myself on the dock, sitting in a Muskoka chair, noodling around and singing, my eyes closed against the sun’s rays. When I stopped and looked around, our host’s two teenage daughters and their friends were clustered around me. I then realized why smarter teenage boys than me played guitar in PUBLIC, and not in their rooms.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, for the last few weeks, I’ve been raising money for a two-day cycle trip that raises money for cancer research. As part of my fundraiser, I’ve been thanking people who donate more than $100 by finding a song with their name in it, learning it, and recording a Youtube video of it for them on ukulele. That’s led to a story in the local paper, and now to me being asked to do a 15-minute set at a local club as part of another fundraising concert. At a club that calls itself legendary. Yerk.

I still get stage butterflies, and probably always will. But I mostly don’t give a crap. I acknowledge the feelings of anxiety and the fear that I’m going to screw up onstage so badly that I’ll make an ass of myself as simply that — feelings and fears. And it’s happened, for sure. I just give much less of a crap about that possibility.

I have had some help learning those lessons, because the fear of screwing up catastrophically has run through other aspects of my life and led to some bad mistakes. But part of it has just been getting older and realizing that in a lot of cases… it doesn’t matter if you screw up. If I get the chord changes wrong or forget a line at Acoustics for Cancer Awareness, is someone going to ask for their money back? Will they think I’m a horrible person? Probably not. And if they do, imagine what a jerk that makes them!

And the greatest irony of giving less of a crap? Usually, the performance is better. I don’t mean to say we should not strive for excellence, or that we shouldn’t care about performance. But sometimes you just gotta do it and — at least beforehand — stop caring about the end result. Since we’re all getting a bit older, why don’t you join me in giving a crap about fewer and fewer things? It’ll do you good.


  1. 4-30-2014

    Brilliantly said. And the photo title is priceless. Thank you, Bob.

  2. 4-30-2014

    Fantastic post Bob! I really enjoy how honest and candid you are. The kicker for me is this line right here- ” And if they do, imagine what a jerk that makes them!” I have some similar feelings- most people do not consider me shy- I’ve no worries speaking up or sticking out, but rarely do I feel comfortable in groups the way others seem to. A chronic outsider, I’ve grown accustomed to people passing judgements on me. And your line above is what I have learned- judgment often, heck, usually says more about the judge than the person being judged. Makes me feel poorly for them, that they are not confident enough in themselves that they must attack others. Sad. I’m so glad this realization has liberated you! Kick ass at the show!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *