King Crimson founder Robert Fripp is known for his many aphorisms. One of my favorites is, “Life becomes easier once you make a decision.” I’ve always liked the definitive nature of this statement. Make a choice. Commit to it. Make it happen.
To that end, I’ve made a decision of my own:
In 18 months, I’m going to retire from my day job. Shortly afterward, I’m moving to Chicago.
I want a life in music. Specifically, writing about as many genres and bands as possible. The more obscure, the better. Not every artist I like (many of whom I find on Bandcamp) comes through St. Louis. EVERYONE goes through Chicago. As I’ve told people, it’s the difference between wanting to see three bands where I am over a couple of weeks, and having three bands I want to see in Chicago on Thursday.
Why am I telling you this? Well, a public declaration makes for a nice motivating poke in the ribs. At least it does for me. There’s just something about a deadline that gets me going. Besides, 25 years in law enforcement is enough for me. It’s time to move on to the next thing.
One of the reasons you’re reading these words is because I’m building a literary platform. I’m hoping this (along with my presence on social media) ultimately helps me obtain a literary agent, which will help me garner major publisher’s attention. I think my first book — released last year — will help as well. I have at least five more books in my head. A couple of them will be huge. I need the time to research and write them.
I say this knowing full and well that I’ll have to work part-time somewhere, just to take care of minor, day-to-day things. That’s cool. And if I do it right, most of my major needs will be paid for prior to my move. And I’ll have a small pension.
Eighteen months seems like a long time. But time has a way of flying on us, especially after a certain age. I need to get serious about doing what needs to be done, so I can be ready when the time comes. Which got me thinking about the laundry list of things lying before me.
I need a straight-forward approach to help me get from Point A to Point B. I started thinking of my goals in terms of steps. The average person takes between 2,000 and 2,500 steps to walk a mile. I decided to split the difference and call it 2,250. It’s 300 miles from my garage to the Chicago city limits. That’s 675,000 steps from here to there. Based on that logic, I want everything I do for the next 18 months to count as steps toward my goal.
It will be a challenge, but I don’t think it will be all that bad. Not everything counts as a single step. In fact, I have no definitive table on how many steps a task will add up to.
Getting healthier will count as several steps. It’s important I be in decent shape when I’m ready to move. Let’s face it: I’m a 52-year-old black man with high blood pressure and diabetes. I could definitely stand to take better care of myself. A better diet and more exercise will cover a lot of steps.
I’ll have to find that part-time gig and a new place to live. Lots of steps there. Making sure the retirement funds are where they need to be is crucial. So is making sure all my family matters are in order.
Music is essential, too.
I’m trying to get my writing in front of as many eyes as possible. I hope to get the attention of magazines and other publications that just might need a freelance writer based in Chicago (or St. Louis, for that matter). I don’t need them to pay me a ton. I just want to feel like the efforts are worth my time. The steps gained toward this goal are nearly incalculable. The more music I explore, the more I get to write about. One flows into the other, time and time again.
There’s a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it. But it’s best to handle one task at a time, one day at a time. Someone once told me an elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time. Fortunately, he was talking about dealing with a daunting task. I’ve never forgotten that lesson. And that’s what I’ll be doing from here out.
We all know what Lao Tzu said: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It’s time to get on the path and move, one step at a time.