Recommended Reading Soundtrack: Another Bun in the Oven by Gavin Conner on Dang Birds featuring “Ah-oohs” by Henson Conner
Ignoring Your Heart’s Aspirations Is Not an Option
Some of the most painful, laughable and beautiful lessons I’ve endured in my life had to do with lying. It wasn’t about lying to other people. It had to do with lying to myself. Coming to that realization and choosing accountability for your role in all your relationships is a big part of getting to know yourself.
It’s like when I’m running on a Saturday morning and I’m suddenly smoked by the last winner of the Boston Marathon. I don’t sit there and lie to myself that in my dreams I could ever perform like that kind of elite athlete; but for some reason when it comes to jobs or life partners, it is not so obvious.
Acknowledging our ability to creatively alter the truth around life’s choices is what “owning your uncool” is all about. Asheville based musician and teacher, Gavin Conner, is one of those fellow humans that truly embodies the spirit of owning this truth and following through with your heart’s passion. This is why I am thrilled to feature him and his personal experience in February’s “Owning Your Uncool” blog post.
Gavin Conner, Musician, Teacher & Muppet Enthusiast Extraordinaire!
When I think of Gavin Conner, I think of that scene in Moulin Rouge when Ewan McGregor looks to the camera with the cheesiest grin he can possibly muster and shouts, “Love is like oxygen!” Not that Gavin is cheesy (well maybe he can be a little, but this is what makes him so awesome!).
Whatever our creative endeavors may be, music for Gavin is like “the force” in Star Wars. And just like “the force,” you can’t ignore what your heart wants, especially if it causes an internal awakening and simultaneous war with the dark side. Think “South Park”, Robert Smith of the Cure, and Barbara Streisand’s downfall.
I’ve known Gavin since high school. He and his closest family members have all been teachers to me on a grand scale and I don’t know who I would be without them, seriously. Between non-stop debating on the music industry and teaching me what it means to live life every day to the fullest with unconditional love, I have found myself eternally grateful for their gifts and enduring legacy of the heart. I hope Gavin’s personal story gives you the same inspiration around honoring your gifts and standing by them.
The Question Can you tell my readers about a time in your life where you felt that same “uncool” and isolation inside as the character in Almost Famous, and how you used that moment to propel yourself forward in your life?
The Answer In 2009, I finally got my crack at a full time teaching position at a middle school in North Carolina. It had been about eight years in the making. I started out sporadically substitute teaching in Virginia and convinced myself this was a worthy career, something I could really get into. A few years later with post graduate studies and student teaching under my belt, I relocated, readjusted credentials and finally got my foot in the door! It started out great, but as the year progressed it dawned on me that I was merely a pawn in the hell that is Middle School life!
It became exactly what I remembered from my own youth. Sadly it wasn’t the ruthless and mostly ungrateful students that would break me, it was the administration. As I ‘’toughed” it out they offered no support, and when I asked for support they gave stall tactics. What was even more disturbing? I got a peek behind the curtain of the public education system and it wasn’t pretty. Standardized tests were the bottom line and everything else was filler. Of course, I know not all public schools are as warped as this and even within my school, 98% of the staff were amazing but one Principal, (reminiscent of Mr. Rooney in Ferris Buller) was enough for me to see that this was not what I had been working so hard to be a part of.
Doing the Right Thing
So needless to say, after a full year of not only being told I was very uncool by the students but feeling very uncool in my soul (thanks to Mr. Rooney) I felt pretty devastated. Here I was trying to do a noble job, the right thing! And no one was helping me embrace it. I am a songwriter at heart, but am rational enough to know there needs to be a stable, “real job” to balance the artistic dream. So the best way I could own my uncool was: end the school year, pull the plug, lick my wounds and dive into a new album. I’ve been making albums since 1996. Starting in 2000, I’ve continued to make (at least one) album every year. This year’s album will mark the 15th straight year of making consecutive albums. Granted most of these albums are fairly simple home recordings and nothing terribly flashy, but still a glimpse into what I was experiencing for that year…for better or worse.
2010’s release was “Who Dares Awaken Me From My Slumber?” a very loose END OF EDUCATION concept album. I took the disappointment and began to channel it. On some tracks, such as the closing number, “The Scapegoat” I address Mr. Rooney and try to tell my side of the situation. “1989” I compare my own memory of middle school to the current relapse of misery, and the title track “…Slumber” I embrace the decision to move on and more or less thank the students and Mr. Rooney for letting me realize this was NOT what I wanted to do with rest of my life.
Owning Your Uncool to the Tune of Cool
Like most horrible decisions we have to make in life, the silver lining is often- where does the misery leads us? When we finally are able to heal and look back, we realize that the moments when we feel we’ve truly hit rock bottom, are also the beginnings of a new era, a flip of the reset switch. Although my “career” choices have continued to be a bit dodgy over the years, I will always have my albums! My art! My only true currency in a bankrupt world. So I share them and expect nothing in return, taking solace in knowing they will always be there for me to create, especially when I am at my most uncool.
Check out Gavin’s newest album, Dang Birds. Let’s Rock Big Love!