My parents got me a guitar when I was a kid. I can’t remember a day since then when music had not been part of my life. It is the blood that runs through my veins. The energy that propels my very existence. Without music, I would surely die. When I got into this business, I did it for the passion. All I ever wanted to do was write songs and perform them for whoever would listen.
I used to play everywhere. My favorite location was in parks. I loved standing in the middle of the space and play. I didn’t need the tips, but I appreciated it.
That’s when I got discovered. Some record guy was out for a stroll and heard me. I had a meeting with the label within two weeks, and I was signed immediately. They told me I was going to be a star, and I wanted to be. Not for the money and fame, but to share my love with the world. That’s why I did it. So, I let them tell me what to do. I always had the rockstar look, so they didn’t change my appearance much. But the rockstar lifestyle was new…and attractive. Honestly, it was addicting. I was getting so many gigs, and the venues were always sold out. They loved me, and I loved them. I loved them too much.
My career began to be more about making them happy than doing what made me happy. So, yeah…I partied with them.
I banged a few of them.
My life was going in the wrong direction because of them. Far too often I’d stumble home at stupid hours of the morning, three sheets to the wind. Sometimes, I wouldn’t make it in the house. My good neighbor would find me and drag me to his house. He’d put me in the shower and get me to bed. Hours later, he’d give me eggs and coffee followed by a lecture about needing to make good choices.
He got me thinking though. I’m not the kind of person who makes poor choices. When I’m at home, I’m not Eliza Cross, the rockstar with the wicked guitar. I’m just Liz. I’m a terrible cook. I enjoy living alone. I play chess, and I’m really good at it.
My neighbor knows this. I think that’s why he cares so much. He knew me before I was taken by the drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll, as they say. I really appreciate him. I was temporarily taken off course, but I eventually found my way back.
He never told me to quit performing, but I remembered something my mother used to say to us all the time: if your left hand offends you, cut it off. It sounds like a harsh thing to say, but the meaning is powerful. It takes bravery to do it and simply means to get rid of the negative influences in your life, and be very specific and intentional about it. I was addicted to the glory. I lived to hear them screaming my name, and I did whatever it took to make sure they never stopped clamoring for me. But, it wasn’t getting me anywhere. My life was meaningless, and I had begun to feel empty inside. The passion had begun to fade. The music coursing through my veins was not enough to sustain me. That gave way to craving the glory and fame even more. How long could I keep it up? Will they remember me when I’m gone? Am I so awesome that I made a mark on the world? Those questions bothered me–a lot.
I took a break. Not a long one that made the media chatter but long enough to think about things and make some decisions. I really needed it too. I hadn’t realized what doing 10 shows per week had done to my body and my mind. I went back to the stage and finished out my contract. Reviews said my last shows were the most passionate shows I ever did. I was glad to hear it. Means I didn’t lose what originally got me into the mess. The label was not happy about me not renewing and said I was making a mistake. They said, if I walked, they might not take me back. Scare tactics. At least they showed me what they were all about, eh? Note to self: never sign with them again! I walked out of there with my head held high onto a new adventure. I, Eliza Cross, was going to make my mark on the world.
My neighbor said something one that got me thinking. He has no idea what he did for me, but I’ll tell him soon.
I decided to take all my loves and put them into one entity that would only yield positive results. I got permission to rent and renovate some unused space on top of the café down the street. I started Cross Music School!
I have to admit to being afraid, mostly about what people would say about me leaving the stage. I mean, I haven’t completely left; I still do small gigs on the side. I could never stop performing. I just don’t need the lights, camera, action to tell me who I am. I’m Liz, and I love music and people, and I want to instill that love in them. I want to be inspiring–not idolized.
I put up fliers around town. My neighbor told me it was a terrible idea. He thought people would join just to see me, but I told him to have faith. I was right. On the first day, I had just a handful of students, and I only prepared for a handful. It was perfect. Some of them knew who I was while others were mildly acquainted. No fanboys. I started with a simple tune I wanted to teach them. Something my mother used to sing to me.
Of course my neighbor couldn’t miss my first day. I even got him to try to play. He was terrible, but I’m glad he tried it.
It was the best I had felt in a long time. I loved thinking about how if I decide to pursue something else, or even when I die, the influence I have will out-live me! Maybe someone will excel in their craft and become a famous musician. Maybe one day I’d mentor the next Eliza Cross. Whatever this next chapter has in store for me, I’m ready for it.
I could feel the pride in my neighbor’s heart welling up as I was encouraging my students. One day, I’ll properly thank him for everything he did–and apologize for being so high maintenance. He’s such a good man. I hope his girlfriend appreciates him.