Catching Up in Portland

Life doesn’t seem to care how old you are – it throws twists, turns, challenges, and joys whether you are 25, 45, or 65.

While in Portland, I had the pleasure of speaking with a good friend of mine who toured with a band for fifteen or twenty years, stopped for a bit to raise a family, and is now a book buyer at Powell’s in Beaverton. Greg has lived in a music-filled world his whole live, moving years ago from California to a small town in Oregon to focus on family and get into songwriting, then relocating to Portland when his kids outgrew their parents’ home and he could pursue his guitar craft in a new way. Embarking on an educational journey, Greg dove into higher education a few years ago, aiming at a music degree, while honing his guitar playing with dreams of another small ensemble to be created at some point. I got to have an incredible conversation with Greg about life and its unexpected turns and surprises.

Greg and I talked a lot about Nashville, how my experience has been, and how much I miss Portland. He has been to Nashville multiple times on tour in the years with his band, and knows of the immense country scene (which I try to ignore as much as possible) and the calibre of players in the city. The thing that struck me most were his thoughts on enjoying life, and choosing not to strive in vain. There is a difference between selfishly focused striving, which brings little long-term fulfillment, and striving toward a goal without losing sight of those around you. The community I’ve found myself in is incredibly unique, unlike any I’ve experienced. My reliability on this community gleans both challenges and solutions. It’s an incredible feeling to belong to a group of people that is diverse and unbreakable. Having friends you can go to at any time with any need or celebration is a security that is very rare. That security piece also creates a comfort that sometimes keeps me from working as hard as I should. I am comfortable and satisfied in the context of this community, so the need for something more wanes, and it becomes even more paramount to stay focused on what I want to accomplish in life, which is where the striving comes in.

Greg also spoke about his goal reorientation. The last five years or so, he’s focused on becoming the best guitar player he can be, in hopes to find a few others with those chops under their belts and create an ensemble with them. In his progress towards this goal, Greg has discovered that he won’t reach the level he’s aiming at for a long time, which, at his age, he’s deemed is a potentially unworthy use of his time. In our discussion, Greg uncovered a somewhat recent realization, which is a return to what comes naturally for him: songwriting. He worked very diligently at the singer/songwriter route while raising his kids, without much return. Despite his goals ultimately being unmet, songwriting fulfilled him and was an outlet that made sense and came innately. It reminded me how important it is to utilize the strengths we have and try to stay centered around what we do best. When we reach outside of what we’re built to do, it aids us in improving character, but drains us and leaves us wanting. Balance is key.

“Are you enjoying it down there?” Greg ultimately asked me. And isn’t that the important thing? 

Life is challenging now, working full-time at my day job, writing at night, emailing, networking, developing my website on my days off…it’s a grind. But the striving is worth the moments of joy, the small successes, and the progress toward my musical goals. Greg also understands the balance of enjoying life and taking time to acknowledge the blessings we have, while trying to answer that other side of the brain that asks, “Is there more to life? What do I do with these feelings, thoughts, and creativity?” Life is good, and it’s a huge blessing to learn from someone who has experienced more life than I have, but is still wrestling with the essential questions of life. I guess we are all doing the same in one way or another.

1️⃣📷 Salt & Straw // Division
2️⃣📷 Evers House // Summertime