Posted: Jul 16, 2018
**Guest post written by Andrew Tufano, Nashville based Acoustic Pop Singer-Songwriter.
"In most professions, emotional health is largely neglected. When you’re a touring musician, it can feel taboo to even admit to yourself that you’re lonely or that you need help, nevermind telling others.
I’ve walked the walk of self-isolation during my 18 months of nonstop touring, and along the way, developed some strategies to stay mentally healthy and productive in an emotionally strenuous climate.
Here’s some of what I learned about relationships and self-care during my time on the road.
Since you only see your closest friends every 6 weeks or so, you’ll start to lose touch with them. Your best friends become normal friends. Your normal friends become acquaintances. You might end up with only a handful of people who you’re truly close with.
Counteract the social damage by putting real effort into your friendships when you are home. Show up to things. Text the people you care about, and keep up with them. Don’t bottle up your problems and unload them onto your friends all at once, even though you only get to see them infrequently. Consciously and habitually give and take.
Journal in every city. Take pictures of your journal in case you lose it. You probably won’t because it’s one of the few sentimental things you have space for in the car.
Jump right to the deep stuff when you meet people. Be so real that it’s uncomfortable for you. It’s liberating to acknowledge reality, express vulnerability, and show genuine interest in others, even if you just met. Try to turn strangers into friends and keep in touch online.
Sometimes it’s tempting to schmooze people you just met with white lies. At times, it can can be useful. Pretend you believe in God when it’s convenient. Pretend your parents are together when it’s convenient. Pretend you have a degree when it’s convenient. But try to be honest whenever you can. Follow your gut when you make these judgement calls.
Ask the sound guy when they stopped going to church. Ask the grocery clerk if they ever miss their hometown. Make eye contact. Share your granola bars with strangers and follow them on Instagram.
Every relationship is a long distance relationship when you’re on tour. It doesn’t matter where your significant other lives, you’ll probably see them once a month at most. Still, it can’t hurt to try. Even though it will definitely hurt. Remember that being tired, hungry, lonely, or strapped for cash affects how you communicate and puts a filter on everything you say and hear. This can and will strain a relationship. Keep trying.
When you’re single, there will be especially difficult weeks. Some days you feel like you’re wading through a milkshake-thick swamp of resistance and bullshit. Cry in the car. Hookup with the bartender at your show, regret it, then do it again in the next city.
By definition, being a songwriter and being into emotionless hookups seem mutually exclusive to me, but good on you if that's your thing. If it’s not, rip yourself apart every night then write songs about it.
Learn about your emotional, social, and sexual needs through experience. Accept that you might hurt people and get hurt in the process. Ask for forgiveness. Learn to forgive yourself and grow forward.
You’ll find that respecting and caring for yourself is a positive feedback loop. It reverberates throughout your relationships, reflects in your communication with friends, and encourages empathy for strangers. Practice patience. Listen more than you talk, and find the courage to ask for help when you need it.
You won’t actually think as much on long car rides as people assume. I’m not really sure when thinking happens, but it definitely does. Sometimes things are nonstop and you make good money and your body hurts every night. Sometimes you have more free time than you know what to do with in downtown Chicago, or Mason City, or Granite Falls and you get restless and question the point of it all. Years blend together. You were just in Buffalo. Right? When was the last time you were in Seattle?
When you’re alone for too long it feels like you’ve seen everything there is to see, and by continuing to tour, you’re just stubbornly chasing a sense of purpose or adventure or discovery that might not actually exist. Everyone else has it easier than you. Except for when you remember that you’d never trade your life to be in anyone else's shoes, because then you wouldn’t have what you have now. When you’re at rock bottom, scavenge the rubble for that gratitude and build up from there.
Time has a way of slowing down when you wake up in one city and go to sleep in another. Weeks feel like months. Things will mysteriously start appearing under your passenger seat. Where did all these airplane bottles of whiskey come from? And these hair ties? You pick up a rock from Virginia and drop it off in Seattle just for fun. You take some sand from Monterey and bring it to Wilmington. You're lonelier than you've ever been. You're happier than you've ever been. You don’t care about sightseeing anymore. But you still smile when the strangers at your show ask to take you to the best hot dog stand in Chicago.
If you tour long enough, you can’t picture your life any other way. You might feel like you’ve seen everything there is to see. You might worry that you’ll be stuck playing the same tier of gigs forever. Whatever you do, you don’t know how to put out the flame inside you that urges you forward, promises you that you’re on the cusp of something big, and swears to you that with enough good shows, you’ll hit a tipping point. Soon, every journal entry of yours will confess that you could die at any moment and be satisfied with your life.
Be aware of how touring full time warps your perspective, and diligent about taking care of yourself. Remember why you’re doing it all in the first place. Be open to opportunities as they arise. Expect to be disillusioned. With everything considered, I’ve never met anyone who regrets touring, so I encourage you to tour honestly and live your life to the fullest. "
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