Why am I alive?

It has been a while! Welcome back! I am happy to say that I have made a resolution to write and post something every two weeks coming 2019. It is going to happen. My previous posts include some topic that I want to give my opinion on. I shed some wisdom, complain a little bit, or encourage the reader, but not this time. Today is about my story. I want to share how I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be. This is why I am alive.

9 year old Nathan approached his mother one night and said the bold words, “Teach me to play the guitar.” I could not explain it to anyone, but I was fascinated with guitar solos. I had an ear for the blues and soulful singers. I don’t know why I liked that type of music, but I did! And I wanted to learn. My mother had an acoustic Alvarez from 1970 that was her fathers, hers, and is now mine. I grabbed that guitar and she popped in a DVD that taught me the basic chords in first position on the neck. I played for about 3 hours that night. My fingers were in agony because they were cut up so much. When I was finished she told me, “I could see you on stage leading worship at church.” In my mind I thought, “Yeah right! But that would be really cool.” I took lessons for the next two years. Angus Young was my inspiration, I wanted to play like him even though my mother didn’t let me listen to AC/DC.

I grew up playing at church every now and then but never really got serious about it. But I had the privilege of auditioning for a performing arts high school where I got to study guitar. I studied voice starting my junior year as well. I started singing at 15 years old and people told me that my voice was okay. I just tried to copy guys on YouTube that I liked. Stevie Wonders greatest Hits, Jim Croce albums, “Songs about Jane” by Maroon 5, Whitney Houston, and George Benson were records I listened to with my dad when he would pick us up and take us to Cincinnati for the weekend to see our extended family. Singing was a favorite of mine, but I definitely was not always good at it. I sang and played guitar quite a bit in high school, but did I want to make a career out of it? No way. I was not good enough. I wanted money, I did not want to be a broke musician. But for some odd reason I was encouraged and inspired by others to go for it. So I auditioned for an acapella group at the university I wanted to attend and I started studying voice in college.

When I got to college I thought that I had declared vocal performance as my major, and I was sure that is what I declared. But it turned out that I was declared as “church music.” (funny how God did that) I thought to myself, “Church music? Heck no, I wanna make money!” So I changed my major to music business with the intent of simply working in the music industry as a production guy and not really using my gift of my voice or my guitar playing. I practiced a minimum of 8 hours with the acapella group which did not include personal practice time. With my degree I had to learn piano, individual songs to learn that were in foreign languages, choral pieces to rehearse and memorize, and on top of that I traveled every single weekend with the acapella group. Not to mention my other religion classes, and my gen ed classes! I did not touch the guitar when I was in college. I was burnt out on music to be honest. So I started to look at other avenues of how I could actually make money in my future. Because I definitely did not want this musician lifestyle in college to be my life forever. And I thought that unless you are famous, you are broke! No way did I want that life. I would maybe consider music if I represented a big artist or label. Performing? No way. Never would I ever. I was not good enough.

I liked the idea of fitness because it was something I was always passionate about ever since I was a young teenager. Mainly because I wanted a six pack to show off to the ladies. (Still dont have one btw) So summer of 2013, I started crossfit and got super serious about it. I left music in the dust. So much to the point that I tried to get my certification to become licensed worldwide! I studied for months. I was already training clients and building this business that I wanted. “Muscles with Mell” is what I called it. (how embarassing! I still keep my instagram account alive because I go back whenever I need a good laugh.) I took the test to become officially certified and failed by three points. The retake was $400 and I had to wait 6 months to retake it. I didn’t know what to do. Someone then reminded me and told me, “Nathan, why are you trying to be a personal trainer. You’ve got a musical gift to share with the world!” He was and is right! So I started pursuing music again.

A semester before I graduated I met a woman that I liked so we started dating. It got serious fast because I was graduating and in the southern christian culture its absolutely necessary to get married at a young age or you are a failure. I believed that lie. So I needed a plan. How am I going to support this woman? I need a job, and I need money NOW. I found a job “in the music industry” close by. I didn’t wanna give up on music so I thought I would try and at least work in the christian music industry. It was radio promotions for a small record label in a small town in TN. I represented four artists and tried to get their music on the radio. I made $10 an hour and was part time. I drove 30 mins to and from work in a truck that got 14mpg. Most of my money was going towards gas and food. Nothing else. I did that for 6 months and realized that the person I worked for had no desire to amp up my career. He tried to get me to sell pools for him because “Someday, you are going to actually have to make money Nathan.” Everyone around me kept reminding me that I was not good enough to make money through music or the music industry.

So I quit that life sucking job. Summer 2017 I found an idea that was popular at the time that could “Potentially make me $20k/month.” It was social media marketing. I followed this guy who was a millionaire from social media. I even bought his training videos because I was so desperate for money. After I studied the training videos, I ended up starting a small social media marketing business and finding a lawyer that would compensate with me.I would do his social media marketing, and he would make me a legit business. And on top of that he paid me $2,000 a month to run the social media marketing for his new business. I had a private dentist willing to pay me $500 a month once I got the paper work signed and my lawyer made me an established business. The same for a private construction company. I was starting to really take off with this business and 20k per month seemed like a legit goal within a year of starting my business. All the while in the back of my mind I thought, “God, I don’t need you. Do you even exist? Music is just a hobby. Everyone is right. I need money. I need to provide, and this is how I am going to do it. I will do it myself.”

That same month I was offered a position as “worship leader” for a youth group for the local church down the street. I thought, “Yeah I can help out. This will keep music alive a little bit. These people seem nice plus I’d get an extra $50 bucks a week.” But I hated church. I was in a different church every single week with the acapella group in college. My mindset was that the church is a business and full of fake people. There is an unfortunate truth to that statement when it comes to some churches, but my mindset has been changed since then. But at the time, the last place I wanted to work was a church.

This is where my life took a turn in the completely opposite direction. I got offered the worship leader position and the next day the girl dumped me. A week later my business partner left me. And then two weeks later, the lawyer that I was working with passed away. I lost it all. Luckily I had $2,000 in the bank from clients that had already paid me. But I could no longer take their money. I begged God to give it all back to me. The woman, my business, the success I was so close to grabbing. But in the midst of all that pursuit for worldly things, I found Jesus instead. I grew up in church my entire life and never truly experienced Jesus. Yes, I learned about the holy spirit, and worship, and conviction, and doing the right thing and I am so thankful. But praying a prayer and being “saved” and having your life transformed by Jesus are two completely different things. (we will save that topic for a different blog post).

Worship and music was all I had. Funny how I ran from music twice in my life. The people around me and even my family told me that I was not good enough at times. I ran because I was feared failure. But I no longer am a slave to fear because the God I serve is able to more than I can ever ask or imagine. Jesus just wanted my heart. Everything in my life collapsed and God allowed it to so that He could use my life for a purpose that he originally wanted when He created me. I had no choice but to put my everything in this little $50 per week job and make it great. My only job was to worship Jesus. King David was a man after God’s own heart. He was a dedicated worshipper and songwriter. God revealed to me that my middle name is David because the center of who I am is a worshipper, a songwriter, a musician. It was why I was created. This is why I am alive.

I ran from music for as long as I can remember because “I wasn’t good enough” or “i cant make money like that”. Money is everything to some, but they live their entire lives chasing it. I wake up and love what I do every day. I don’t have to sit at a desk or hate my job. Do I make a million bucks? NO! But I love my life and what I get to do. I have purpose. I get to inspire. I get to challenge and lead people to Jesus. That is why I am alive.

Nathan Mell