Every Day in Limbo – why?

I had a doubt whether I should write this, or rather share this or not. Then I thought “what the hell let’s do it”.

Tomorrow my first Patreon creation is going public. Patrons got it two days ago but from tomorrow on everyone can listen to it. I thought I’d share a little about the circumstances that led me to writing this song and what it’s about.

Some of you might know I founded a school last year, together with my wife Susan Clynes. Not a music school. A day school. It was quite a radical turn from my music endeavors because it was more than a full time job and it didn’t leave much time for music. Also it had nothing to do with music. I speak of it in the past tense because by the end of our first year we had to close our doors.

Our school, “Ecole Autonome“, was the first “Sudbury” school in Wallonia (the French-speaking part of Belgium, where we live). It generated quite a lot of attention, good and bad, including on national media (and somehow even in the USA where they misspelled my name “Anthony Guenette”). Lots of inaccuracies and misunderstandings for sure, as people tend to think they know before having actually tried to understand what we do. Because for sure the model we were following is atypical. It’s also the best, and that’s why we went through the trouble of founding our own, why we’re now driving about 100km back and forth every day to drop off and pick up our daughter at the only other Sudbury school in Belgium, and why we’re trying for the DV Lottery to get a Green Card and sign her up to the best school in the world, Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts.

I’m not here to speak about the school itself though. The experience of founding it and running it was an intense one, there’s no other word for it. We learned a lot. We grew. And sometimes what makes you grow is actually painful. We started out as idealists and along the way we got – or at least I got – disappointed. Some people tried to break us. Some – at least temporarily – managed. I remember an evening where I went out to smoke a cigarette in the snow with Susan (I had picked smoking back up quite heavily with the stress – I’m off again now). I told her I was learning something I didn’t want to learn. I was learning not to trust people.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of beautiful things about the school and I don’t regret doing it a second! I saw kids taking control of their life, gaining back their confidence, finding out who they are, getting a hold of their long lost curiosity for all things… In such a short amount of time I’d consider that a miracle.

Where I’m getting at is how I landed in that state of feeling like I was spending every day in limbo. When we started working concretely on the school, we gathered a team of seven people who were to be associates for the founding. A few weeks before opening, there were only three of us left. We had a serious conversation where we all vowed to give it our all, stick with our promises no matter what and work to find a forth associate in the course of the year as soon as possible. We never found a forth associate and what’s more, our third colleague gave up after less than three months. We ended up as a team of two: Susan and I. Luckily we did get some valuable help from wonderful Charles, a education student whom we met about a week before opening. He was helping as he could and so did some other people in the course of the year, but he was no partner, carrying the project and the responsibility with us – and that’s what we needed. Nevertheless it was okay and we made it through the year, keeping our promises as we had vowed to. But over spring break we realized we were not going to be able to find an associate in time to be able to renew promises for the next year. If we were to make those promises, we were bound to take the risk of breaking them or of offering a half-ass school instead of an excellent one – and that was out of the question.

So we announced our decision to the students and parents. At first it was beautiful. Several people cried – they were really attached to the school. Some offered to help and told us we couldn’t close without a fight. So we listened and organized a meeting. One parent took a lot of the attention, offering solutions and promising he knew exactly how to do it, knew many people, had lots of experience. So people listened. When the whole thing was a fiasco, he turned on us. And from that moment on, people stopped coming to school: there were just a couple of months left and as the school was not gonna be anymore after that, they didn’t feel it was very important anymore.

That’s when I entered limbo. After working like I’d never worked before for over a year, for free, I was getting up in the morning, coming to school every  day, and waiting to see if people would show up. For a couple of weeks, only one student showed up, every day. Just for him it was worth it. But I couldn’t keep the feeling of this anticlimactic end to an intense school year from getting to me. It was like it was already over but not quite, and I didn’t know what would come next for me and couldn’t get started with it yet either. So I spent a lot of time waiting.

And I wrote. How do you spend your time every day in limbo? Do you reflect upon what’s done or what’s to come?

Now months have past and I’m slowly rebuilding and figuring out what to do. The old music business feels dull after that so I can’t get back to that. I’m also not ready to face an experience like I had with the school again. But I do need to create. And while I need a lot of time alone and still feel a little shaken and numb, I still need to connect. For real. But I don’t really know how for the moment.

I think that’s how I suddenly got busy with this Patreon thing. I feel if it works it’s a good answer to where I stand right now. I always need to do a lot, make a lot, contribute. But I have a hard time asking money, or asking anything for that matter. So I tend to work a lot for free and that’s most of what I’ve done for a long time. I guess I’ll have to learn to ask. Maybe Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking” can help me there. Has anyone here read it? She’s a queen on Patreon so she’s gotta be doing something right. Well I know she’s doing things right, and following her heart. And that’s all I know for now that I want to be doing. Somehow I gotta feeling this whole Patreon thing is going to be pretty intense again. Well… is there any other way to live?

Love,

Antoine

PS: Here’s the song. I’ll try it now: if you like it, please click “Become a patron” and support me. I’m giving lots of things in return 🙂

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