In York, I scraped by as a musician, living hand to mouth. The promoter I had met introduced me to several people and put in a good word for me, but he was not a professional manager and only helped me as a favour. I earned most of my money sitting in the corner of wine bars being ignored by people who occasionally glanced up from their crudités to clap politely. I also did the odd fun gig, for a real live audience and no remuneration whatsoever.*
This soon ground me down. I had been so sure that God wanted me to perform, but now I was doing it, I found it uninspiring and lonely. I didn't know many people in York to start with; those I did know went out socialising when I went out to work. I spent hours sitting by the river Ouse, watching squirrels frolic in the trees and wondering whether I could be bothered to drown myself. I couldn't: it would have required far more willpower than I could summon. After a few months, realising that these thoughts might just be a sign that I wasn't terribly happy, I decided to go back home to my parents.
This was a huge blow to my pride. More than that, though, it triggered something of an identity crisis. For so long, I'd thought of myself as an entertainer and musician. If that wasn't who I was, then who the heck was I?
My mum found me a job in a local chemist's shop as a pharmacy assistant, so I spent the next few months dispensing drugs, looking longingly at the benzodiazepines and planning my next step. I looked into going back to university to do a PhD; I even put together a thesis proposal and persuaded a university to take me on. My parents were happy with this but also sent me off to a group of occupational psychologist for a day. After hours of aptitude tests and personality profiling, the official verdict was in: academia was a possibility but I might want to consider law.
A schoolfriend had done a one-year postgraduate law conversion course at Exeter University, so I called them and asked if there was space left on their course. They said there was and that I could join them in October, but that they'd need to know within 24 hours.
By this time, I'd drifted from God and I don't remember praying over my decision. In any event, I didn't have much time to weigh my options. I called Exeter the next day and told them, "I'm coming".
A fresh start awaited me. I was well and once again felt that I had a future. It was time to repent of having been so distant from God. Time to turn back to Him. That Sunday, I attended the morning service of a lively house church near my parents' house. At the end of the service, I asked someone to pray with me while I rededicated my life to Christ.
Two days later I was in hospital on a drip. I'd caught a stomach bug and had been throwing up so much that I had become dehydrated. While I was in hospital, the doctors took blood and ran all the usual tests. My kidney function had deteriorated. My immunosuppressive medication was upped, but the results didn't get any better.
I went down to Exeter with a lot of tablets, worries about the future and a fair bit of resentment. Which of you fathers would give a scorpion to a son who asked for an egg? Apparently, God would.
*If anyone is interested, I have uploaded some very old recordings onto Soundcloud. Most of the tracks are originals.