I have the coolest friends. I don’t even feel bad bragging about it. They are the coolest. Did you see my friend Rachel’s amazing seaside wedding last month? All of my friends are doing exciting, meaningful, wonderful things and I want to share them with the world. They are following their dreams in every single way imaginable.
An important part of my blog is highlighting the fact that we don’t have to pigeonhole ourselves into ONE interest or passion or career or lifestyle. You or I could be a doctor who writes fiction or an actor who writes poetry or a singer/yogi/horse masseuse.
That last one is my good friend Mark Tiger. He epitomizes all my Cheap Courage values: exploring, creating, being brave, and going for it. I thought he’d be perfect for my first official Cheap Courage interview.
I interviewed Mark over Facetime one night (we are on opposite coasts) to talk about life and “careers” and what it’s like to be older than 25. (Note: We’re still having tons of fun.)
Mark and I chatted on the Sunday night after he attended Lightning in a Bottle. Which should give you a hint as to his energy level. Put me at a weekend long festival and I’d be dead for the next two weeks. I asked Mark to talk about his three “sides”, how they came to be, and how he manages to be involved in each.
“I moved to California after college to be an actor. That was the plan,” he says. Of course, as any twenty-something knows, the plan hardly stayed on track. Mark explains that along with his acting classes, he also signed up for singing lessons for fun, “I’ve been singing my whole life and I did not expect to make a career out of it. It was just something I did and something I enjoyed… It was something just for me.” And at first, singing stayed as something just for him as he explored his other interests and passions.
When he first moved, Mark was searching for something else, something to calm and center him. He had always used horseback riding as his meditation. Back on the East Coast he did it everyday after school. Not having his horse or a barn to go to (yet) in LA, he chose yoga as a way to meditate. Soon he was going everyday. “I was just fucking obsessed,” he laughs, “It was so good!”
He was quick to take teacher training classes at his yoga studio, “The tools that yoga taught me were amazing and I just love finding different ways to learn to move the body.” Mark reminisces about a time in his life when he wasn’t always so comfortable with his body, “[In middle school] my body was not my friend. It felt like someone else’s body that I was trapped in…when I found yoga it felt like my own body and it felt like freedom.” After that, Mark found that he was enjoying teaching yoga more than his work as an actor in Hollywood. He found peace with that pretty quickly, “I wasn’t pushing myself the way I wanted to, maybe from fear, but I don’t think I really had the drive you need to be an actor in this town. I didn’t want that. It’s like what your blog says: There are so many other things in the world to do and try!” So Mark dropped his acting career and took up teaching yoga at the very studio he started in. He was also working as a Physical Therapist Aide for extra income and going to massage school.
While balancing all these new (and amazing) things, Mark went to a Florence + The Machine concert alone. He picked the ticket up last minute, and while at the show had a huge moment of clarity, “I was just like fuck… That’s what I want to do.” And in the span of a single night, Mark realized he wanted singing to be a bigger part of his life.
But the journey to singing wasn’t so smooth after his ah-ha moment. He still had all his other interests pulling on his heartstrings and taking up his free time. When he started writing music, Mark was still working as a Physical Therapist Aide, going to massage school, and instructing and doing yoga. He then traded his Aide position to train horseback riding at the LA Equestrian Center. It was a whirlwind year.
“When you have a ton of interests you want to give them all your focus and then none of them get your focus and it’s a slippery slope,” he says, “It was amazing, I really loved that time… all of my interests were present,” he pauses and adds, “but… conflicting.” Slowly, the fire he had once felt for instructing horseback riding started to die out and teaching yoga felt tedious. He knew something had to change. It was after bringing his horse Star out to California to join him that he decided to quit the training and focus on just horse massage. He tried out new yoga studios and reignited his love for it. As he made changes to his other interests, he kept writing music and released a single, “Midas Touch”, this past January.
Still, Mark felt pulled in several directions, he needed a little more focus. Interestingly, it was one of his yoga teachers that ultimately helped him lean into singing and make it his main focus. She gave him imaginary ultimatums. They were this: either he could be a successful, touring musician but could never do yoga again or he could be a famous yogi but could never sing again. It was a hard decision at the time, but the idea of never singing again broke his heart. He knew where his heart wanted to be. “Having focus made everything fall together. Now everything can get my attention because I can delegate my time easier.”
Now that he’s put even more emphasis on music (with yoga and massage as his outer interests) Mark is evolving his sound from the single “Midas Touch.” “I’m working with a co-writer doing some fun funky stuff, [a] kind of electric and new genre. And we get each other which is fun.”
By choosing a single focus, Mark has time to not only pursue it as a career but can properly give his time to his other passions as well. Without the pressure of having to advance each one as a career, Mark can simply just enjoy them. I needed to know how to do this. So I just ask him… How do I do that?! “It’s not about giving those things up, it’s about having a center point and then having the extra time for everything else,” he says, “Think about which one really, really makes you happy. Which one fills you up that you could live without anything else. Take time to delve into each. Give each one your focus for a certain amount of time. And see where that takes you.”
I ended our conversation with a few rapid fire questions:
AK: What’s your definition of brave?
MT: To really live the life you want to live regardless of what you think other people think you should live.
AK: Did you think that this is what 27 would be like?
MT: I thought I would have all my shit together by 27. (He laughs.) I realize now that that’s ludicrous. I thought I’d be discovered and famous and living the dream. But I fucking love my life. I have all these different things that I love to do and I’m doing them and I have a clear path. My friends are awesome. I’m not where I thought I would be but I am happy where I am.
AK: What do you think 37 will be like?
MT: A World Tour! My music will be successful and amazing! I’m excited for ten years. Even [for] the next 3 years. In ten years I’ll have three albums out. Two world tours done. With the 3rd or 4th ready to go. I would love to be bicoastal. Do what my retired parents do. Cali in winter and Maine in summer. I want Star to come with me, with 1-2 more horses, too. Yoga will be in my life. That philosophy is my lifestyle. It’s wonderful. It has changed my life.
AK: Can I come visit?
MT: Yes! Whenever you want!
Mark Tiger is a singer, songwriter, yogi based in Los Angeles, CA. His first single, “Midas Touch,” is available on iTunes.