Right now feels a little like “make or break” time. I’m at a point where I’m figuring out whether to do more study, in music or something else, whether to travel or whether to just go ahead and slog it out in the real world.
This isn’t a new thought. Ever since I was little I was obsessed with my direction.
It has to do with my personality. I’m fairly ambitious and driven, and from talks with my teachers and all the self help videos and books I’ve come across over the years, focus is synonymous with success. And I want to be successful so badly.
The big problem is, I have no idea what to focus on.
It’s a weird paradox, being an ambitious person with no specific ambition. I work steadily every day, but on lots of different things. Some days I only practice technique, other days I just play latin stuff. Some days I write a lot. Some days I just listen to music and make plans, and days like today I spend the whole day reading. And I feel like everything I do complements and serves everything else that I do.
I admit, I would absolutely love to have a profound goal that directs my existence so we all can sleep better at night. But there’s too many things I enjoy. At this point, I’d prefer to jump from one thing to the other, briefly flirting with all the different worlds I love and finding myself that way, rather than staking my existence on one particular goal.
In my heart, there’s absolutely no problem with this. But we live in a very competitive world where we’re constantly being told to “specialise”. We’re constantly told that to be an expert in something, you have to dedicate your whole being to it. And I hear on a daily basis that I should consider following and focusing on a specific path, whether it’s teaching, or going to a particular school, or specialising in a particular genre of music.
The question is, should I just focus on one thing? Will I be a failure if I don’t?
I’m not sure what the answer is. But ultimately I have to trust that what I’m doing is right because it feels right. That intangible gut instinct.
Last year I did six months of a journalism degree, and I honestly loved it. But six months was enough. Now that I’m studying music again, I’m often asked “are you sure you want to do this?” I say yes, because clearly if I didn’t want to do it, then I wouldn’t be doing it. I feel like what they’re asking is “are you sure you want to do this forever?”, and I can’t answer that question because I’m not a fortune teller.
I have amazing teachers and mentors. They have travelled the world to dedicate themselves to a type of music or an idea. I’m so in awe of their ability to commit to one thing, and I’m humbled by their assertions that I can do anything I set my mind to.
But my unfocused ambition It’s how I operate, and it’s how I’m inspired. Maybe in a years time I’ll have found that one idea that totally consumes me and I’ll be a raging inspiration and success and I’ll publicly eat my words. But I’m becoming convinced that my to and fro-ing is a necessary part of my creative process. And I have to trust it, because if I force myself to do one thing, I get anxious and depressed and those feelings are honestly the worst.
So ultimately, for the folks out there who are told they have to buckle down and focus and are having sleepless nights about the mere thought, don’t sweat. There’s someone else out there who is enchanted by as many different ideas as you are.
And if we all end up unsuccessful artists on a forgotten trash heap somewhere in the future, I reckon we would still be thankful because being true to ourselves and following our own passions is way more fun than doing something which “guarantees” success.
Or we might just all laugh about how we all believed that dumb article Madi wrote back in 2017. Time will tell.