I’m not a quitter. I never have been. As the saying goes, try, try again. But there is a fine line between discipline and madness. As musicians, we pretty much have discipline down pat. Every day we prepare ourselves to face the same obstacles, knowing it may be weeks, months or years before we overcome specific problems. Discipline is a fantastic tool, if we use it in a healthy way. But for me, I’m nearly completed my undergraduate degree in music and I have disciplined myself into choosing a career and dream that I do not want.
There are certain things about ourselves that we want to, and potentially should, change. We are all a never-ending work of art. Yet, I truly believe that our underlying life values are too deeply ingrained within us to mess with. And for nearly three years I have caged myself in a practice room and ignored my instincts and my values as they screamed at me. Ever since I told myself that I would become an orchestral musician, my anxiety has sky rocketed and self-criticism has wormed its way into every aspect of my life.
I want to encourage you all to ask yourselves, ‘why’? Why do you do what you do? What value does it add to your life? Because if you’re like me, and you never really knew your ‘why’ in the first place, things can get pretty damn complicated. In light of the recent tragedies as a result of terrorism filtering its way around the globe, I’ve decided life is too short to force yourself to be something you’re not. And these choices and decisions can be simple. Trust your instincts, trust those niggly feelings that tell you something isn’t right, trust your heart, trust your values. Music should give you wings, not wrap you in chains. If you’re sacrificing your health and happiness, without knowing your ‘why’, it’s time to pause and re-asses.
I’m terrified, but also incredibly exhilarated, to discover who I am without a bassoon on my back. As much as it breaks my heart, striving for a career as a professional performer does not suit my personality and doesn’t line up with what I want from life. That said, if you’re healthy, happy and insanely in love with the idea of being a professional musician, go for it. In a way, life is about figuring out what you are willing to struggle through to get what you want.
One of my favourite quotes is from the Persian poet Rumi:
“I am not this hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within.”
Don’t define yourself by your instrument, your voice, or your career. ‘I am’ should be enough on its own, because the wonder of who you are goes beyond what you choose to do.