"If you can picture yourself doing anything other than music, you should quit and do that instead."
"When you are sleeping someone else is practicing."
All or nothing. That is what a I used to imagine a career in music would be. All or nothing - black or white - win or lose.
Then I graduated from college during a pandemic and realized that there are a lot of other things that matter to me than just practicing, performing and teaching. Things like quality time with friends and family, movement/exercise, baking and cooking, calligraphy, travel etc...
When the pandemic first started, the urgency of go-go-go and d0-do-do subsided and we just were trying to survive-survive-survive! The practice I did had less direction during the lockdown because I was not preparing for an audition or a performance. It was really difficult, but I eventually allowed myself to take some time away from the instrument. I controlled my compulsion to manufacture circumstances where I could still go-go-go and do-do-do even while sitting at home and staying safe.
I was learning how to be still and listen. I was learning the value of a small game of cards with two close friends. I was learning the impact of a walk around the block early in the morning. I was learning the power of eating healthy food and the comfort of a warm loaf of sourdough bread gifted to a friend.
I was discovering all of life's connective tissue -- the things that link those big and exciting moments, goals and dreams. For the first time I was discovering what makes me any different than all of those other people spending much of their days practicing, performing and teaching music. "What makes me, me?"
I decided to allow myself to break the mold that I felt was set for me which at the time read: 1. Practice a lot
2. Hate yourself until you win a job
3. Win a job
Instead I was beginning to get excited about exercise and nutrition, baking the perfect sourdough loaf, playing frisbee in the park with my boyfriend and playing music I love. When I allowed myself to split up my time this way, seeing each thing as holding equal importance, my identity began to shift.
I was no longer just a musician and teacher. I was Sophie.
If I read that last sentence in another person's blog, I would roll my eyes too, but stick with me.
For the first time in my life I began to have an identity outside of the "thing I am doing" or the "thing I want to be when I grow up". I was becoming a person with interests and skills and more knowledge of the world who was also building a career in music. On paper this may not seem like a big shift, but in my eyes it was monumental. Things felt less black and white, less this or that, less all or nothing. I was no longer afraid of putting my work down to enjoy other things.
And since I have experienced this, I have heard people I admire like Brené Brown, Karen Cubides and Christopher Bassett talk about this in their own ways. Brene Brown talks about this in her 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living and calls it "Cultivating Calm and Stillness". Karen Cubides talks about this on her podcast, The Musician's Guide, where she debunks the myth that, "Following the road most traveled is the only way to 'make it'". Christopher Bassett talks about his through is #tacetbone series where he talks about all of the wonderful things that happens when he puts down his trombone and lives his life.
Thinking this way allowed me to put less pressure on myself to 'make it' in music immediately and in a linear way, and it allowed me to begin growing as a person and not just as a musician. I was able to take a 10-day trip to see family and friends and not bring my trombone or my computer. I enjoyed my time so much and was able to just be.
You are more than your career, chosen profession and title. And hey, all of those things get way more interesting when lived out by a well rounded, happy and constantly curious person.