It takes a lot of courage to walk away from a career path that you thought was going to be your life’s through-line. Most of the time it feels like breaking up with a guy (or girl) whom you’re deeply in love with, but who is not really the best thing for you. (Haven’t we all had -at least – one of those?) It takes a lot of thought and preparation, soul searching to the highest degree.
Oftentimes it seems like the easiest thing to do is to walk away.
We justify our new career by throwing ourselves whole-heartedly at it, like we did with that first artistic love. We decide, since we’ll not ever be the Second Coming of Pavarotti that singing isn’t worth it at all anymore.
This is an extreme approach, admittedly. But for some folks there’s no middle ground – you’re either doing it, or you’re pointedly not doing it. Sometimes that separation is extremely valuable – allowing a reprioritization of life goals, and an amount of personal freedom not found in pursuing high artistic ideals.
Here’s the kicker. After a while? Most of us really miss that artistic thing…the singing, the playing with an ensemble, the creating moments in time and space that are special, distinct, that have artistic value…the collaboration…the sensation of losing ourselves in a practice room or studio for hours on end, feeling like only minutes had elapsed. As we get older, that sense of flow that seemed so easy to capture as a young artist seems more elusive.
(When I use “us,” “we,” “you?” I really mean “me.”)
I wound up, thankfully, in a job that’s intimately involved with the performing arts. It has its positives and negatives:
- I hear singers all year round that could clean the floor with my best past attempts.
- I am inspired and challenged as a listener.
- I have colleagues who also have strong performance backgrounds – dancers, instrumentalists, actors, singers.
Sometimes those colleagues challenge me. They have a great idea for an ensemble, a send-up of a popular song, an original tune. And I am a willing volunteer to hack around in a practice rooms for HOURS on any number of projects. (I have always loved rehearsal – the exploration and growth that happens in the room is the most exciting thing IMHO.) But getting onstage? Never really an easy thing for me…not when I was singing or playing, and certainly not now when I’m so out of that routine. It’s terrifying.
But sometimes? They ask. And I bluff my way to a “sure!” And I sweat like a villain in a Bond movie.
And it actually ends up being OK. Fun, even.
Turns out that once you’ve learned to ride that bicycle? You can, in fact, still ride it years later. Maybe you can’t pop a wheelie or race anymore, but you can get from point A to point B.
(And by “you?” I mean “me.” And also, “you.”)
Thanks to KC and GB for letting me play along with this year’s Christmas tune. I had a blast!