I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my career in this pandemic, and to examine my relationship with performing music. As you might guess, it’s complicated. I love performing. I find it fulfilling, inspiring, and uplifting, and I love rising to meet the challenges presented by a project. However, my commitment to performing has taken a lot of time, energy, sacrifice, and financial investment. I have had to give a lot to this art form in order to be able to reap some of the benefits of being a gigging musician. My rule is simple: I will keep doing this thing as long as it fulfills me and as long as I can have fun. When I don’t enjoy it, that will be a good sign that I might need to stop. Or at least take a break. So far, I have always enjoyed it. As the world opens back up and performing comes back more and more, I still feel like that enjoyment is there and I am truly excited to return to more live performances and explore new projects.
But there’s a catch. Now that I’ve had some forced downtime, and I’ve been able to readjust my life to allow for more, well, LIVING...I am not as willing to give all of that up. Pre-pandemic, I was working way too many hours, teaching way too many students, juggling that with a church job, accompanying choirs, and then my opera career on top of that. As I’ve said before, it was an unsustainable workload, and if there is one good thing the pandemic did, it was force me to slow down. Now I can honestly say that my desire for a slightly more balanced life factors into my decisions.
Do I want to take on opera gigs and return to the stage? Of course. But do I also want time to pursue my own interests or musical projects, to hang out with my friends, to play D&D? Yes. I am no longer willing to completely sacrifice ALL of my time for work. [Insert laugh here for my friends and family who still think I am too busy with work.] I know, I know. Even with this mental shift, I’m still working a lot. But from my perspective, it still feels like less, and I feel like I now have some head space to commit to something other than my job.
I think we all have realized that we can’t just live to work. It is definitely a luxury to be able to think this way, and I recognize that not everyone can decide to take more “me time”. And full disclosure–I still need to actually work to earn a living. I can’t just sit back and go fully in the other direction. But I am much more committed to finding where that real balance exists for me, and finding ways to incorporate time and space to just BREATHE into my life. I want time to enjoy dinner with friends, or go on a walk, or sit and read a book, or just...sit and think. I want to be able to enrich my life by the fulfilling artistic projects I take, and in turn bring to my craft the enrichment that only comes from actually LIVING. I’m not saying it will be an easy change, and I certainly will still be working A LOT. After all, any small business owner will tell you that their free time has to go back into building their business. But I am promising myself to make more of an effort and hold a firmer line on those work-life boundaries. If the term “workaholic” applies to you, I hope you’ll consider figuring out a better balance for yourselves in life. We can never forget the important value of hard work, but we should not let work consume our lives. Find the balance (that’s one of those unending quest items), and that is the key to a happier and more fulfilling life.
This weekend...I have a gig! Yes, at long last, I will be getting on a stage and singing for a live audience. As a soloist. I haven’t done that since 2020. The virtual opera performances were wonderful in the interim, and of course I’ve been singing at church, but...this feels special.
The preparation process has felt pretty normal–score study on your own, hammer out notes, work on lines...the list goes on. But once we started our group rehearsals, it was instantly different. Aside from seeing friends I’ve not seen since before the pandemic, which was definitely a nice perk, being back in a live rehearsal like this just felt right. It really illustrates the difference between keeping up with someone on social media and actually interacting with them in real life. I’ve seen many of these people in posts and updates over the past 2 years, but I haven’t seen them face-to-face. That immediate personal connection, being able to talk about life on the brief breaks, laughing together as a cast when someone cracks a joke or does something truly hilarious in an aria or duet...I missed those things so much.
Speaking for myself, that first rehearsal felt so familiar and instantly comfortable. It felt like no time had passed, although we all know that A LOT has happened since the world was last “normal.” It wasn’t perfect, we all made mistakes, and we all went home thinking about the stuff we needed to tweak and improve. But there was a tremendous feeling of gratitude for being back in a live rehearsal setting, preparing to put on a show. I am very fortunate to have my life filled with music all the time, but this definitely scratched that itch in a way that hasn’t totally been scratched since the before-times.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: live every day with a grateful heart, and try as best you can to live IN each moment and appreciate them as they happen. We have all lost a lot in these past few years, and there is tremendous upheaval and suffering throughout the world. If you can bring a little joy to the world through your music, your art, your writing, your...whatever...do it. And even if the small corner of the world that is reached by your creativity is only one other person, or even if it’s only yourself, still keep creating and sharing.