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.