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  • Writer's pictureSarah Rushing

“It’s so nice you get to do something you love for a living.”

Well, you’re not wrong. I love music. I love the repertoire, I love the physical sensation of touching the keys, and I even love practicing! There are so many things about pursuing music that are such a privilege, in every sense of the word. But there are also elements of doing what you love for a living that are unenviable, namely: the anxiety, the insecurity, the restlessness. The heart of the statement above is perhaps where the problem lies. Are we really doing it for us?

Studying music can be a very self-centered pursuit. In order to progress as a musician, we spend hours each day on self-improvement. It can be all encompassing, eating away at time for friends, family, rest, and relaxation. We learn to sacrifice some aspects of our lives to focus more devotedly on our career path (hopefully in a good balance). It’s in this (necessary!) process that we can easily lose track of why we’re doing it to begin with.

Perhaps there are some of us who are pursuing music solely because of the personal enjoyment we receive from it, but I would bet that the majority of us are in this field because of the power we believe it holds. For many of us who suffer from the effects of anxiety and burnout that come from a career in music, we might be in need of a reframe.

“It’s so nice you get to do something that you love for others for a living.”

Performing, teaching, and studying music is so closely tied to one’s identity and personality that any “failure” risks a total blow to the psyche. We’re not merely performing a task by reciting a string of notes on stage; we’re bearing our soul. If our execution is flawed or our delivery ineffective, does that mean our soul is defective?

But it’s not about us. It’s about sharing. It’s about affecting. It’s about spreading healing and hope.

Rather than seeing our work solely as a personal pursuit, we can view ourselves as stewards to society. If we believe that art is necessary, and knowing that not everyone can do what we do, doesn’t that give us greater purpose?

If we view our work in this frame of mind, maybe we’re less likely to interpret mishaps as personal imperfections, worthy of the worst reptilian brain responses - the same responses that so frequently get in the way of the main goal in the first place: sharing. Sharing what we love with others. Isn’t that what it’s about?

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