Find Joy

Our work can be very frustrating. Actually, life itself can be frustrating. With the amount of practicing we need, and balancing "real life" along with that, we often feel like we're not getting as much done as we want. Maybe we have hit a roadblock with our technique, not being able to execute a certain musical idea or phrase without there being some sort of problem. It could be that an outside force is hindering us from working or practicing, it could be an inward force as well. No matter what it is, the result, or response, is usually a negative one: getting angry at the perceived "force of hindrance", blaming lack of something in your capability or resources, doubting yourself because of a perceived inadequacy or stagnation in life, etc. In these tough times going back to the reasons why you began in the first place is key. 

The price of experience is suffering. It sucks in the minutia, but in the grand scheme of things, everything works out for a reason. If you go through a certain circumstance, your experience can help someone else in the same or similar situations. Our lives really are not just for ourselves, but can be shared with others, if we allow it to. Still, even in that way of thinking, your life is for you first, so you have to be selfish in the beginning: taking care of yourself, chasing your dreams, and finding yourself. Only then can you hope to help anyone else. But the thing is, who's helping you? Well, while speaking to a friend or a therapist, or seeking some other type of help or support are highly recommended, they are not the thing that helps you in the end. In my short time in therapy, the end of the conversations were that, the therapist was attempting to lead my thinking to encourage and give therapy to myself. She did not encourage me, I encouraged myself. The catharsis of talking to a stranger about my fears and hidden thoughts, which is the first release, and then being ok with who I was, with all of the "brokenness" and "imperfections" and "mistakes", which was the second release. 

In this current society, betterment of oneself is promoted in the form of going to the gym, or getting an education, etc., but the idea that you are already perfect the way you are right now is considered illogical or unbelievable. As musicians we are constantly working to become better, whether it be our technique or musicality, and we know when we are ready to perform and when we are not. But, even in the times where you know that you can't execute a certain thing, praising the opportunity to progress and learn that new technique will do more good in the long run rather than being down about not being able to do it. The fact that you are in a moment of entering a new stage of progress makes you perfect. Moment to moment, you are ok, just the way you are. I know it's frustrating because we feel like we should've learned something sooner or faster, or we feel like we don't have time, but we do have time. We have no control over when things happen, so we have to let go of that notion that we are "behind." We all grow at different paces. Respect the process, respect your growth and the time that it takes.

Now, in the face of the perceived or actually adversities in our lives, the most effective way of counteracting them is to find a positive in our lives. There's a lot of "things" to choose from, hopefully, but in a nutshell they can all be described as giving you one thing, joy. Why did you pick up the violin? Why are you drawn to the practice room? If you find that your reason has strayed away from the joy of doing what you love, really be honest with yourself about why. I remember when I was in college I got really burnt out because I felt like I had to practice enough to catch up to the grad students, and I became exhausted because of the long hours and the stress that it brought. Luckily my instructor, Eric Millstein, had the wherewithal to talk to me and guide me back to the real reasons why I wanted to get better at percussion. Yes, we have to get better, but we cannot lose sight of the joy that brought us to the activity in the first place. 

Then we get frustrated, it should be like a good video game, getting closer and closer to mastering the level, awaiting the next challenge, rather than being like the viral video "angry German child" on YouTube. It is frustrating to be in a place that you don't want to be in. In a job that you hate. In an apartment complex that you can't stand. In a school where you feel lost or ignorant. But, if we view our circumstances as temporary, they will be. Same goes for the other option, which I don't think any of us want. Small progress is still progress, and because we see every event, we often don't recognize it when we do make that progress. Maybe you get an unexpected raise at work because of your dedication. Maybe you land a better job and then can afford to move out. Maybe someone sees a random video you posted on the internet and asks you to do a documentary. Don't discount the small things, they easily can grow into something big. 

Don't forget your why. It's the sure way to get your drive back and re-center yourself on the path to success in your endeavors. Respect the process. Things take time, and patience is key to getting through longer stretches of work an growth. Guard yourself against the negative situation or perception. No matter where we find ourselves, we have to stay realistically positive. Giving into despair or negativity will not help us grow, and blind optimism will misinform us about our current situation. But looking at things realistically will show us what we have to work on, and viewing it positively will give us encouragement that it is possible to achieve those results. The drive to do these things has to come from your why. The joy of doing what you do. Remember it, remind yourself as often as you need to, no matter how silly or painful the reason is. If it got you this far, it has no choice but to keep you going! Find you joy and keep moving forward. We all can do this!