I've never considered myself a great writer. I've never been the type of person to express my true feelings towards most things. I don't share innermost thoughts or intimate details of my life on the internet, or with hardly anyone for that matter. I love people, but my inner peace and inner happiness are always found and realized when I'm on my own, having time to process my thoughts.
For once, this post is actually more for me than anything. It's just a small reminder for me to look at and know why I work so hard, why I do what I do. It's a look at what made me decide to do what I'm doing. It's a look at myself that I don't think I've ever given anyone. It's terrifying. Innermost thoughts, even song lyrics scare the heck out of me, so I guess actually writing something like this is a pretty big deal for me. But I need to do this, because I can't afford to have days where I just go through motions anymore, and this will remind me to give 100% of myself to everything I do, and hopefully the friends who read it can catch me on my off days and remind me, too.
Why did I devote my life to this? I've asked myself that from time to time. I have chosen a career that so many people want to be in, and to gain popularity and respect among the general public, you don't need nearly as much training as I have. Yet, there are years and years of training you can get, countless options for degrees, for education, for getting better. People to study with, lessons to take, ensembles to be in, all these things you need to do to be considered "good" by the music community.
Until recently, I guess that for a long time, I wanted to be "good." I wanted to be a good musician because I wanted to be impressive. I wanted all the perks included with that, the respect of my fellow musicians, people that would talk about how "talented" I was, people that would look at me and think I was worthy of the title of "Musician." I prided myself on not taking private lessons in hardly any of the instruments I play, including voice. I was proud of how far I've managed to get "without help." I mean, sure, those skills that I've gotten until this point were, in fact, acquired on my own, but I wouldn't have had time to focus on these skills without the extremely strong support system that my immediate family has provided me.
I can't tell you when it changed. I can't tell you why. But none of that matters to me anymore. I realized that being "good" in the eyes of others doesn't matter to me anymore. Pride doesn't matter either. But getting better DOES matter to me. Being "good" is just a pleasant side effect at this point. I realized that I have spent a lot of time in my life trying to please people, or to heighten their regard of me. My pride, my moments of apathy, are things I am now trying to put aside.
As long as I'm breathing, I really have the opportunity to be bettering myself. Sick in bed? I can be practicing solfège. Tired? I've got a piano, run through all the major scales in every key for 2 minutes before I sleep. Apathetic, wanting to be on Facebook? What do I actually NEED on social media except to contact my a capella group and band to post things? All the people I hang out with have my number. Taking it off my phone was the first step, and I'm already happier, now I just need to really limit myself to under 15 minutes a day spent on it.
These are things I want to do, and am planning on following through with. I finally realized that I'm not doing this for the esteem I can get. I think after all this hard work, I would have burned out long before now if that were the true reason. But I lost sight for a little bit, and actually made that a point of focus. The "esteem" I earn will be dead when I am, and the things I'll leave behind when I'm gone are those notes that I put on paper. Listening to other composers who are far better than me-- Ravel, Mahler, Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart, Ives, etc. etc. etc-- gives me fuel, and reason to KNOW that I am simply not anywhere NEAR where I want to be. I have a lot of skills that I can put on a piece of paper and make a really pretty resumé out of, but none of that actually matters because I am not happy with my level of musical ability. I'm really not. I am not nearly good enough, and I need to keep striving harder to be better. Which is now, a huge part of the reason I remind myself why I need to do this. The phrase "Rage to Master" definitely comes into play here, I think.
Also, guys lets be real. I just straight up LOVE music. I know that's tacky and cliché, but whatever. I love everything about it. I want to know more about it all the time. I seriously crave the knowledge of it every single day. To learn more, and to look back at where I came from where I am is exhilarating. To hear my music played by REAL people. There is seriously no feeling in the world that is just that pleasing. Seriously. It's crazy. I love the crap out of performing, too, but I'm doing composition because I just like to listen to people play my music and be able to think, "I made this, this is 100% mine."
Really, I can't imagine my life any other way. I could have been an English major or something, I consume "classic" and regular novels faster than popcorn. I could have stuck with Pre-Vet and had a very nice, cushy, stable, planned out future. I could have gone into Pre-Med, since I've always been gifted at understanding science very easily. But I realized last year doing all of that stuff, that I saw it all as passing fancies or distractions that kept me from doing this. Yeah, you read that right. I viewed a science class as a distraction from what I considered to be my "real" studies. It was about that time that I decided Pre-Vet, as much as I love animals, was no longer an option to make me happy in the future.
I had a conversation with my roommate last night, and realized that I don't know how to "do" a day without music. If I'm sick and can't sing, or have no ideas to write down, I'm practicing piano. But there's always some kind of idea somewhere, and I just like to write, too. Sometimes you enter this state of amazing flow while composing, and the joy of that rivals the joy of having music played live. Though I have to admit, this kind of writing is therapeutic, too. It gives me one non-musical activity, and part of the reason I'm a composer is because I obviously enjoy getting to see my thoughts put on paper (or in this case screen, whatever).
I still have trouble expressing the true depth of my feelings through anything besides notation, since words are very scary, leave little gray area, and extremely powerful, but I'm slowly getting to a place where I can trust a little more, I suppose. This is a small, paraphrased part of what music means to me, and a small reminder that will hopefully keep me strong as my life crescendoes from here on out into even more hectic-ness and chaos.
The thing is, I wouldn't trade it for the world.
P.S. Song of the day (rather, piece of the day): A movement called The Alcotts (3rd movement of Charles Ives' "Concord Mass.") We were able to listen to it in Music Theory, and the piece is simply delightful. Another reminder of why I love composing, because this is crazy beautiful, unique, tonally unstable, complicated, and yet rustic at the same time.