You Get To Decide What It Means
Confession: I hate my birthday.
My birthday is on August 15th, my zodiac sign is Leo and we are supposed to be the most egotistical, birthday-loving, preening, self-indulgent, extravagant people when it comes to celebrations. I even make my DOG’s birthday a big deal. My birthday? Bah humbug. There are a lot of reasons as to why this is, and why I can’t seem to shake the birthday doldrums, but the main reason is I’ve wrapped meaning over a perfectly normal day because it’s the day I’m technically another year older. In my meaning, my birthday is another reminder of everything I didn’t accomplish that I should have accomplished by now. Guilt. Shame. Self-loathing. I’ll take two of each!
Instead of moping around for my birthday, I decided to attend the DIY Musician Conference hosted by CD Baby. It was an amazing time of inspiration, idea generation and a whole lot of incredible, powerhouse individuals doing amazing work as musicians, entrepreneurs, producers, industry/production, or some combination of a few things. While I received so much excellent information that I plan on implementing, I also noticed that I was starting to feel anxious, worried and overwhelmed. Why? Because I felt ashamed and sad that I hadn’t made my creativity my full-time job yet. The feeling was well-founded, because underneath all of these very well-meaning speakers and industry professionals is the understanding that we should hustle, slave, starve and beg until we are certified, authentic, verified, real artists. “Be a waiter so you have time to make art!” “Ignore your other skills and interests and just make art!” “Ignore your health!” The not-so-subtle messaging in the music and entertainment industry is: “If you aren’t full-time with your art, then you aren’t a ‘real’ artist.” Like most topics even obliquely involving money, because of the same we all feel, we rarely talk about it.
Being “full-time” with your art is held to be the pinnacle of achievement, the goal, the golden gates that will open dramatically ushering in happiness, money, and banish our self-loathing. It’s a myth really, because actually we’ll just be the same person with a different full-time job. This might seem particular to musicians, but it’s actually rampant everywhere. No matter the sector, there is some variation of “you aren’t a success unless you are doing this one thing.” The Los Angeles cliché of everyone trying to get a job (“I’m an uber-driver now, but actually I’m REALLY a model-actress-reiki practitioner”) is actually true for us all, just in different ways.
“I’m teaching right now, but I really want to be an artist.”
“I got a degree in X, but I really want to do Y.”
“I want to transition to a different department of my company.”
“I’m not in the position I thought I’d be by now.”
Thankfully, right before the conference was over, I had the pleasure of hearing a totally new perspective on this. I had a terrific conversation with Matthew Mayer from www.solopiano.com (do yourself a favor and check out his podcast) after his presentation on “How to be a Creative in a 9-5 World”, on how he has successfully managed a corporate job that he enjoys while being a thriving pianist and composer. The session was one of the best from the weekend as he shared how to maximize the time you do have to force yourself to be more focused, how to continue to make your job work for you (hello, paid-time-off and health insurance!) and so much more. I shared with him what I was feeling about having a day job while side-hustling my music and how I thought it meant I had failed. He just looked at me and said, “you are the only one that has stamped yourself with that statement.” He shared how his day job has given him the opportunity to experiment, play and say “yes” to opportunities based off enjoyment-metrics vs. “I need this money to pay my electric bill” metrics. It’s not right for everyone, and some of us will still want to make our creativity full-time, but it IS the right choice a lot of us. There is no one right way to do it, no guarantees, and so we might as well do what we actually think is best. The good news is that we get to decide what it means and what we will do as a result.
You get to decide what your birthday means.
You get to decide what your failed marriage means.
You get to decide what it means that The Important Project is taking longer than anticipated.
You get to decide what it means that you can’t find a better job.
You get to decide.
And while it’s your decision, I highly encourage you to choose a meaning that encourages your growth. I’m not encouraging you to do what’s easy, nor to accept a lie that makes you temporarily feel good (that’s where The Secret goes terribly wrong in my humble opinion), or a delusional narcissistic fairytale. I’m asking you to look at the truth from every angle and decide in favor of yourself. Your healing. Your relationships. Your passion. Develop habits that make you a better human. Do your best in whatever the situation is, and you’ll be that much better when the situation gets better. If we get to decide what things mean, why not pick a meaning that actually encourages us to take a bold step forward?
In love & light (and action),