This year has been an interesting ride, to say the least. I haven't addressed it here in this blog yet because it seems that everywhere I turn, there is more news about the COVID-19 pandemic.
For me, it has been draining, emotionally, mentally, and even physically. Today however, I will address what I've been doing to personally help myself musically through this exceptional time.
As a musician, the pandemic has really created a roadblock to most of what I do for my career - ensembles, recitals, meeting students in-person, playing for dances, attending concerts - they've all been completely halted. Of course, I can still collaborate online with other musicians and my students, but it is obviously not the same! My career is built around my connections with people. Therefore, this pandemic has put a lot of stress on me to continue with daily musical activities in the absence of those connections.
Unfortunately, a byproduct of it all is that I have lost a lot of motivation to play music or exercise my creativity. Between the months of March and May, I was playing music maybe twice a week. I felt very lost. I had been working on a solo recital for April, but it was canceled after the school closures. Suddenly, everything I had been working towards had been stripped away...
So, I struggled for a while to come to terms with the new reality.
However, I am not one to stay down for long. After May, I started planning for my new life during the pandemic. I began to advertise my online studio. I created this blog. I picked up guitar again. I organized my music library and created online resources for my students.
I did everything I could to bring back my motivation. But, it didn't come back.
I kept finding myself feeling stuck in a rut; I felt like I was forcing myself to do music, which is not a great feeling. I have always been a musician because I wanted to be one - because I loved it. But at this time, I found myself...not...loving it.
So, what changed?
The simple answer is that I stopped trying to force myself to do music-related activities. I stopped expecting myself to want to play music.
I began to wait.
I thought to myself, If I'm forcing myself to do this, I need to take a break.
And so, I took a break. I stopped making myself play music.
And I waited.
I waited until I felt ready to play again, until I felt that familiar burning desire to pick up my instrument and play!
While I waited, I picked up new hobbies I found myself wanting to do more than music. I began working out. Currently, I am working on handstands and arm balances in my ample free time. I spend lots of time with my cats. I even read books (for fun!!!).
And you know what? My passion for music came back. It came back slowly, but after a couple months - yes, months - I began to once again feel like myself again. Full disclosure, that time is now. I just recently re-discovered last week my musical passion.
Do I feel guilty for taking all that time off? No way!
I recently realized something - I had been working myself so hard over the past couple years that I had lost my passion for music without realizing it. I had been using external forces such as musical recitals, ensembles, and such to keep me motivated to work on my craft. And once that was stripped away, that was why I felt so lost. I hadn't given myself space to grow creatively in years. I had been stifled!
But now, I feel as if I have returned to living a life I love. I play music because I want to and I love it - not because someone else needs me to play. It has been a real eye-opener for me.
I probably would have come to this conclusion at some point in my life, but the pandemic really jump started the process. However, it is unfortunate that it had to happen this way. Nevertheless, I am coming out of this with a healthier understanding of my needs and wants, and in return, I have become a more stable, healthier musician and human being.
So, to all of you maybe still needing some advice to deal with demotivation, here is what I suggest for you:
Step 1: Forgive yourself. You are a valuable human being whether or not you are being productive at the moment.
Step 2: Accept that this is a different life than before the pandemic. Trying to force yourself to do things like "normal" is unhealthy and does not allow you to come to terms with your predicament.
Step 3: Find new hobbies. Listen to yourself - what do you want to do?
Step 4: Reconnect with family and friends.
Step 5: Be patient with yourself as you take the time to adjust to new routines, habits, and hobbies.
Your passion for music will come back.
But first, you must give yourself space to grow and change. It is absolutely scary and frustrating to let go of the past, but once you do, I think you will find greater appreciation for yourself and for music. <3
"Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck."
-Dalai Lama XIV
Stay safe, and happy musicking. :)