What Happens When You Lose Your Passion?

This is a difficult blog to write, because for the longest time, I couldn’t picture my life without music. It’s been part of my identity for so long that I don’t even know what I would do if I ultimately had to choose another vocation. Still, the past year or so has been very difficult for me, because I genuinely don’t enjoy my “money-making” job, and I am legitimately beginning to question and explore my current career options.

I always wanted to be a college professor, but with only a couple of interviews, and working adjunct positions that weren’t paying the bills, I had to do something. I needed to support my family, so I took a job teaching music for four days a week at an elementary school. Unfortunately, when I was in school as an undergrad learning to become a music educator, this was the job option that I was least interested in. I was trained to be a band director, and all of my graduate work trained me to work in higher education. Don’t get me wrong, I can do it, but I don’t have the personality for it, nor the energy level. Yet, this is what I’ve been stuck doing for the past three and a half years. I should also mention that my school is pretty awful for many reasons that I won’t divulge publicly, but this just adds to my frustrations.

I’m an introvert, and I’m at my most comfortable in calm and controlled circumstances, which everyone knows is not how one would describe the elementary music classroom. It saps all of my energy, so I’m extremely tired when I get home. The fact that I’m suffering from depression doesn’t help, and there are just days where I feel like I’m too tired to deal with my own kids. I’m so mentally exhausted and frustrated that I don’t even want to continue my academic pursuits, like scholarly writing, composing music, and even practicing my instrument. I used to love practicing, but now, I just don’t have any desire to pick it up. As mentioned above, I’ve always wanted to be a college professor, but this elementary job has literally taken all of the fun out of music. At this point, I don’t even know if I want to do music anymore.

Of course, here’s the logical thought, and it’s my thought process from when I originally took my current position: “Hey, I’ll work this job for a year or two, move into a band position, stay there for a while, and then work on getting a college band director job.” I can honestly say that I’ve tried this approach, and I really don’t know if it’s going to work. After applying and interviewing for numerous band jobs, I am constantly overlooked for less qualified individuals that are typically right out of undergrad. I could understand it if I just wasn’t a good teacher, but I’ve had too many very successful students to see this as being the reason. I also know that I don’t interview extremely well, but after doing so many interviews, I got pretty good at it, and I felt very positively about several of them.

The whole thing is frustrating for so many reasons. I’m at a point where I don’t know if I will ever attain a full-time position at a college or university, because I have only had two interviews over the past seven years and neither occurred recently. I definitely don’t want to spend twenty more years as an elementary music teacher, so I’m at a loss. Yes, I still have two adjunct positions, but I can’t teach many courses due to my public school job. I will keep fighting, but the doubts are becoming very real, and I have been contemplating other options. I have been applying for different “office” jobs, and even though I don’t want to, I have even thought about going back to grad school.

I have very seriously considered moving, because Augusta, GA sucks, but where would I go, and how would I afford the move? I have a family, a house, a lot of debt, and it just isn’t feasible to move right now without a very good job offer. I feel like I’m stuck with no way out, which is not great when you’re trying to cope with depression.

I have always considered my greatest attribute to be the fact that I don’t give up. People, including family members, never thought I should go into music, and I proved them wrong. Most of my undergraduate professors never really thought that I would make it as a horn player, but I did. So now, with everything trying to weigh me down, my gut reaction is to fight back. I chose this profession, I’m good at it, and I’m not going to let some disease take it away from me. I have written before about how it’s my choice to either stay depressed or work my way out of it. Depression isn’t something that is going to disappear, it will always strike you at your most vulnerable point, and it will ultimately win if you let it. You can either let it consume you, or snap out of it and take back what is rightfully yours. I want to find my passion again, not only for music, but for life as well. Who knows how long it will take, but I’m going to work hard and make it difficult for anyone to overlook me for a job again.

I Need to Write More Often

I haven’t been writing a lot lately, and recent circumstances have shown that I need to start writing again. Life has been busy, but I’ve also been lazy. I’ve started several posts over the past couple of years, and I just haven’t been able to finish anything. One of the main reasons is the fact that I’ve been suffering from chronic depression for the past 7-8 years. I’ll have a great idea, run with it for a little while, and then I’ll typically hit some sort of road block, and all of my momentum will just completely fade away. Most of the blame is on me, because I’m letting my depression dictate me and my life, and this is something that has been happening for a while now. I had a couple of good years, where I was making some progress, which just so happened to coincide with my most active blogging periods. I was also pushing myself during those years, and like I mentioned previously, I just haven’t been pulling my weight lately.

So, what do I need to do? First, I need to write and be more open about my struggles with depression. I’ve been using it as an excuse lately, and this behavior needs to stop. I’m never going to find and/or create a better situation for myself if I continue to let my depression run my life. Also, I need to make a list of things that I want to accomplish or that need to happen, and then use my blog to chronicle my progress and hopefully keep myself from quitting and giving up yet again. I need to keep myself accountable, and this is the perfect tool for that purpose.

For the past couple of years, I have been dabbling as a composer. I have enjoyed some limited success, but I really want to push myself to see if I can do more. I may not be a great composer, and it takes me a little more time to complete things, but this is something that I’m really passionate about. Plus, it makes me happy, and I have always had random melodies and compositional ideas floating around in my head, so why not put it all to good use. I have a couple of pieces that are going to be published, which I will write about later, but there are also a number of projects that I have started and just can’t seem to finish. The goal will be to pick one project at a time, chronicle the progress and/or struggles that I’m experiencing, and then maybe I can hold myself accountable and finish some compositions.

I also want to perform more often on horn. In September, I performed a Mozart Concerto with a local orchestra, which was nice, but I’m still struggling with anxiety and lingering doubts concerning my abilities as a performer. The only way to confront these issues is to meet them head on, so I definitely need to push myself to perform more as a soloist. I’m going to work towards performing one of my original compositions at the upcoming Southeast Horn Workshop, and I also need to put together another recital. I did one a couple of years ago, and I definitely programmed pieces that were not very difficult. The goal will be to schedule a recital for the Spring semester (I already have most of the music picked out), and I will chronicle my progress towards this goal. I’ll also try to include some videos or at least audio.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is a project that I have been mulling over for quite a while. I have always enjoyed playing chamber music, and I was fortunate to perform a lot of great repertoire at West Virginia University in both a wind quintet and chamber winds group. I really want to start a chamber winds group, because there is a lot of great rep out there, and the city of Augusta, GA doesn’t have a group that currently meets this need. I also want to obtain more experience as a conductor, and this just seems like the logical choice right now. Previously, I’ve been worried about people not being interested, in terms of audience and high-quality musicians, but I’m done with excuses. I’m going to use my blog to flesh out my ideas and share the group’s progress. First up, is finding musicians…

I hope that this isn’t just another singular post with a bunch of great ideas and no follow through. I really want to do something with my life, and I know that sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to help, so here’s to making stuff happen!