There’s a cliche of the middle-aged man who has been in the same job with the same company since he finished college and will stay in that same job until the age of 65, at which point he will retire to Florida.
We tend to feel sorry for this fictional character. How sad that he just does the same thing year in and year out. With the same people. In the same building.
And we artists then tend to gloat a bit. We’d never be that boring. Our careers are so varied and exciting. We don’t have to go to an office, and the nature of our work means that every week is a completely different experience.
I mean, yes. Literally, you could be in a different country, working with a different group of people from week to week, but if you zoom out and take a look at your career, how different is what you’re doing now from what you were doing post-graduation? And even scarier, how different is it from what you were doing in high school?
For most creatives, the gigs get better over the years, and the fees and teaching rates might go up a bit, but if we’re not deliberate about it, we could end up just like our friend in the suit, marching to the same office cubicle day after day. Except, when you hit 65, you’ll probably just keep going another 10+ years.
We love the people we work with–often, they are our dearest and closest friends!
We love the music we play–especially now, with groups finally getting more inclusive and adventurous with their programming.
We love our students, and as some graduate and leave the nest, there’s always a new one who’s just getting started with us.
We love the interesting opportunities that come our way.
I’m not saying we need to!
All I’m saying is that with each week looking and feeling so different, it’s easy to wake up 20 years from now and realize that basically, you’ve been doing the same thing for a VERY LONG TIME.
And writing this in a post-COVID time (as far as concerts and events go, that is) we certainly don’t take that for granted. We were unable to do those things we love for 18 months.
But what if this, 2022, could mark a new phase in your career? A phase where you took on principle roles instead of section work. A phase where you ONLY taught students who were the exact age and level you felt was your particular zone of genius (or interest!) A phase where you played fewer orchestra gigs and more solo and chamber music concerts, or vice versa? A phase where you started your own concert series or festival so that you could program and play exactly the music you want people to hear? A phase where you took that idea that has been in the back of your mind forEVER and turned it into an actual part of your career.
As creatives, it’s easy to get lulled into a pattern of: Get asked, say yes, prepare, execute, get asked for the next thing, prepare, execute. Whether as a musician, a dancer, writer, actor, painter, etc.
The days become weeks, which become years, which become decades. And then it’s over.
You don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nobody is suggesting that you burn down the ships of your career and start from scratch with this new idea, but rather to mark this year as a starting point for a new phase.
So tell me, how would you finish this sentence?
P.S. Want some help figuring out what you should be doing with your life? Grab this (free) worksheet that will help you gain clarity around what you were meant to offer the world and who you’d like to serve.
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