This week, I went out for dinner with my folks. As we scarfed down some seriously delicious Italian food, our discussion drifted to stuff we might like to buy in the future. I mentioned that my next big purchase, when I got my financial feet under me again, was going to be a pawn shop electric guitar. My Dad then said that the Hubs and I could borrow his electric guitar and bass, along with his practice amp.
This may seem like a small exchange, but it marks a huge, if gradual, change in my life.
For the past five years, my life has been nothing but school. Some people say that, but I really mean it. I went directly from a one-year intensive Master’s Degree program into one of the most scary-hard art programs in the world. Now, before you think I’m getting whiny, let me clarify: I know what I signed up for. However, one of the things I’ve discovered after running this journey to its end is that you can never truly predict what something will do to you, how it will change you, despite having consented fully to it at the outset.
One of the things that living and breathing school and work for five years did to me was take away my joy. I became mean, because I saw the people in front of me as obstacles to efficiency and success. I stopped cultivating hobbies, of which I previously had many, because I didn’t see the point. I would start a video game, or a knitting project, or commit to a performance project, and then work and school would inevitably keep me from following through. I had a feeling of never living up to expectations and failing, all the time, because I could never make school and work balance with everything else in my life. Both schoolwork and the rest of my life suffered.
And yet, if you’d asked me at the time, I would have told you I was getting meaner, more restless, and less capable, and I never would have been able to tell you why. The slow leach of joy from my life happened so gradually, I never even noticed that it was a problem. I just knew I was miserable. It’s taken me nearly a year to sort all of this out, and it’s still unravelling. The saddest part about all of it is that if your were to ask me, even now, I would still say that it was unavoidable. I had to do this kind of schooling to get where I was going. It was a sacrifice I made knowing what its potential effect could be, because the alternatives were so much worse.
Things started to turn around when I moved, got a steady job, and a car. I started listening to the radio again as I drove, liking the rush it gave me, a rush I hadn’t felt in years. After a while, I started singing along. Singing along made me yearn for a guitar so that I could perform again. I had sold my guitar when I needed money to go to school. I’m slowly coming around, starting to want things for myself again, just for the fun of them. My vocal coaches used to tell me that I had a hard time emoting during performance. I think I just needed to go through the wringer a bit, to really live, to appreciate the act of expression through music. Soon, I’m going to play that guitar, and I’m going to sing with joy.
So, that brings me to Liz’s Question of the Week (TM):
What in your life costs you no money, but brings you joy? Would you ever let it go for a larger gain?
Answer in the comments, or better yet, use it as a blog prompt, and I’ll answer on your blog!
…And, if you’re ever in Hamilton, you owe it to yourself to check out Chicago Style Pizza. Just do it, but show up early. They don’t take reservations.