I think I’m writing about this because I’ve been reading about it, thinking about it, and struggling with it for a while now. I’ve seen other blog people write about it, seen many movies about it lately, and it’s just something I can’t get out of my mind. I’ve been writing about it myself, cramming my behemoth full of it because it’s something that I care about. I even wrote a silly post yesterday about my hair, because my hair relates to this. The idea of being lost, and of working on finding yourself again.
When I used to hear people say things like “I need to find myself,” I rolled my eyes something fierce. I thought it sounded retarded. Like… you’re right there. How do you need to find yourself? But now I think I understand. “Finding yourself” is something that a lot of people say when they really mean “I don’t want to deal with my responsibilities anymore, so I’m running away to live my life how I want and you can suck my ****.” For a lot of people, it’s a really selfish thing. Ditching people who rely on them and giving an excuse that’s presented as something valid. Like if the people it affects try to stop it, they’re holding the finder back.
But honestly trying to figure out who you are and what you want is different. Especially if you do it in a way that doesn’t hurt the people around you. If you don’t use it as an excuse to ditch your responsibilities and the people who care about you. I’m fortunate enough to have a best friend and a husband who understand me, and understand that I have been feeling a little lost. They both want to help me, and that makes it easier to try. Knowing that they won’t run away, and that they don’t think I’m selfish means everything. It means I can think about these things and talk about them and cry about them and go a little insane, and they will still support me. As long as I don’t let the journey turn me into a total butthead.
Over the last year or two, I’ve been struggling with something, and I couldn’t figure out what the main problem was. There were a lot of little things, and I have this notion that they all have to be related to one THING. Maybe they aren’t. I still don’t know. But I’m getting some ideas.
Here’s one. This is the first time in my adult life that I’ve been without any kind of goal.
When I was about twelve, I decided that I wanted to play in professional symphonies. I wanted to get paid to play. So I started working for that, and that was my major goal as a teenager. To practice and work, to become good enough to get into college so I could get the proper training to become a professional violinist. I worked, and I got into college. Then the goal in college was to get as good as possible and to finish my degree. About four months before graduating, I was given the opportunity to apply for graduate school. I would get a full scholarship, and would get more training, which I decided I needed since I still wasn’t good enough to get into a pro orchestra.
So I went to graduate school. And once I was there, I still had that one big goal, but I also formed some new goals. To open up, meet people, be more than just a violin-playing machine. Because that’s kind of what I was in undergrad. I played violin and kept to myself. That was my life. But in graduate school I met Raine, and my husband, and they helped me see that while having a goal was good, it wasn’t my entire life.
I did open up, and I did learn things. I learned to be free as a person, to not be so shy and so quiet and so afraid to show people how I am that I was just nothing. Because I was that shy kid in undergrad. The one who never talked, never did things with people, and probably came off as perpetually terrified to find myself in social situations. Graduate school put an end to that nonsense. I became convinced that it was okay to just be me… unsociable and taciturn on PURPOSE.
Even though I was having this self-realization, my original goal was still in place. I still wanted what I’d wanted when I was twelve. To get into professional symphonies. And so I continued to work. And at the beginning of my second year of graduate school, I auditioned for the two symphonies that I’m in now.
And got rejected. Didn’t even make it past the first round. It upset me, but I didn’t really have any reason to be upset. I hadn’t prepared well enough. Not nearly. I couldn’t prepare the way I needed to, because I was in a bad place then. Tired from school, ready to be done. I’ve never really liked school. I was only there to get my training as a violinist. I pooped my way through my classes, somehow got good grades, and just waited for the time when it was finally over.
After that rejection, once I got over the first wave of disappointment, I think something changed in my mind. I stopped trying to be perfect. Stopped being so obsessed with details that I lost the forest. I started working on a piece that I’d wanted to play since undergrad, The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan-Williams (this is currently my favorite recording of this piece, though I play it very differently. Different interpretations of pieces is the best thing about classical music.)
That piece meant a lot to me. The first time I heard it, played by another student who I admired very much as a player, I was spellbound. So when I got to play it in graduate school, I was so excited. I started that thing, and I loved working on it. I didn’t forget about details, but I finally let the details exist to create a whole. My playing got better because I worked on that piece. I loved it so much that I threw everything into it. I wonder if I hadn’t worked on that piece, if I’d ever have been good enough to get into orchestras. If I would have cared enough to keep trying to be better.
That piece took me far. Got me second place in a solo honors competition at school, made people realize that I can emote while I play, opened up my playing and made me excited about it again. Because over the years that I’d been in school, playing had steadily become less and less exciting. There’s something about doing it so intensely, almost like a job, that took a lot of the magic out of it. The Lark Ascending reminded me of the magic.
And then it was over. I graduated. I was finished. I moved to the big city in our state, which is about 65 miles south of where I went to graduate school. I was from that city, my family all lived there, and I didn’t have enough money to get my own place in my grad school town. I was in that big city for all of five months, thinking it was too big, missing my husband, who I had just started dating, wishing I could just move back north. All the while, I practiced for those auditions.
And then they came, and I auditioned, and I guess it was my year. I got into both orchestras. I’ve said this before, but I’ll mention it again. These orchestras aren’t great. They aren’t the New York Phil. But for my level, they’re good, and they pay. And so, just over three years ago, I finally achieved that goal that I’d had since the age of twelve. I was a pro. It was all I ever wanted.
Since one of the orchestras was in my grad school town and the other was north of that, I used the commute as an excuse to move back north, to my graduate school town, where my dude lived, where I was happier, and where there weren’t so damn many people. Smaller city = better. And I was happy, living with the guy, playing in the orchestras, being in a place I liked.
And that lasted about six months. And then, one day, I was like HOLY CRAP, WHAT NOW? Because seriously, what do you do once you achieve your life goal? You think you’d be done, but… that isn’t a real thing. You’re never done. You never “get there.” There’s always somewhere else to get. And for the last two years, I have not been able to figure out where that next place is. I have had no goals.
I think that’s why I latched onto NaNoWriMo with such gusto. I think that’s also why I told myself it would be cool to finish my behemoth within a year. Because they were goals. Not giant goals like getting into orchestras, but goals. In a sea of goal-lessness, they were like little life preservers. But like I’ve said before, those goals are arbitrary. They don’t mean anything unless they’re part of a larger whole. What would finishing NaNoWriMo do for my life? Not a darn thing.
And so, I’ve decided to make a new goal, something that I can work for my entire life. Something that I will never “reach,” because it’s something that will always change. My new goal is to find what I am, what I want to be, how I can be better, how I can grow, how much I can learn, and how I can be a good influence on the people around me. My goal is to be honest with myself, to say it’s okay to be myself, but that’s it’s also okay to work on changing and growing. And Raine, before you get all upset and say that people can’t really change, I’m referring to changing behaviors, not fundamentals. I think my fundamentals are fine, but some of the things I’ve been doing may not be fine. That’s one of those things I need to figure out.
My goal, in short, is to find myself *eyeroll*, through being honest, trying new things, not shutting myself into tiny boxes, and not thinking that things have to be a certain way. By being open enough to realize that I can learn anything from anything and anyone. And by accepting that finding myself isn’t something I need to roll my eyes about.
And what, exactly, does all this have to do with my hair? I think I lost confidence in myself when I realized I wasn’t working for anything. I didn’t trust my own judgment about my life, so I listened to the people who told me I’d look so much more feminine if I grew my hair out, and that it looked so pretty when it was a little longer. And yesterday, getting my hair cut off was like screaming “You don’t know what I want more than I do!” right in those people’s faces. In a really nice way….
As for NaNoWriMo, I give up. Not in a negative, quitting, giving up something because I think it’s beyond me kind of way. It’s a positive giving up. I’m going to keep working on the story, I’m just okay with not finishing it now. I’m not obsessed with catching up and keeping up. Finishing NaNoWriMo doesn’t mean as much to me as resting my mind so I can figure things out. It doesn’t mean as much to me as planning the ending of my behemoth, which I’ve been doing for days without even meaning to. And when I stop and think about it, between my blog, NaNoWriMo, and my behemoth, I’ve already written 50,000 words this month. I don’t have a doubt about that. So, why should I focus on those 50,000 words being in one place, especially when that place isn’t that important?