You do not have to be good.Mary Oliver
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
“Trust the timing of your life.”
Words that are so much easier said than followed, believed or acted upon, but we all hear them so frequently for a simple reason: they’re true.
I didn’t mistrust the timing of my life when I changed college majors from Music Recording Technology to Corporate Communications after two years in school. Not when I chose to focus on my career instead of other things I loved, like this blog. Barely when I became single at 30. And certainly not when I felt so deeply the loss of my aunt in 2016 that I drove myself to the Virginia Harp Center to try to fill the hole in my heart through music once again.
So why, at almost 32, does a small but nevertheless perceived inadequacy so easily detract from months and years of progress?
It’s been so long since I have played music with other people, I cannot count the years. So, in the course of the pandemic, when I re-found the lever harp and purchased a pedal harp, I jumped at opportunities to set something up when I inevitably emerged from the Dark Time. I reached out to harp ensembles, multiple orchestras – and I made a connection with a local conductor who has since actively kept in touch with me, inviting me to play with an orchestra as early as tomorrow.
My scheduling issues notwithstanding, the harp part for the piece they’re playing – Franck’s Symphony in D Minor – is listed at advanced level. I consider myself a beginner-intermediate or, since we are all our own worst critics, an intermediate player at best – and I’m an amateur musician whose full time job is (sometimes regrettably) not playing music.
Declining the invitation was tough. Admitting to myself that I am just not ready to do this was even tougher. But in the midst of the toughness and the disappointment, while listening to my best friend who has gone through similar situations and reflecting on my own progress not only as a musician but as a woman, a professional, and an individual, I realized that I’m not at the place where I totally throw away my orchestral dream.
I’m on a journey, of which playing in an orchestra is only one part.
It’s not, “I’m an intermediate player at best.” It’s, “In under four years and with a full time job, I’ve progressed from early-beginner to mostly intermediate level playing, and I’m about to be featured in Harp Column magazine for my dedication to the instrument.”
It’s not, “I am not a good harpist because I can’t play this harp part.” It’s, “I know a ton of pieces, including one and a half method books’ worth of songs, and have made four successful video recordings of intermediate level pieces.”
It’s not, “I won’t be able to play in an orchestra for another 15 years at this rate.” It’s, “Let’s start simpler, perhaps with Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers.”
They say that self-talk is everything, and truly, it is. Self-talk, self-care, self-respect, self-love. Pull all of it together and you’ve got a self-actualized person who follows dreams and lives passions and savors the moment and delights in progress, not in perfection. Why mistrust the timing of anything with an attitude like that, with the understanding that growth is a never-ending, beautiful journey?
As Mary Oliver says in her poem, Wild Geese, quoted above, we have only to let ourselves love what we love. The rest is gravy.