Happy New Year!
I know that we are mostly done with the month of January but I still feel like this is a “new year”. My batteries are charged after a restful winter break in Manistee and an exciting beginning of the semester. Jam sessions, recording projects, and performances at church speckled my snow-covered weeks in Northern Michigan. Since being back in Kalamazoo, we’ve survived the “circumpolar whirl” and snow days cancelations. Classes and rehearsals for WMU and after-school program at Kalamazoo Kids in Tune have begun in full force. Preparations for a concert in Petoskey Michigan with organist Joe Fortin and the WMU concerto competition occupy my practice time though I did find time to start my Suzuki Certification at the Michigan Music Conference. In short, a lot has been happening lately.
I’m not one to make New Year’s Resolutions. It seems like every day I “resolve” to do something (“I’m going to make time to read a book every day”, “I’m going to eat more fruit and vegetables”, “I’m going to get up an hour earlier and meditate in the morning). My resolve quickly dissolves and I’m left with the feeling that my brilliant new plan was only a mental panacea to make myself feel better in the moment. What I find much more resilient are the conclusions drawn from experience and by experience I mean months of blood, sweat, and tears. Here’s the fruit of last year’s labor.
Since my freshman year of college I have been the slave of two mantras: “I need more time” and “I wish I had had more time”. The first characterizes the anxiety and doubt of things not yet accomplished and the second express the feelings of regret and guilt of “could I have done more?” Caught on a perpetual treadmill of negativity, my motivation was hindered rather than increased. Moreover, I would quantify my productivity in hours rather than qualify it in objectives completed.
My recent epiphany was that it’s not how much time you have but what you do with that time that really counts. When I actually write it out in black and white this statement looks rather elementary. Yet it helps me to cut through a lot of the mental clutter that quickly accumulates with a busy schedule. For example, instead of hopelessly wishing for six hours a day to practice, I use the four that I have as effectively as possible. I’m spending less time beating myself up and more time getting it done. And with some creative solutions and good judgment, I have more time to do the things I need and want to do.
I would also go as far to say that this proves true existentially. Whether or not you believe that there is another existence after this one, when we die, life as we know it comes to an end. And while immortality may seem like an ideal state of being, I think that it would actually be a mistake. I remember a philosophy professor saying that if you were to live forever you would have an unlimited amount of “re-do's”. Life’s choices would no longer feel pertinent because you could always try again without penalty. With the real restrictions of time upon us, we must prioritize and decide what is really important. Thus, it is precisely “not having enough time” that gives our lives meaning and purpose. Maybe the “live-hard die-young” lifestyle of rockstars (and classical composers) isn’t ideal but you get the idea.