Asking yourself what makes your heart comes alive seems dreamy and exciting. Actually doing it… well that’s when things get hard. Let me expound.
I was a piano performance major in college, which meant I played the piano for four years straight. There were books to read and papers to write of course, but my central focus was always honing my craft – aka practicing piano. Most days I sat in the windowless basement practice rooms that often smelled a little funny for hours at a time. Sunlight and blue skies were distant memories as I poured hours into perfecting single measures of music. I made some friends in college, much to my siblings skepticism, but my closest companions were Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Debussy, and the others that walked in their crowd. If I wasn’t practicing their pieces I was researching their historical background or analyzing the harmonic progressions of the notes they chose. (Or maybe flirting with the boy in the next room over who practiced as much as me, but that’s another story.)
I loved my experience as a music major. It was truly a delightful season of my life. I was alive making music.
And then I graduated.
I practiced for the months following, hoping to get into grad school and spend another two or three years locked in a practice room. (Hopefully one with windows and a Steinway this time.)
And then I got married.
Marriage changes a lot of things. Suddenly playing an instrument for six hours a day might not be the only thing worth living for as you experience the glories of being in love and having a best friend constantly at your side. Also there’s that reality check that comes when suddenly you’re not living in your parents’ basement anymore (yes, I was that college graduate) and rent, food, and utility bills become something to take into consideration.
I taught piano, accompanied high school choirs and college classes, and tapped quarter notes on my nose (because that’s what you do when leading preschool music classes). Music, specifically piano, became largely about making money and much less about making my heart come alive. (Though as a side note, there were thousands of precious/hilarious moments in this season.)
We moved. My piano studio went from 28 to two, but I continued to accompany at the local high school and middle school. (Bonus: the cute boy I flirted with during my college practice hours is the director. Double bonus: he’s my husband.)
So, I myself here. Full swing into adulthood. Five hours a week or less spent at the piano. Knowing that playing beautiful (and loud) (and fast) music makes my heart come alive, but not knowing how it fits in this season.
We went to a Piano Guys concert last summer. If you haven’t heard them than stop what you’re doing (which is scrolling through my blog and thinking about what you’ll make for supper) and go be inspired. They share a joyful passion through music that reignites my soul anytime I watch them. I want to play piano like their pianist does. I want to create sounds that make me come alive. I want others to be brightened by the way I do what I love.
Tanner and I are putting together a recital this year as a fundraiser for our future arts building. My first performance opportunity in four years. But I am intimidated at the thought of playing three movement Sonatas and four part fugues again. They were joy giving endeavors in my college years but in this season I am overwhelmed by them. At this point they are not life giving. They are stress inducing. I pull out Piano Guys music. My high achieving nature and academic drive dies a little, but I feel my heart grow lighter.
Perhaps the professional musicians and cultured academics will find my choices less satisfying. Maybe my students seeking classical training will find me less appealing as a teacher. I let go of these fears. I choose to be brave.
Sometimes courage means pursuing the easier path.
I choose to do what makes me come alive. A freedom washes over me as I release self-imposed expectations and people pleasing tendencies. I let my hands loose on the black and white keys before me and feel joy swell inside me. I choose to just have fun. Because the world needs livened hearts more than it needs another classical piano performance.
This story isn’t just about one person learning to play fun songs on the piano. This story could be about the woman who plants a garden, or the man who takes up painting, or about any person who decides they are ready to ask and do what makes them come alive.
Two books on the topic of pursuing your heart’s passion:
–A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman. I can’t praise this book enough for stirring up the parts of my heart that had become dormant and inspiring me to do what I love.
–Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – I’m all of eleven pages into this book, but they were great. I’ve also heard from a number of sources that this is a helpful book in living into our creative passions without fear.