Ever since graduating from undergraduate studies I have slowly been spiraling into an existential crisis. Namely, how do I find my "career"? So many of my peers continued on to further education or jobs with such seeming confidence. I, however, was left half-blind as to how I was supposed to navigate my next steps. For years I balanced carefully on the see-saw of part-time work with a year-by-year reevaluation of my position (and with the very gracious emotional and financial support of my parents). Finally, I made the move on to graduate school. But graduate school (like all education) is just a conduit and I find myself on the other end, again facing that existential crisis.
Part of the question is how does one know what kinds of job one wants to work in. The most visible jobs (to me) are ones I see everyday--the service industry. Restaurant workers, retail workers, and everything in between. But those don't necessarily seem like sustainable jobs. Then there are the jobs one sees in the media: lawyers, doctors, engineers. But these are so specialized. Obviously, I have set off down the road of music. Where does that lead me? Once again, there are the visible jobs: performers, recording artists, producers, institutional educators (those with certification for K-12 or those in full-time or tenure-track positions in higher education). But once again, where does that lead me? I do not fit any of those categories.
The other part of the question is justifying how I earn my income. More to the point, justifying how I take money from others. How does what I do benefit my "clients" and society at large? Of course, the easy answer is that if someone seeks my skills, then that justifies the exchange. But part of me still worries about the fact that music does not seem to make a direct impact in ending world hunger, providing clean water to everyone, curing diseases, or contributing to the exploration of technology that will hopefully make us better stewards of the earth. How do I justify exchanging money for my skills with people just because they have the resources to use their money for music?
Well, I still do not have a satisfactory answer. One thing that has helped, though, is something I heard or read recently. Someone mentioned that in lieu of organized religion, he considered music his spirituality. Because I count ministers, spiritual leaders, and counselors among those that are contributing to society in a direct way, I can feel better as an independent music educator if my position can help others experience their own spirituality through music. Another thing that has helped ease my mind a little is remembering that those jobs that seem so important in my mind are the "big cogs" in the wheel of society. It is just as important to have the "little cogs" or the "medium-sized cogs" as well and I seem to fit that category.
For now, I guess I will just have to keep taking baby steps. Of course, the direction I am headed requires much more out of my more introverted personality than I prefer, but that's a topic for a different blog post.
Until next time--"Let's Make Music!"