Stepping out of a comfort zone is hard. Whether it’s changing your diet, learning something new, taking on a responsibility, or following your dream, there’s no way to change without incurring some form of discomfort. Sometimes enthusiasm can dull the pain, as can early success. But what do you do when the going gets tough?
Well, you could give up. It might be inevitable depending on what else is going on in your life. Generally the least vital part of your daily existence tends to slide. For me, that would be house-cleaning. Oh, it gets done eventually because I can only take so much dust and disorder, but I have the power to ignore it for relatively long periods of time. Better to pass on house cleaning than paying the bills or buying the groceries.
But what if it’s not a daily essential?
Over the past 20 months I have been learning the violin at a steady, but relaxed rate. I progress through the method fairly well, spending two to three weeks (on average) on each new piece while absorbing the lesson it is trying to drill into me. But now the pieces are getting longer and more complicated. Adding to that, I have a goal. I admitted to my teacher that playing in a vacuum is getting a bit old and that I want to be part of some kind of ensemble.
There’s this one group of his adult students that play folk, rock, and Celtic music, he said. It could be fun, but it’s not really my deal. There’s another student, about a book ahead of me that wants to play classical which would be perfect, but he might not be interested in playing duets. The next option was to aim to play with one of the pre-professional/amateur orchestras. There are two. One is a University symphony that allows community members to audition. The other is a community orchestra that also requires an audition.
I’m not ready for either. But he said he would help me get there. It will take about a year, and I really need to hunker down and do some extra work to prepare. I’m lacking in several key areas – vibrato, speed, and sight reading. Consequently, we have moved to an hour lesson and I should expect much more to work on each week.
This is intimidating, but doable, I think. My first choice orchestra meets on a day when I already have a standing obligation. My second choice doesn’t have anyone in it that I know. And I don’t have any experience at all playing in an orchestra. Ensemble playing, which most people learn in middle school, is completely foreign to me. I need to learn all sorts of habits that everyone else has ingrained in their technique already. There are cues to learn, etiquette, and a ton of repertoire.
I’m wondering too, what I will need to give up to make all this happen. Surely it will be harder than I can imagine. Running a half marathon was like that. What if I get to my goal and find the workload too much to sustain while raising a family, working full time, and having a life outside the practice room?
Frankly, I’m a bit worried about what I have committed to. Not enough to let the opportunity pass me by, but still afraid of the unknown. In the end, it’s more exciting than frightening. I suppose enthusiasm will get me part of the way there, and success is all dependent on my diligence. It’s all on me, and that’s the scariest thing of all.