Urghhhh! Damn you social media with your endless opportunities for scrolling, liking, sharing, watching videos of wolfhounds, and ultimately making comparisons.
We've all been there. Mindlessly scrolling along and BANG, so-and-so has just done this.
We're in lockdown?
But they're being successful!!
It can't be?
Am I failing? Falling behind? Not good enough???
I would love to say I've dressed this up for comic retelling but we all know I've not. We've all done it. Welcome to the wonderful world of social media. The malicious circle of bettering your best self, of filters and Auto-Tune and unavoidably for musicians, the most relevant platform to publicise yourself to showcase what you can do for the modern audience.
If lockdown has taught us anything, it is the need for classical music to adapt to the ever changing world of the internet. We can't keep recycling old recordings, we have to develop and evolve to show the world (and the government) we're viable and we're relevant! But what about the impact our health? The balance between publicising ourselves and knowing when it's time to breathe?
Life is hard right now. The past few blogs have all had the same message and honestly, I'm trying to find something to write that makes us all want to get up and dance our troubles away. But in recent months, I've been struck by two contradicting thoughts: 1. Me, constantly working on the various tasks I have going. 2. Same me, laying there doing f**k all scrolling through social media seeing other people's amazing achievements and wondering whether I've missed a newsletter or three!
So let's just lay down some facts. Some equilibrium for all sides just so our "Fear" (we've all seen "Inside Out" right?) can just take a breath and listen for a second. The world as we know it is on lockdown. Our creative minds, not so lockdown, but still, equally restricted, unable to work as we would wish. What comes next is your own story, no one else's.
We can play this lockdown in whatever way we so wish. The wisest of us will take this as an opportunity to assess ourselves and what we need to stay well, safe and productive, whilst we ride out the storm. This could be investing time and effort into musical projects, or new ventures that focus on an activity we never had time to pursue until now (as seen in the #sundayshoutouts series), and some of us, will look at this as an opportunity to finally look after our broken bodies and minds and put them back together slowly, away from social media. All of which are absolutely brilliant ways to spend a lockdown or three. My unhealthy default - running around like a headless chicken, piling on the work load in an effort to look busy... not so brilliant but when it comes to my kitchen burnout encore of "Black Velvet" twinned with a questionable dance routine and glass of wine, well it does make you laugh, when laughter is hard to come by.
What I'm trying to say is, our lockdowns are our own. Right now, looking successful online might be the healthiest thing in the world for one person and might be detrimental for another. The person who may be looking super successful online might be panicking about the future just as much as the person panicking they haven't got anything to post. You can't judge a musician by their social media.
My counsellor asked me this week; "You're always saying "I don't know what I'm doing" but have you ever thought of what you are?" Personally, in my case and I think for the majority of musicians, we are trained to judge our own skill or success by the views of the external; that of a teacher, head of department, or panel at a competition. Have we lost what made us want to do music in the first place?
For me, youth orchestra was the only place I felt like I knew what I was doing, so I made the connection that cello was where I could be my true self. Music enabled me to feel and say the things I could never find the words for. For example, the top of the e minor scale in the Elgar for me is everything I could ever feel. It's not for everyone, (my god some people can slate the Elgar) but it is for me. But in truth, somewhere between my 1st year undergrad and graduating, I lost the part of my self that found great joy in the cello in exchange for routine and "success" and I want it back!
My challenge (and for those who feel the same I hope you'll join me) this lockdown, is to try and shut out the external, and focus on what I am, whatever that may be. No matter how many times comparisons and the fear of failure raise their ugly head, to just try again to be my own (our own), completely imperfect but talented selves, even if we don't always believe it. Currently life is crap enough, without our own worst enemy staring back at us in the mirror.
*Cue Black Velvet*
Stay safe and stay true!