Comparison is the thief of joy - The struggle to keep your eyes on your own lane...

Comparison is the thief of joy - the struggle to keep your eyes on your own lane...

Six weeks ago I took an audition.  That's such a big, heavy word.  It's full of opportunity and pressure, validation and rejection...and in many cases it can be the difference in job "security" (is that even a thing in the music business anymore?) and having to still piece together enough gigs to pay the bills for another year...or years.  I had a teacher long ago that said the worst thing you can do to yourself is have to win a job to write your next rent check.  There's just too much at stake, and he was right! But it's also detrimental to put so much credit in 'winning' a job as a form of validation of your success as a musician.  Easier said than done of course.

For years when I first was out of school I was totally focused on winning a job...which is ironic because in school I had decided I would be perfectly happy freelancing my entire career...I'm not sure why or how I got off the course I was on but I was determined to win that elusive job...even if it was the smallest orchestral, per service, drive 4+ hours each way position.  But I didn't. And I had this voice in the back of my head saying, "How good can you be if you can't win this tiny position?".  I had a run of auditions where I was runner up for every single audition I took. It was really frustrating, but life went on, I freelanced more and more and we settled into Chicago.  Slowly I started to skip over the auditions out of state, and then those that were a long drive away.  I looked around and I realized that my book was full most of the time...and while at times I still had to explain to people that I didn't "have a job" anywhere specific, I was working...all the time. It was so easy after these conversations (mostly with non musicians) to fall back into the trap of comparing myself to others.  I would inevitably feel bad and my husband would say "seriously? you're working all week?" or "yah this person won X job, but they have to deal with Y in their life". 

"Comparison is the thief of JOY", a quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt and still so relevant today!  It's so easy to lose the inherit JOY you had over something when you fall into that trap of comparing your life to others.  In this day in age where we post every shiny, happy, perfect moment on line for all to see (and really to make us feel better about ourselves) it's hard to "stay in our lane" and focus on what we really want/need...and the fact is that when it comes down to it there is no comparison. I can't compare where I am in my life or career right now to anyone else, because they haven't lived my life.  They didn't loose their sister suddenly during their one year masters program, they didn't have major surgery for a giant abdominal tumor, suffer the same debilitating loss of a baby, they didn't have the same bout of morning sickness I did with all three of my pregnancies or the life flashing before my eyes delivery of my youngest.  They didn't meet their soul mate when they were in elementary school, grow up in Alaska, marry at 22, buy a house as a two freelance musicians household...the list goes on and on with the good and bad.

It's apples and oranges when you really think about it.

I read a great blog post a few months ago that explained it really well...HERE is the link. I highly recommend checking it out...but the two main points to take away are: 1) it's natural to feel jealous and compare yourself to others (we ALL do it, don't let anyone tell you they don't) 2) WHEN you find yourself doing that, mentally trade places with every way possible...chances are you wouldn't want to have to live their life, their experiences (all of them!) and the fact is that all of their life experiences have led them to this "thing" you are currently jealous of.  It's so much easier said than done but a great exercise to start implementing.  When I find myself asking, "why didn't I get called for that?" or think "That person always gets X" I always come back to, "But I get to come home to my beautiful house and family.  And if getting offered Y means that I couldn't come home this, I wouldn't want it anyways." 

Back to that audition I took.  I didn't win. And on the way home I started to go down that "green with jealously" path until I stopped and remembered that a year ago I couldn't play my horn.  I had just had a baby and almost died.  I had to take three months off from playing and then it took almost another six months of playing, practicing, gigging to even begin to feel like myself behind the horn again.  This particular audition was a position I never thought I would audition for, simply because I didn't do the main part of this job well...until now.  I started to regain my joy in the accomplishment that I advanced to the finals because of my playing (first round was behind a screen).  My colleagues behind the screen didn't know it was ME playing, they just heard something/someone that they wanted to hear again.  All the work I put into the horn after the kids went to bed, when I was tired but had that nagging voice saying you've got to get that hunk of metal on your face or you'll regret it, paid off. I pushed myself outside my comfort zone and played for friends and colleagues. The goal I set I accomplished. I honed a new skill set on my instrument and I can no longer say "I can't play X" because I proved that I actually can! I raised the bar, my bar, and met it.  It's a good feeling and when I remembered this I reveled in the joy of my success.  It was truly the first time, FIRST TIME, in my life as a musician that I didn't compare myself to anyone else at the audition and how they played but held myself to my own standard.

I wish I could bottle the feeling...but since I can't I will settle for printing out these memes and taping them anywhere I need them...starting with my music stand (you can download your own copies below, my gift to you!)

Right click and 'save as' to save this as a jpeg

Click HERE to download a printable PDF

Right click and 'save as' to save this as a jpeg

Click HERE to download a printable PDF


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