I made the trip down to NC to see my husband, feeling a bit dejected. I often write about my success and failures as a struggling musician in New York City, but lately it seems I have experienced more failures than anything else. And while I was happy at the thought of being with my husband for a few days, I had a 14 hour trip to stew about my career, what I would do when I returned, and the ever weighing question on my mind, what if I never get anywhere with this?
After a few days in the Smoky Mountains, I couldn't face the prospect of going back home so soon. I extended my trip and decided to focus on my husband while I was here. I swore off my normal routine of scouring the internet hours at a time looking for jobs and another several hours a day perfecting recordings and practicing. I also wouldn’t miss the day to day journey in and out of the city – the bus ride at rush hour, the dirty, crowded subways, walking for blocks in the freezing cold, or constantly getting lost, confused, and misdirected. All I brought with me was my guitar and notepad, just in case a song idea hit me in the middle of the night. I felt relief and guilt at the same time for leaving these things behind for a week and a half. If I don’t put in the work, how can I expect to get anything out of it?
The other day, I drove to meet my husband for lunch. This small mountain town has few radio stations and I scanned the dial to find one without static interference. The one I found was a Christian talk radio station. I usually prefer music, but I left it because there is something familiar and comforting when I hear a radio sermon. It must be from my childhood when my mother listened to cassette tapes of sermons on road trips.
Only a few seconds had passed when I heard the man say something that got my attention. He said the words, “unbridled ambition.” And then he gave the definition. I know that I have ambition for myself and I know ambition is a good and healthy thing to possess. But when he gave the definition of unbridled ambition, I soon felt a conviction in my heart. “Unbridled ambition is the willingness to work yourself to death in order to meet the worlds’ standards.”
I thought about my willingness to work myself to death. And not just with music. In the Army I gave every ounce of myself, did about a million things I didn’t want to do, didn’t think I could do, didn’t ever need to do, and probably should never have done, but I thought I had to do those things to meet the standard of officer my superiors expected. I certainly know now that much of what I did was unnecessary. I could have been just as good an officer without working til sun down when it could have waited until the next morning, or putting my body through unnecessary trauma after trauma. I thought, Maybe I am doing the same thing all over again.
Whose standard am I trying to meet anyway? My boss, my evaluator, my commander, the industry, a club owner, an activities or music director? I am striving to please the wrong people. I know this. I was raised in a Christian home. Duh, we do all things for the Glory of God, not man. I have forgotten, blinded by my frantic schedule, hours of work and research trying to find that one magical thing that will get me where I want to be. Who knows if God even wants me to be there because I hardly even bothered to ask.
I constantly worry, even panic over my career. This shouldn’t be my incessant frame of mind if I am pursuing something I love so dearly. And then he said something else, “If worry and anxiety are allowed to grow unchecked, they turn into depression. And if depression is not reversed, it can turn into deep despair.”
Eek. Again my mind went back to my days in the Army when at my lowest point of feeling like all my work had been in vain and all my efforts were useless, I felt the hopeless hold of depression. And how again, I felt the same cycle happening now with music.
After this revelation in the car, I felt an entirely new perspective take place. Priorities, balance, and God’s will should be my focus, not worry, anxiety, and failure. I’m not saying I’m magically fixed and I won’t be sad, frustrated, or stress myself out trying to reach perfection anymore. But at least I’m aware that I’m prone to these things and I know what should be my goal.
I had to take a minute to realize how amazing it was that I was in the car, listening to that station at that exact moment. God knew what I needed to hear and He brought me 762 miles to hear it.
**The preacher was Dr. Charles F. Stanley http://www.intouch.org