Unfortunately, I’ve been extremely busy with life lately, and I just haven’t had much time to blog. Things have actually been going very well, so I also haven’t felt a need to write like I did just a few months ago. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to quit, but I do need to multi-task a little better and find time to devote to researching anxiety. I just have so many things that I want to do right now and not enough time to do it all.
Now, an update on how things have progressed concerning my performance anxiety. I can honestly say that it’s been a few years since I’ve had this much fun playing horn. I’m also playing almost as well as I was back then too. I knew it would take a while to regain my playing abilities, but I’m progressing, and I’m also enjoying myself for the first time in a long while. I actually want to practice, which is a drastic contrast to the past few years.
About a month ago, I re-joined a group that I had stopped performing with when things got really bad. The group is a semi-professional wind ensemble that performs 4-5 concerts throughout the year. It’s a pretty good group, and we’re actually performing a full concert at the Georgia Music Educator’s Conference in January of 2018. When I quit, I just wasn’t enjoying myself. I was working really hard to play stuff that should have been easy, and I was also extremely anxious about how I sounded. I didn’t want anyone to hear me play poorly. I needed some time away to re-assess things and try to fix some of my issues. Now that a lot of my issues have been solved, I’ve actually enjoyed the last two rehearsals. I even had to sight-read the first part today, playing several solos, and it actually went better than I expected. I’m even starting to regain some of my confidence. I know that I still have a lot of work to do, but today and especially the last few weeks have been very encouraging.
There are a few people playing in this group that do a lot of freelancing, and they sort of have control over many of the gigs around town. When I first moved back to Augusta, I got called for a lot of gigs, and it was great. When things started deteriorating, I stopped getting calls. It’s the way the system works. Over the past few years, I have been so self-conscious, especially when I play around people that “matter.” I know that I’m still holding back when I play around other people, because I’m afraid to mess up. Today was a huge eye opener, because I knew that I could play certain things, but I still felt nervous due to certain people being present. I played fine, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been. I normally play with a lot of expression and feeling, it just comes naturally, but I could tell that I was still holding back today.
If you’ve never experienced anxiety, then consider yourself lucky. Most people experience some form of anxiety if you have to do something in front of a group of people, but if you are a person that struggles with anxious feelings on a daily basis, then the fear of performing in front of others is greater than anything you’ve ever felt before. Those of us that suffer with anxiety are afraid to put ourselves out there, and we are also afraid of what others will think. Of course, most people are in your corner and want you to succeed, but anxious people don’t see things the same way. We see each person as the enemy, because we know without a doubt that they are thinking negative thoughts about us. We hear those negative thoughts playing in our heads. Even if someone comes up to you and gives a positive comment, we know what they are really thinking. They think less of us because we failed.
Failure to us doesn’t have any positive meaning or connotation. If an anxious or depressed person fails at something, then the world is over. We want to give up. We want to go and hide from the world. It’s easy to give up, and it also takes the spotlight away. Give up too many times, and people tend to forget about you, which is the goal at first…until you try to resurrect your career.
These are the demons that I have dealt with for far too long. It’s a lot easier to deal with them when you’re happy, which leads to the point of this rant. Playing horn makes me happy. I also enjoy performing with other people….so, why do I let my fears control my happiness? Why should I care what other people think? The answer, plain and simple is that I shouldn’t and neither should anyone else. Music is very personal, but I don’t really enjoy sharing personal things with others. I’m always afraid of what someone will think or say, but does that make what I have to share any less important? Should I hide my “voice” because someone may not like it?
Don’t let anything control your life, whether it be a person, fear, money, whatever. It’s not that important. Do what you love and love what you do. It’s simple, but this is something that I haven’t been able to do because of fear. I was afraid, so I made myself suffer. I gave in to my anxiety and depression, let it rule my life, and I almost lost who I was as a person. Don’t give in to fear, because it’s not worth it. Failure doesn’t make you less of a person. Doing what you love without fear of what anyone thinks is what makes you a better person.