I was busy sewing away on my Halloween costume a few weeks ago. Costuming is one of my favorite hobbies. But some tasks, like gathering 9 feet of fabric into ruffles for a skirt, can be so tedious. I try not to remember that reality ahead of time and instead I declare that it will take “hardly any time at all!” Afterwards I hope for amnesia because these things never take “any time at all.”
I like to watch educational or mildly interesting YouTube videos while I sew. Lately I’ve been watching everything ever published on the YouTube channel “Jun and Rachel’s Adventures.” They are an adorable Japanese/American couple who make videos about their life, adventures, and cats. I watched Rachel explore a Japanese thrift store the other day and enjoyed it practically as much as if I had been in the thrift store. She posted a time-lapse video of herself cleaning her apartment after a huge trip. The floor started out buried in clothes and ended up perfectly clear; I found it hugely satisfying.
A few months back she posted an update about their lives. She shared that she had recently gotten a chance to play some video games on a recent visit to America and she realized how much she missed it – both the gaming friends and the activity. She and her husband Jun have been so busy in the last few years with YouTube and traveling for YouTube and going, going, going that they hadn’t had a chance to simply relax. Now she realized that she missed it and missed her friends who were gamers. So she was going to make some changes in her life to make room for the none-work-related things she really wanted to do.
Her words resonated with me. I too have been working at something I love full bore for several years and am just now starting to feel the effects of my schedule. I’ve been working full-time as a professional harpist for four years now (and part-time for the fourteen years before that) and it’s been exhilarating and life-giving and challenging. But my schedule is wearing me out. With teaching and performing, my calendar tends to be the exact opposite of everyone else’s. I did an audit of my calendar and found that for the past two years I’ve had an average of two days a month without anything scheduled and about four evenings free a month.
And it’s not just work-related activities. It’s the combination of the musician schedule and the “problem” of too many good things. How does a person find time to go shape-note singing, and do historical reenactments, and participate in music jams, and invite friends over for afternoon tea parties, and go swing dancing, and Scottish dancing, and camping, and catch a concert by that amazing visiting musician, and stay up-to-date with friends, or catch up with old friends, or attend Sci-Fi conventions, or cultural festivals, or spend time with family?
I want to do all of that, and enjoy evenings spent reading a good book, or an afternoon spent painting the basement wall, or fixing the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom, or starting a new sewing project. Not to mention keeping my website up-to-date, and responding to requests for quotes that come in at all times of the day or night, or arranging a new piece of music, or writing a new tune, or practicing for the gig next week, or marking up a new part for an orchestra job, or researching new music for students, or scheduling rehearsals for student recitals, or keeping track of rescheduled lessons. All good things, but not all possible at the same time.
I’m discovering that instead of just scheduling time, as in, blank space, on the calendar, I need to schedule energy as well. Everyone except me already knows this of course, but I’m only now realizing it. So, like Rachel from “Jun and Rachel’s Adventures,” I’m taking steps. I’ve started to write “an evening of reading” on my calendar every so often, or “accept no invitations” across an entire calendar square, and I’m starting to feel more level-headed about life again.
If you enjoyed the blog post, you might enjoy Stephanie Claussen: 2018 US National Scottish Harp Champion.
Stephanie Claussen is a professional harpist from St. Paul, Minnesota. She performs on her harp throughout Minnesota in various concerts, recitals, and collaborations with other musicians. Sign up for her e-mail newsletter to receive announcements and notifications of upcoming performances.