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Gratefully Discontent

This post is a reflection, not a dictum.

Its intent is neither to encourage nor discourage you in what you do, whatever that may be.

If you're young this may not land. But perhaps read on anyway...

We often think and express ourselves in absolutes. Either we're happy or sad. Stuffed or starving. Hot or cold. 

The other evening, as I sat on the sofa with my wife, my foot happened to be positioned just above a floor air vent, out of which blew cold air.

My response?

"I'm freezing."

This is what I said to my wife.

Then I went to put on a long sleeve shirt over the short sleeve shirt I was already wearing. Because I was freezing.

In truth, my foot was a little cold. And the rest of my body was fine. Maybe I could have just moved my foot. Or put on a sock.

No, it seems that wasn't possible. Because I was freezing. After all, it's not possible for your foot to be cold and the rest of your body to be a normal temperature.

Sometimes we see the world this way. All hope is lost or hope is all we have. Sometimes we see our jobs or our professional existence this way. My job is killing me. My job gives me life.

We are monolithic.

I've spoken this way before. Because it's clean. There's nothing messy about it. No grey middle. Nothing to wrestle with. Just all or nothing.

I've been professionally restless lately. These are things we don't like to talk about. At least not publicly. Because if you say you're restless others might think that you hate everything about your professional existence. All or nothing. Very clean.

In truth, it's much messier.

Questioning what you do isn't the same as hating what you do. In fact I think it means the opposite. I think it means that you care enough about what you do that you want to consider it deeply, intentionally, thoroughly.

In truth, my job kills me and gives me life everyday. Yours probably does the same.

I race from moment to moment until my mind's ablaze, buzzing until it's numb. Eventually and inevitably, my mind and body burn to ash. Everyday.

But in the next moment I'm privileged to sit in a great lesson with a student or have an engaging conversation with a colleague. About something that matters. And there is rebirth.

I am a phoenix. And so are you.

I'm not preaching the discipline-specific cliché of "art is messy". Because it's not just art. Engineering is messy, accounting is messy, motherhood is messy. 

I'm a professional percussionist yet haven't played my instrument in several weeks. I'm not sure what that means but I'm sure it means something. And I know it's messy.

I'm about to turn 42. There are things I know now that I didn't know at 24. And there are things I don't know yet that I will assuredly know at 64. I am where I am.

The point of all of this, I suppose, is that it's ok to question what you're doing. It's ok to ask if this is what it's supposed to be. If this is enough. If this is too much. And it's ok that the answer to that question will be different at 24 than it is at 42 than it is at 64.

Each time I meet with prospective students I ask them a question I admittedly abhor. "What do you want to do professionally once you finish school?" It's a foolish question to ask someone who is 18. Not because they are incapable of knowing, but because they shouldn't know. 

Having lived one quarter of a life, how is it we should know exactly what to do with the remaining three quarters? Before spouses, partners, kids, sickness, triumph, and tragedy... 

If there's one thing I would hope that my students take from their time of study with me, it would be this and simply this...

Stay open. Listen to the buzzing in your head. And be ready to change.

Todd Meehan is the founder of Liquidrum. He is a professional percussionist who often doesn't touch his instrument for weeks at a time. He is grateful and he is discontent. Todd acknowledges the inherent privilege he has in writing these words.