Do you ever feel slightly inadequate after reading those letters at Christmas?
You know the ones, right? The ones that detail every single thing that has happened to their family over the past year, and how many books they've read, and how many awards their kids have gotten, their gorgeous tropical vacations, and how, of course, their children have never said an angry word to each other and the only thing that's keeping them from being instantly translated is that one time on April 23rd when they had that one hair out of place. Am I the only one that gets those? I look at the pictures of their perfectly dressed and styled children, and read the descriptions of all their grand adventures, and usually end up spending a few minutes feeling like I need to redecorate my house and remodel my entire life.
I had a moment like that this week.
I opened up my email a few days ago to find a message from one of my closest friends from college. We were both violin performance majors, studied with the same teacher and had dreams of conquering the world together with our violins. We've kept in scattered touch over the years, chatting on occasion, and passing messages and milestones through mutual friends. She's always been an over-achiever, but when I read her email my jow dropped. Four homeschooled kids? Check. A violin studio? Check. A recently-earned Master's Degree in Music Education? Check. Recitals at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square? Check. Teaching offers at BYU and the U of U? Check.
Stacy left feeling inadequate? Check.
Normally, I feel pretty satisfied with my life. Proud of the way I mother, grateful for my little violin studio, and feel like I'm doing a pretty good job balancing my roles. But I couldn't help feeling a bit envious.
I graduated with a group of four other violinists. We were all the same age, studied with the same teacher, and were close all through college. Now, 12 years later, I'm the only one out of the five that doesn't have a master's or doctorate degree.
It's so easy for me to look at these friends, see what they've accomplished, and feel like I'm doing nothing with my life. Especially since I know that most of them are teaching, mothering and doing all the other things that I'm doing. At times like these I keep wondering if I'm missing something; that somehow I'm not doing enough. I haven't performed on stage in years, (and years, and years,) and probably couldn't play anything I played on my senior recital if my life depended on it. I spend my days teaching, mothering, practicing with my nine year old and shuttling her down the mountain for lessons and rehearsals. I don't think I've put in serious practice time in years.
I frequently tell my students that it's not about the competition- that violin is all about being the best you can be, and not worrying about what everyone else is learning and playing. I'm having a hard time taking my own advice to heart; believing that the path I've chosen is right for me and that I don't need to be performing, earning advanced degrees, or soloing on Temple Square in order to be a worthwhile teacher, violinist and mother.
I've consoled myself over the past few days by telling myself that while all my friends were getting masters degrees, I was attending births and managing my son's multiple surgeries and medical crises over the first two years of his life.
And the truth is, if I was interested in getting another degree, (which I'm not at all at this point!) I don't think it would be a music degree. I'm just not excited about the idea of hours of practice and intense competition that it would take me to get there. So someone explain to me why I'm feeling so stinking inadequate.
Enter a typical Tuesday morning. The baby had (yet another) nasty cold and we had been up most of the night. I had already fought with Abby over her scale practicing, tried in vain to help Ashlynn understand the diffence between treble C and middle C, and came upstairs to find both the little boys fussy and irritable. I was about ready to give up and go back to bed when I saw this letter on the countertop.
Tears sprung to my eyes. I left it there all day, reminding me why I do all those seemingly insignificant things. Helping me to know that someone appreciated it. It might be silly, but I've kept it clipped to the fridge all week, and it's helped me through my yearly violin-related existential crisis as I've realized that my sweet Ashlynn (and all my other kids) don't care that I'm not performing on stage. In fact, knowing them, they probably prefer that I don't.