I've been running Maine Music & Health for 4 years now- 3 full years, when you subtract the year I was at Pierce Atwood full time and starting music therapy work on the side.
Spring 2014 was the first time I started to feel burnt out, which is something one reads about in graduate school but then starts a small business and runs on an adrenaline high for three years thinking, "Burnout? Never!" until... bam. It hits.
When I started, I was so happy to be doing what I love- helping people meet their goals through music- that I was happily oblivious to the very real stress that comes with starting a business in a state where said business is nonexistent. Three years of constantly explaining my profession and working twice as hard so that I could prove my field's importance, and suddenly I found myself exhausted and unmotivated. I was giving a presentation to a group of women entrepreneurs, sharing my story and the numbers that came with it. On paper, they looked good. I have worked with over 1,000 clients in 28 towns in Maine. But it was feeling harder and harder to see the bigger picture and push myself to keep reaching for the goals I really wanted- hospital work. Studio space. A coworker.
The group energy that came from being in New York, in a school where musicians understood what improvisation really meant, in a hospital where music therapists went on rounds and made chart notes, was starting to fade. And even though I am surrounded by friends and colleagues, I felt like a small boat that had come unhitched and was floating off into the sea. And there were moments when I wanted to let it- I thought, maybe I could just get an easier job?
I was lifted out of my slump partially by the energy that summer brings to us Northerners, and partially by something that should have been an obvious solution to me: MUSIC.
Believe it or not, I had lost track of my own musical roots in the midst of constantly using music as a tool and learning the favorite music of clients. When one sings "Let It Go" every other day at the children's hospital, one starts listening to talk radio in the car.
The drummer in the band I play with was the one to pull me out of the Frozen wreckage. He's been performing in an organ trio called Micromassé and each time I heard them play I was inspired in a new way. I was reminded that music can DO things, and that's an individual experience, and I've had it before. I went home and dug back in to the music that used to inspire me, to make me think. Ali Farka Toure. Kings of Convenience. Erykah Badu. Stevie Wonder.
And then, I started playing drum set again. And then, I signed up for an online jazz improvisation course. And then I looked up the contact info for a music therapist in NJ whose writing I've always admired. I called him, just to talk. And he reminded me that I am on the right path- my path- and I need to be patient.
Music re-inspired me to connect with people- even if they're not right next door. And that led me to people who are right next door, but on a different path.
Lately, I find energy in the strangest places. I was listening to a local radio show called Maine Calling and realized that the host, Jennifer Rooks, just may be the most patient listener on earth. I listened to her redirect callers to the topic at hand and put that tool in my back pocket for the next time one of my clients starts wandering.
I found energy by visiting an old friend- and state treasure- Frank Glazer, who at 99 feels that he is still learning something new every day he sits down at the piano. His thirst for knowledge pushed me to order some new books.
And my parents, who both work more than full time yet still find ways to help anyone who asks- their kids, their community, abandoned animals- reminded me that service is a good reason to get out of bed when your own life feels stressful. So I applied to serve on the CBMT committee.
I may not be working in the hospitals here as much as I want, or have a storefront to call my own- but my mini-office in my house is set up with artwork from clients and I am lucky enough to have a car big enough to lug my instruments around. And I'm lucky enough to have work, rewarding work with amazing people! And while I'm working hard to reach the bigger goals, I can take a moment here and there to appreciate the process.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Send us an email and we'll post the responses here. One random reader will win a Maine Music & Health tote bag!