Happy New Year (plus two weeks or so)!
We're now three days into the spring semester at Illinois State, and rehearsals and classes are already in full swing. With this being my final semester at ISU, I have a big thesis composition to write. In order to put as much energy towards that as possible, I have to be very particular about how I use my time. That includes the time spent in my own apartment when I'm not running (well, speedwalking) to my next engagement, so I spent several days cleaning and reorganizing my office and book—er, score-shelves. I was inspired by the KonMari technique used in the new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo where you have to go through each and every paper, clothing item, and book that you own and decide if that particular item sparks joy in your life. Many papers were discarded, but the one pictured here absolutely sparks joy for me: it's a list of scale groupings from my very first piano lesson at Augustana College with Dr. Rob Elfline. Instead of scale fingerings (exciting though they are), I've devised a list of three things to be mindful of throughout this semester.
1) It's okay to say no.
As a perpetually broke and hungry graduate student, any paid work sounds like good work. However, everyone has limits, and while it's okay to push those limits sometimes, it cannot be the norm. Buzzfeed posted a great article about the idea of burnout and how millennials seem to have adopted a culture of burnout. We're always trying to maximize our productivity and success in all areas of life. Even as I write this post, I'm making mac'n'cheese before yet another rehearsal tonight (that's number 4 today, but who's counting?). It's important for me to respect my limits when confronted with more work opportunities. I've already begun to say no to accompanying gigs—while theoretically possible to fit into my schedule, there just isn't time to get everything done with time to spare for recuperation.
2) Stay organized.
Now that I've gone through a million papers and books, I have a nice(r) and neat(er) apartment. However, without constant diligence, my floor will quickly return to its pre-KonMari state of scores and papers strewn about. In addition, every day would begin with a harrowed effort to remember everything that's due today, tomorrow, and next week as well as where I need to be and when. I've already been trying to do this to an extent, but I want to really bring it to the fore this semester by making extensive use of Google Calendars. To quote my good friend and fellow composer Aaron Gomez, "if it's not in my calendar, I ain't doing it!"
3) Enjoy it while it lasts.
All good things must come to an end (the bad things too, but I don't think that's part of the saying). After only two short years, my time at ISU will draw to a close. Besides getting all the work done, I want to really enjoy this time of my life through writing and playing some fantastic music. When I was debating on whether or not to get my master's degree at ISU, Dr. Jacob Bancks, my composition professor at Augustana, told me that if he could do any of his degrees over again, he would get three master's. My time at Augustana was certainly exciting and full of great music, experiences, and people, but I had four full years to digest that experience. ISU has had twice the amount of music in half the time. I wish I could spend just a bit more time with all of the great people and professors here, but all of us students have to move on and start actual careers. What a drag, right?
With these three "mantras" in mind, I'm really looking forward to what 2019 has in store. I have absolutely no idea where I'll end up next year or even this summer, but you know what? That's okay. Life is a journey, and there's no one "right" path to take, so we'll just have to see what happens and make the best of it all, myself included. If this post resonates with you, great! Feel free to steal my ideas and implement them in your life, no matter what your situation. Now, time to go eat that mac'n'cheese...