As a freelance flutist finishing my first 12 month maternity in the times of covid I can certainly say, the challenges abound! I had struggled with all the normal levels of post baby career anxiety when I decided to take the first year to stay home and care for my son. What would happen to my career networks? What would become of my flute playing? Would I have any time for myself? Are the best years of music making behind me? Never did I foresee the next world wide pandemic overlapping with my already drastic life change. Needless to say, it’s been a tough, pretty much vertical learning curve in terms of personal growth and the acquisition of new skills to find my place in the current world. I thought that it might be helpful to share some of the trickiest challenges I have faced in the last year to help start a conversation about what this has been like. I think it would be great if we connected with one another, in the way that we can right now to offer understanding, love and support as we all navigate this new world of music making.
- The technology learning curve.
Good lord has this been steep! Between all the sudden needing to learn to navigate Zoom, external microphones, earphones, websites, creating lesson content and attempting to find a place in the social media crowds I am in over my head. When I did my music degrees the major activity of any given day was to practice the flute. In those days it was implied that somehow an excellent skill set would go a long way towards solving issues of employment, marketing and networking in your career. Never has this been less true than in the last 6 months. The technical know how involved in teaching a simple flute lesson these days is off the charts. I’m learning, but my head is still spinning!
- The lack of paying gigs.
This is a rough one for someone with established networks and a fairly stable gig income for many years. Firstly, I have realized that my gratitude for good paying orchestra gigs pre-pandemic was underwhelming. I loved and appreciated playing in any capacity but I remember times when I was burned out, tired, bored, sick etc. just waiting for the concert to come to an end so I could go home. If this virus has taught me anything it would be that savoring the moment of anything you love in life is a decision that you have the power to make at any time, in any circumstance. In the future, agreeing to play a gig for me will also mean agreeing to find things to appreciate and enjoy while I am there. You never know when they will all just disappear!
- The lack of purpose in my work.
I will admit I was a bit excited at the prospect of a month or two to be totally excused from any of the requirements of work when the pandemic began. As the months have dragged on however, I have a great sense of uselessness and depression settling in, triggered every time I see my empty, concertless calendar. I learned the flute in order to play and teach it! Although I have a few students that I had pre-pandemic I haven’t found the same teaching opportunities I used to when we could gather together in person. Even more difficult though is the motivation to practice. The skills that I spent hours, weeks and years building seem pretty useless when playing a flute is something that has no clear trajectory or goals attached for the foreseeable future. I think this lost feeling hit its peak sometime this summer. I have hopes that I can find a way to use my voice in the ocean of social media musicians and make an impact in some meaningful way. My eyes are peeled for the new opportunities I KNOW there must be out there.
- The instability of a timeline.
I am definitely a planner and the pandemic has been a major challenge in the way that I simply cannot plan much with the constant shifting of rules regarding lessons and performing. So far we are permitted to teach lessons online in Alberta though in person lessons are not encouraged. Concerts are still far off in the future. I have loosely committed to a couple in the new year with my fingers crossed that they are allowed to happen but I am afraid to get too excited about it. Without the luxury of a job waiting for me upon the pandemic’s end I find myself a little lost in trying to come up with what to do next. There are more questions than answers and I struggle to find a solid course of action that I feel confident will generate income.
I know that everything in life is temporary and that this too shall pass. Not always a helpful sentiment in the moment though. How do we face these challenges now? What gets you through the day? What motivates you to keep going in such uncertainty? Where do you find purpose? I have always considered myself a visionary and I want to find a way to see this situation in a way that I find exciting and full of possibility. I’m looking for it, I’m experimenting, taking risks and doing my best to follow this really unfamiliar path that seems to be popping up at my feet. All my love to the freelancers out there. Someway, somehow, we got this.