I used to be a songwriter.
Every morning, I'd wake up, sit at the piano, and write tunes. Every evening, I'd pour myself a little scotch, and then write tunes. Some nights, I'd write tunes in my sleep. I'd write tunes on airplanes. I'd write tunes on buses. Once I even wrote a tune in the berth of a 100 year-old ship.
Until the sea-sickness kicked in. That tune didn't get far.
Anyway, these days, I don't have time to write like I used to. And when I do have a bit of time, I feel bad using it to write. (One night last week, I told my family I needed a long hot shower. But I actually locked myself in the bathroom with my ukulele, turned on the shower, stuffed my ears with wadded up toilet paper, and strummed quietly for an hour next to the toilet.)
This is my life now.
And it's a real struggle for me. Because if you've done just one trade for so long, your identity gets shaped by it. You start to measure your self-worth in how successful you are at your trade. When the trade goes away, it's easy to have an identity crisis.
I frequently wonder who I am these days.
But I had a revelation yesterday. I was having a nice time with a group of friends, and inspiration struck. I excused myself, ran upstairs, grabbed my ukulele, and wrote a tune in 5 minutes, just the way I used to. It felt tremendous. It felt natural. And what felt even better was knowing that—not only haven’t I lost my trade--but also I never really needed it to have an identity in the first place.
Reader, we are more than what we do, what we own, or what we accomplish. Our sense of self is bigger than all that. If one of your trades has taken a backburner, no need to fret. Adding extra content to your life may mean less time to focus on your trade, but it adds more depth to your days.
And God knows these knuckleheads give my life extra depth. I’m off to bed. Let’s be good to ourselves this week, and I’ll see you next Monday. -Em