Self-Doubt Zoomed Out

Exhausted. Worn out. Worried. Angry.

I must admit, the anger is a new one for me. I would venture to say the majority of you reading this have never navigated through a pandemic before. It's incredibly frustrating to figure out how to navigate safely for ourselves, but more importantly for our neighbors. Our actions only go as far as the decisions of others. That's not the easiest thing with which to reconcile. There are so many aspects of this pandemic that are out of our individual control, thus, we have to learn to let go. We can't control others' actions, whether you agree on certain approaches to public health safety or not.

Who is to blame?

I can't blame those around me. None of us really know what to do. There is no hard rulebook that has been widely accepted. There is no unified approach. We are living in an era of "every person for themselves" in one of the most trying times of our lives. It's exhausting. Maybe things felt more normal over the summer, but I write this as the pandemic moves to a dark and dire situation, worse off than the beginning.

As the situation intensifies, I can't help but reflect on how long we've been in this mess. How long we've been without work. How long we've desperately missed doing what we love. So many of us are doing what we can to make ends meet, while hearing how much time we have on our hands. All the newfound time to iron things out in our playing. To be ready for any audition once this pandemic is over. Or how we have to zoom out and remember that this too shall pass. While I do genuinely agree with these sentiments, I would be remiss to keep the emotional toll and fear this "zooming out" entails.

For young professionals right now, I imagine the initial reaction to these sentiments is an eye roll and an I know.

And here's why.

When I zoom out on the current situation specific to its impact on my career, I'm zooming out on my life, the pandemic, the recovery, and my future reality. I try to stay informed, but frankly, being informed feels like an IV of pessimism. Yes, we have promising vaccination prospects, we also know it could be March or April before most of us are able to get it. That would mark the one-year (or even more) anniversary of this shitshow. A whole year. I would be approaching my fourth year out of school. Even once ensembles can resume, no organizations, if very few, will be able to afford programming big repertoire with "extra musicians." That was 85% of my income. My friends with full-time orchestral positions are facing similar harrowing realities asking will we be able to recover as an organization? We also know how notoriously arduous and long the audition process is, under normal circumstances, at that. I'm also of the generation crippled by student debt. Will I ever get out from under it? Do I have enough stamina to press on? Will I be able to continue piecing things together until I can find some form of financial stability? Will I find enough intrinsic motivation to keep up on horn?

As I zoom out, I'm zooming out with intensifying self-doubt.

My goal isn't to make you pessimistic. The reality is that my situation is not unique. I say that not to invalidate my journey, but to remind you that you are not alone. We desire community in a way we haven't before. The weight of this journey was not intended for us to carry square on our shoulders. If you have the emotional space, be kind and check in with your friends and yourself. If we are going to be "every person for themselves," at the very least, throw some compassion in the mix. We deserve it.

Written by Kelsey Williams

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