By Monica Moser
Lately I’ve been finding myself jealous of nurses.
Jealous of work done with hands; work that has a sense of completion, a clear answer to the question asked of you any time you step out of your dang house: “So, what do you do?” Wanting definitive answers to, “This is what I do, how I do it and why I do it.”
I have newly embarked on my freshman year of life. I have begun “adulting:” a millennial term that seems to be this year’s “bae.” I graduated in May from Belmont University in Nashville with a degree in songwriting and a minor in music business, and am currently splitting my time between co-writes, working part-time in the industry, teaching piano and putting out as much creative content as I can.
It was always really fun to go to my hometown in Texas on breaks and have people ask: “Where do you go again?”
“Belmont it’s in Nashville which is an awesome city ask anyone we have a pretty good basketball team.” (All in one breath.)
Or: “That’s a major?? What do you even do with that?”
Make a lot of money, get married at 23, and never leave Texas! **Said sarcastically** (in my own head of course — I’m not a monster). It’s hard sometimes to relate to people who have a very different view of success. Not that one is better than the other, just quite different.
If you ask anyone my age who majored in something in the liberal arts realm, 98 percent of them would say, “Well I’m doing ______ right now, but I want to be doing ______.” Or “I do ______ for money, but I do what I really want to be doing on the side.”
“At this weird gap in time and age when life is so unstructured, purpose itself seems not only to be the sole thing we have to hold onto, but for the first time in our lives, something we have to create ourselves.”
The thought of having one job I go to every day that allows me to support myself financially and be fulfilled personally simply baffles me. Not because it seems impossible to attain necessarily, but because it seems that it simply may not exist for people like me.
I’m convinced that at this phase of life happiness is based solely on the existence of self-driven purpose. It is something that defies any circumstance, ill feeling or season of doubt. It is the only thing that justifies long hours or too little pay or exhaustion.
When we’re younger, we don’t even have the capacity to understand inner purpose. When we’re a bit older, our purpose is generally clear, and a lot of it revolves around the structure of school, family and friends. In college, this purpose is similar albeit a bit more confusing and weighted. When we’re older, usually with families of our own, that becomes our purpose along with our work. But at this weird gap in time and age when life is so unstructured, purpose itself seems not only to be the sole thing we have to hold onto, but for the first time in our lives, something we have to create ourselves.
What I’m also beginning to learn is that success in an “artsy” field seems to be measured by the extent of one’s willingness to be strategic with his or her creativity — which is completely counterintuitive for creative people. There needs to be a marriage of sorts between two warring talents: the ability to create something meaningful and relevant, and the ability to convince people that they somehow need it.
Music, arts, literature and the like is not a necessity. When you really think about it, we artists/creators are trying to convince others they somehow need a non-necessity that we ourselves have mild to severe discomfort expressing — and even believing — that people need. It’s actually a bit humorous, the hypocrisy of it all.
However, whenever I get lost in this sentiment, I always come back to this C.S. Lewis quote: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
And therein lies the power in what we do. Maybe an artistic creation is not a necessity, but it gives the necessity meaning. It holds a value that defies the logical boundaries of value itself.
So this is where our frustrations seem to stem from:
Our lack of willingness to be strategic with our creativity; or if we are willing, a discomfort with the counterintuitiveness of it all.
Not being able to consistently see the fruits of our efforts, or feel the results of our work with our own hands.
Having to juggle other jobs we don’t feel purpose in to support ourselves that can drain our energy to be as creative as we want and need to be.
So what needs to change for me, for us?
It means we must stop seeing our talents and gifts as hindrances but as motivators. We must stop seeing them as roadblocks but as something that makes the journey worth it.
Yeah, maybe it’s not the highway that only winds ever so slightly, and was just repaved and made flawless a week ago. Maybe it’s the dirt road off the exit that is imperfect and run-down but that ultimately leads to a remarkable destination only you can find.
“We can’t make strategy our work — we must make it only part of our work. That is when we will stop seeing our blessings as burdens and our dreams as fears.”
Every so often I get so annoyed with myself for not being grateful for my innate need to create, for being blessed by God with the feeling that I actually have something to say through creative mediums.
I actually wrote a song about this called “Rider” that I started and finished in two different seasons of my life when I found myself caught up in this feeling.
This is the chorus:
When did my blessings become my burdens?
And when did my dreams become my fears?
When did I become a fighter of the wind
Instead of a rider letting it carry me here?
LOTS of questions, I know, chill out, Monica.
An unencumbered affinity for the desire to create seems to continually fade like the beauty of youth and innocence. It slowly becomes a responsibility more than a source of joy.
In order to be able to make a living as an artist, we must always be thinking of the strategic nature of our work, unfortunately. We just can’t get caught up in it. But we can’t make strategy our work — we must make it only part of our work. That is when we will stop seeing our blessings as burdens and our dreams as fears.
If you were given a desire to write, perform, sing, dance, paint, etc., there’s a reason. It’s so hard to sometimes wish you just didn’t have it, that your desire was for a work that is secure and consistent and tangible, but sometimes God gives us gifts and gut feelings for work that is unstructured, wonderful, frustrating, scary and exciting.
I think at the end of the day, I just want to know that this is all going to be worth it — whether “it” is making a living as an artist, or being impactful in the industry, or making music on the side that influences people in a positive way. It’s like when you were in high school and waiting to be asked to the homecoming dance or to prom — it’s like, I don’t need to know who or when, just the promise that it’s going to happen.
But that’s the cool thing about having faith in a God who wrote your story before you even existed.
We do know that something’s going to happen, we just don’t know what. And isn’t that the fun part?
Monica Moser was born in New York, grew up in Texas, and now calls Nashville home. A recent college graduate, she now splits her time between teaching music, working in the industry, writing and performing, and re-binging on “Gilmore Girls” and “The Office.” She hopes to be instrumental in curating creativity that impacts the world in a positive, comforting, thought-provoking and meaningful way.