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  • Writer's pictureQueen Reed

3 Questions That Will Help You Fix Your Own Burn Out.

So you’re feeling a bit burned out? Or maybe you recognized yourself a little too much in this description of Obsessive Passion? That’s all right, dearie. This is fixable, and you will be on your way to a healthy, harmonious interaction with clarinet in no time. Part of the problem with Obsessive Passion-Burn Out is that your sense of self-worth is tangled up in your ability to make pretty noises with the barkystick. It’s time to change that. Consider these 3 questions.

1) Who are you, besides a clarinetist? You are a clarinetist, but it is not all that you are. You are someone’s rebel/middle/golden child, someone’s best/funniest/cleverest friend, someone’s favorite/most annoying colleague. You might also be a whiz at baking, a runner, a parent, a kitchen-faucet fixer. Think of everything you are that isn’t “Clarinetist.”

2) What is something, outside of the world of Clarinet, that you want to be? Gardener, reader, shed-builder, parent, partner, civil war buff, surfer, stock-market guru, yogi, cat-owner, triathlete, traveler? These are your non-clarinet dreams in life. Big or little, what have you not yet done in your life that you think would be fun, cool, amazing, satisfying?

3) How can you develop one or two of the top things from your previous lists? This is actually the easiest question to answer, and Nike already has the patent on this one. Just Do It. Whatever you focus on grows larger - so start thinking about one of those fun things on your list and take a baby step or two towards making them a reality. Will it feel good at first to stop thinking about clarinet and start thinking about Bonsai? Probably not. Do it anyway. Censor your inner critic who is loudly proclaiming that your time is better spent practicing. Don’t give yourself any excuses. The library is free and has every resource you could need for information. Your friends and family love you and they will happily lend or give you things you need to start doing something more healthy than obsessing about clarinet. Later, you can thank them by paying them back buck for buck or in good deeds.

I’m sure you see where all of this is going. You are MORE than a clarinetist. Here’s how knowing that works to fix burnout: If you put all of your sense of strength and purpose, not to mention time and energy, solidly in ClarinetLand, then whenever something icky happens in ClarinetLand (a bad audition, not being able to play that fast passage), it will shake your sense of self, making you feel powerless, weak, aimless, or embarrassed. So you’ll practice harder and harder, more and more, to try to avoid feeling weak and powerless and aimless and embarrassed. And practicing more will change nothing, because no amount of clarinet-awesomeness can make you feel purpose, or strength, or control in life. You wouldn’t be reading this if it did. Practicing harder for longer hoping to not feel horrible about yourself is just going to toss you around, kick the wind out of you, and exhaust you until you Have Had It. Does that sound fun? No it does not.

The only way to short-circuit that soul-crushing cycle is to not put all of your time and energy into clarinet, to not allow all of your sense of strength and purpose to rely on what noises you can make with a barkystick. Those three questions are meant to get you thinking about what your identity truly is - multifaceted and strong in many areas. Then when you are frustrated about what is happening in ClarinetLand (and you will be because that is life), you won’t feel horrible about yourself because you know you have many strengths. You can withstand ClarinetLand ickyness and frustration through the strength of your other identities, and you won’t feel compelled to practice harder and harder in order to feel strong, purposeful, and good about yourself. It is as simple as this: build your other strengths and joys to fix your own clarinet Burn Out. Funny -- it has literally nothing to do with clarinet.

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