I briefly referenced getting fired in an earlier blog A Small Town Resume. My sophomore year in high school I was hired as the choir director and accompanist at the Bloomville United Methodist Church. It was a struggle. I wasn’t comfortable “going with the flow” of the music while simultaneously directing a group of singers. It was also a lot to handle on top of school, extra curriculars, piano lessons, and having a boyfriend. I’m not one to quit, so I stuck to it. Until the day I was fired. I like to think that the main reason for the firing was that the minister’s daughter moved back to town and was called in to take over, but part of me also believes it was because I wasn’t good at the job. Whatever the reasons, I was fired for the first time when I was 15 years old.
I learned as much from that experience as possible. Soon after getting fired, I quit taking piano lessons, realizing that I reached the level I wanted to reach. Instead, I focused on learning how to accompany singers. I learned how to improvise. Instead of practicing classical solo music, I began to play choral and pop music and sang along. In the brief moments of time I had by myself at home, I was usually putting on a concert for our two family dogs. By my senior year in high school, I rotated between singing in and accompanying the choir. At the same time, the minister called to ask me if I wanted to come back and lead the choir. I said “yes” without hesitation. I was confident. I knew I could figure out whatever music we picked. I was a strong leader and I’d taken the previous two years to sharpen my accompanying skills. I’d like to think I was the best 18-year old church choir director they ever had!
After graduating from high school and moving away from my small town, the pianos, sheet music and choir practices disappeared from my life. Away went my private living room concerts and improvisation. I decided I didn’t want music to be part of my college experience. As a result, music slowly left from my life just as I left my small town.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized how important music was – and is – to me. I had a very powerful conversation as part of my recent coach training program and the result was a realization that I needed to get back to things that I value to my core. Music is one of those things. I walked away from that conversation with a simple action item. I said “I’m going to join the choir.” And that’s what I did. I went to my first practice last week, sang on Sunday, and went back to practice again this week. I was welcomed with open arms and given perhaps the greatest gift I could have asked for – a stack of sheet music I can use for living room concerts.
Small Town Leadership Lesson: Life stages happen. Things that are at one time a focal point become blurry. Even though our situations in life change, the things we value and get our greatest joy from tend to be unwavering. There is something powerful about going back to the things that give you the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment. For me, it is my piano, sheet music, and singing in the choir. What is that thing for you? How is it a part of your life today? If it isn’t in your life, how can you bring it back?