Have you ever witnessed someone at work and thought- I would like to do that? I want to create that, collect that, move like that, understand that, teach that… etc? This was certainly me and making music. I have a memory from around the age of four, when I saw a classical pianist performing with an orchestra on TV. Undoubtedly it was broadcast on PBS out of New England. I remember seeing him playing and feeling the power of what he was doing and what he was accomplishing. I don’t know if up until that time I had seen or heard any “classical” music, but when you are four, most things are new and unfamiliar anyway. In that moment watching TV, something in me said: I would like to be in his shoes, I would like to accomplish THAT. Thinking back on this got me wondering if everyone has an experience like this at least once in their lifetime. An experience where, although one might not share it with anyone else, the encounter is totally captivating and inspiring. One where you feel totally impressed or energized by someone else’s work or by trying some for yourself. I remember a doctor once telling me I was so lucky to have a passion, because she didn’t have one. But that was hard to believe because although I never saw her in her role as a doctor, she seemed in the very least to have a passion for music. When she spoke about Chopin in particular, not only was she knowledgeable and insightful, but she lit up with excitement.
It seems to me that talents and passions go hand in hand, so perhaps the better question is, do you have a passion? My definition of passion means loving something so much that you spend a lot of time working with it and, as a result, end up with talent! Of course the question of aptitude always comes up, as in, “maybe she’s born with it“… but when I think about how my musical colleagues and I each approach our work according to the different ways in which we tend to think, perceive and understand it, having a gift for something does not boil down to being one very specific type of person or thinker. In other words, there are many ways to be “born with it”, so if you have a passion for something, chances are excellent there is a way for you to bring it into your life.
I was lucky that in school we had many opportunities to get involved in music, and I took every one of them. I auditioned for the honour choir, the school band, and the school orchestra. I asked my parents for piano lessons too. There was something so magical about playing or singing. I can remember coming home from a day of school followed by an evening at choir and orchestra and feeling completely exhausted physically, but totally ‘jazzed’ in spirit! I can also remember the thrill of hearing my piano teacher play pieces that she had chosen for me to learn. It was so exciting to think that after some work, I was going to make that same music come alive, all by myself. As a kid, it never occurred to me to stop and check myself. I never asked the questions so many adults do, like, am I good enough to do this? Is this a waste of time and money? What will others say about my abilities or my ambition? AM I TOO OLD?!? Children are so good at feeling free to make mistakes and imagining possibility, and they don’t work at things that aren’t fun. I used to associate hard work with no fun, but a very good teacher of mine pointed out this misunderstanding. Now I see it even more clearly as I write about talent- any work in service of a true passion is nothing but rewarding. Even the very hard work!
I don’t think the kind of moment I had when I was four years old watching the classical pianist is limited to only some of us. If you are curious about your own talents, ask yourself, what pulls you to move toward it? What makes you smile or feel powerful? What makes you so curious you just have to know? Maybe that thing is something very highly regarded culturally or socially, but maybe it isn’t! It doesn’t matter what the status quo is, what matters is how you feel, so I say take stock of your passions and own them. Do yourself a favour and explore them. Be brave, ignore the reasons not to, and don’t worry about conforming to what you think others would want you to do. Because the best thing we can do for ourselves and each other is live out our passions and develop our talents- if you feel inspired by this article, you know it’s true! Who knows where your interests and sense of fun will take you- no one will, not even you, until you realize what impossible or silly or even normal thing it is that you adore and give it everything you have.