So many changes are headed my way, and as my fifty-fifth birthday approaches in just over a week I can sense the rigidity that whispers in my ear for me to shy away from that which is new and different, pushing me to stick to what feels comfortable and safe. I’m going to resist that urge, though; I want to remember my recent dream about there being nothing to fear and embrace what scares me. Instead of worrying about what could go wrong, for once in my life I want to dive into an opportunity to learn new things, to stretch myself in new ways without being dragged kicking and screaming. I want to look myself in the mirror honestly and know that I lived my life without shying away from the things that initially seem intimidating. We have to do that which scare us- it’s the only way that we can truly grow.
As of January 1st, I will officially become the Associate Chair of our Department of Music, and- if I am completely honest- I’m a little terrified…okay, a lot terrified. Hold up, though- words are important…let me rephrase that to say that I have a healthy respect and excitement for what lies ahead. My colleague, who is retiring after twenty-nine years at UAB and who served as Associate Chair and Interim Chair for many years, has always been the one that I have gone to for answers; he is incredibly knowledgeable and wise, having a deep grasp of the duties required and of the history of our Department. He has patiently worked with me during this past semester, doing his best to prepare me for the transition. Today, his official last day at UAB, I totally panicked; I don’t remember anything he taught me! Time to “buck up, Gal!” as my dad would have said.
I could have taken the path of least resistance, listened to the siren song; I was recently promoted to Full Professor and could easily have finished the last years of my career in my comfort zone continuing to teach clarinet and play recitals- and I would have been happy. Dan just retired and I could enjoy more time at home with him and be available to travel more. I never had any dreams of doing any sort of administrative work- I love to teach far too much. I absolutely adore and trust my Chair, though, and when he planted the seed about a new role for me and told me to think about it, I took the proposal seriously. I liked the idea of working with him to serve the program in a new way- and I would still be able to teach my beloved students.
Many of my clarinet students…
Among other things, it would require me to learn many new computer skills- something I have said over and over that I needed to do. It would also require me to step over the speed bump of fear and doubt that I have constantly placed in my own path over the years; the typical ‘I’m not good enough‘ mantra that so many women are haunted by whenever opportunities arise.
I am finding the decade of my fifties to be one of enlightenment (halting though it may be at times), empowerment, and an increasing comfort in my own skin; a coming into my own, of sorts. I love the quote by David Bowie:
“Age is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”
What a gift growing older can be if we cease focusing on the outward changes and look inward at the changes that truly matter. Don’t get me wrong- I have tons of insecurities that I’m sure I’ll be battling for years to come- it’s just that maybe now I’m able to recognize how insignificant many of them are, and after experiencing so many years of love and loss, that life is far too short to let petty fears hold us hostage from our dreams. If only we could tap into that knowledge when we were young, but it is hard won through experience, joy, and sorrow.
And so, while I am quaking in my boots at what is to come, preparing myself for the many, many mistakes I will make as I learn so much new information, I am optimistically joyful, too. I have broken through some outer shell of fear recently, one that I wore like a suit of armor for far too many years. I’m going to embrace this new chapter of my professional life and give it my all- and I won’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when the inevitable times come (as they already did this afternoon).
I’m not perfect, but I don’t have to be anymore. I finally see now that I never had to be perfect in the first place. What an empowering thought to start out this new year. Here’s to hope and to change, here’s to faith, and here’s to a new day.
Happy New Year!