I’m sitting on a plane from LA to Chicago. This is my fifth flight in the last two months, having already been to New York, Ohio, Florida, and California, and it’s probably about time I explain what the hell I’m doing, as I have friends and family who have seen various confusing status updates I’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter whom I owe the full story.
Just over two years ago, I blogged about taking a leap of faith and turning down two great jobs because they didn’t involve doing something I was truly passionate about. It was a gamble, but even after two months I could tell it was going to pay off. Sure enough, two years later, I found myself with a wealth of new experience and knowledge which I’d had a ton of fun acquiring, plus a healthy boost to my CV and set of friends and connections within the industry.
Then the stars aligned again, and I found myself with another life-changing dilemma: take an even more awesome job than the one I was in, or quit IT altogether and face an indefinite period of zero income. Pretty obvious what to do, right? I quit.
If that sounds crazy, it’s because it probably was – definitely another leap into the unknown. But I’ll try to explain my decision. I’ve had a number of life-changing decisions to make over the years, and I’m gradually learning to trust my gut instincts in those moments, because they’re generally right. I think they work out well because they’re usually based on my need to keep doing things I love doing (or to put it another way, my pathetic lack of tolerance for things I don’t enjoy), rather than concerns about money and other tedious “real world” distractions.
But wait, I hear you ask – didn’t I just say I decided not to pursue an even more awesome job than the one I loved doing for the last two years? How could my instincts guide me away from that? There are two parts to the answer.
Firstly, I had a bit of luck recently which combined with existing savings and investments meant that I could afford not to work for a while. Secondly, I’ve had an itch for a long time to play more music, and it just wouldn’t go away. In fact it kept growing and growing, until (20 years later than would have been ideal) I identified it as a basic need that I’m stuck with for good. When I say “play more music”, I don’t mean the kind where you go off and play along with CDs in your bedroom every now and again, or join an amateur orchestra. That’s enough for some people, and I totally respect that – but for some reason (false pride, perhaps) I could never bear to think of myself as a hobbyist musician. For better or worse, I only ever enjoy playing music when I’m playing to the best of my ability, and experiencing real progress.
Unfortunately, in music as with many things in life, progress requires hard grind – the standard blood, sweat and tears formula. Jazz musicians call it “shedding” which is short for “woodshedding”, because the idea is you lock yourself in a woodshed for 6 months and practice non-stop. If a 15 year career in IT has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t develop your musicianship quickly alongside a full-time job outside music. So I quit. Or at least, I’m taking sabbatical. To be honest I have no idea what will happen. Maybe I’ll go back to IT full-time, maybe part-time, maybe never. Right now I’m just focusing on studying, practising, playing with other people … whatever I can do to improve.
I decided that I’m most interested in developing my non-classical skills, especially jazz but also various types of folk, pop, Indian, and whatever else takes my fancy. I’ve played (Western) classical music my whole life and had some of the most incredible experiences from it, but now I want to explore what can be done on the cello outside that – cello is such a versatile instrument and there’s a whole new sound world which is a mostly untrodden path at this point.
That’s all I have time for now, but I’ll blog again soon about the amazing experiences I’ve already had around the USA in the last two months – I have a whole ton of photos, audio and video, so watch this space!