Every once in a while I go through stages where I think that I want to do something else other than what I am currently doing. In September, I thought that I wanted to play with a top grade pipe band. I went to practice for a month. I loved playing with those people at that level, however I didn’t want to spend every weekend from May to November with them at a bagpipe event. I wrote to the Pipe Major and told him that, at 58, playing at that level with that much commitment was more than I wanted.
In January, I thought that maybe I wanted to compete again. I hired a high level instructor and met with him a few times at his house (an hour and a half away) and in between those visits we met on Skype. I learned a lot from him and refined my playing to the next level. I even thought about playing with another pipe band (at a lower level than the first).
However, while playing at a funeral about a month ago, I had this feeling come over me. I was in the right place! I was supposed to be there. This was my calling. I love playing gigs. I love teaching students and selling bagpipe stuff. I have even pulled out my Chopin, Gershwin and Debussy and am playing the piano again, which I haven’t really done in years. (I was a piano major in college.)
So, what do you want to do? What do you want to be when you “grow up”? I talk to people all the time who are just “stuck”. They’re in jobs that they don’t like, with people they don’t respect, and are in a profession that doesn’t pay enough money for their needs and wants. They pick hobbies for the wrong reason. They also pick their life’s work for the wrong reason.
I was having a conversation with a high school aged student a few months ago. He said that the reason that he wasn’t practicing a lot was because he was doing college visitations. I asked him what he was thinking of as a major. He told me that his goal was to be a doctor. Just the way he said it, it made me believe that it wasn’t his goal but someone else’s. I told him that I didn’t sound convinced. I asked him: “What do you really want to do?”. He told me that he loved computer science and code. I told him that people make pretty good livings in the computer industry. That was the end of our last conversation. A week later, I was fired from teaching him. (I gather the parents didn’t like my advice.) It’s too bad, because he was a great kid.
I know that this is a “Bagpiper Blog”; however, learning to play the bagpipes is hard work. Knowing why you are doing it is half the battle of learning anything. Knowing what you want your life to be helps you win the battle.
So...what do you want to be when you grow up?
Gary Guth is a professional bagpiper with over 45 years of playing experience and has been teaching bagpipes full time for the last 20 years. He has written "Bagpipes For Beginners", "the Bagpipe Hymnal", and " A Piper's Christmas".