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Why Am I Doing This To Myself?

Updated: Mar 9

This is probably the question I asked myself most often going through music school. And during my masters programme. And again taking lessons after I’d finished my degrees.

Sometimes I spat these words through gritted teeth. Sometimes I mumbled them in anger. Sometimes I sobbed them through tears.

Asking this question is a very universal musician experience. Much like the Christian life, we’re never guaranteed an easy route, and the path to success is rarely a straightforward one to determine. As Catholics, we can have certainty that if we stick to the life of virtue, we will receive an eternal reward of life with God in Heaven, enjoying the Beatific Vision. We know what we are working towards. But in our careers, we are guaranteed nothing. We might be the hardest worker, possess the most talent, and be overflowing with passion, and still never achieve worldly success. Sometimes, to that end, it can feel like a purposeless endeavor.

And so I’ve walked around asking myself the question- why am I doing this to myself? I must confront this question if I want to live a fully integrated life, in which everything I do is imbued with purpose. I answered this question pretty differently every time I asked it, but there are always a few key ideas that I come back to.

Firstly, a life of music has been instrumental (pun intended) in my growth of virtue. I have learned practices of discipline, dedication and perseverance in the face of rejection- all practices which I have been able to weave seamlessly into my spiritual life. Recently I had a conversation with a fellow Catholic musician about how we feel facing constant rejection in our careers has equipped us to more readily and vulnerably love other people, even in spite of the fear of personal rejection. In this very specific way, our musicianship- specifically one of the most painful and difficult parts, one which often leaves us asking the question “why”- offers us a unique opportunity to bring goodness, holiness and loveliness to the world through the highly pertinent disciplines it has taught us.

Secondly, I think back to my little 10 year old self who loved music more than anything in the world. She was so bright-eyed and eager to take on the musical world, and wanted to soak in every single experience like a sponge. She knew nothing of the hardships, nothing of the rejections, nothing of the consecutive all-nighters and academic pressures. She just knew the simple truth that she LOVED what she did, and wanted to do it for the rest of her life. I think about having a conversation with my younger self, telling her that not only did we overcome our all-consuming anxiety, but we went on to get two degrees in music, to sing opera in Europe, to fall in love with avenues of music that we never expected to, and to define and achieve success for ourselves. I can almost imagine the excitement and light in her eyes just thinking about those dreams that so often felt unachievable. God really does redeem all things.

Three young women singing in a choir and holding choir folders.

Thirdly, I think about God as the Divine Physician (one of my favorite of His titles, as a chronically ill person). I imagine that, among those avenues of medicine practiced by the Divine Physician, music therapy is certainly one of them. And I know this because I myself know intimately the healing that music can bring to a broken heart and a troubled soul. I can call to mind countless moments, some big and some small, where God has used music as a powerful tool of healing and wholeness in my life. And if such is the case for me, then it is certainly also the case for many, many other people around the world who are eagerly awaiting the Lord’s healing Hand, though they may not even know it yet. God has given us this great gift of music because He wants to use it for His glory. He wants to use us as His Hands, His Voice, His instruments to bring music to others. What an ENORMOUS gift. And the best part about it is that God does not expect perfection from us, only we put that sort of pressure on ourselves. He wants us to come and offer our gifts to Him exactly as we are, though imperfect and struggling we may be. It is precisely in our imperfections and our brokenness that God can work, heal, and make whole. So who am I to refuse God’s request to use my passions and gifts to bring healing to others?

These are my “why’s”, among many others. I’m sure yours look different to mine, though some might be similar. It’s a new year, and thus a new opportunity to reevaluate, to ask ourselves “why”. Examine your heart and find within yourself the deep answers to that question. God is awaiting you this year, and He is so eager to receive everything that you have to offer, even if it may feel small or insignificant to you. Trust that He will use your “why’s” this year to bring about even greater glory and greater success than you could possibly dream of.


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