Let me tell the truth: I’m scared.
I’m so excited to move back out into my world, to set up a schedule that looks more like 2019 than 2020, but I am also…well…I’m scared. I remember both the positive parts of my life back then (lots of stimulation, lots of variety, lots of people, lots of money) and the negative (practically living in the car, feeling really exhausted deep down in my soul, carrying everything I own everywhere I go just in case I might find 15 free minutes to practice).
I always talk a big game about saying no and taking care of myself at this time of year, fresh off my summer schedule which is lighter in both students and gigs. But I know the truth and so do all my close colleagues and friends: I’ll start saying yes and before you know it (definitely before the end of September) I’ll be trying to schedule bathroom breaks because my schedule doesn’t naturally include room for that kind of thing.
This isn’t a listicle. I don’t have tips! I’m just a slob like anyone else when it comes to this, perhaps the most common pitfall of the freelance/portfolio lifestyle—it’s hard to say no if there’s any possible way to make a thing happen. I think we all pick up the fear that if we ever say no, we’ll never get another call again. Truthfully, I think it’s not that simple. Sure, little gigs and schools with just a few students can lead to big opportunities, but there’s no way to know whether or not that will happen. On the other hand, I know exactly what will happen if I exceed 45 students and five work days per week!
So, as I said, no tips. But I’ll make a pact with you, freelance friends. I will say no when my schedule is full, and pass those opportunities on to other flutists in my community. I will leave time for meals that are not eaten in the car (even if the car is still). I will leave myself time to practice, exercise and sleep, and to otherwise take care of myself in the most basic of ways. I will remember that unstructured free time is one of those basic needs. I will learn this last lesson of the pandemic as I skip back out the door. Are you with me?