Amateur: Do It For Love
(originally published April 1, 2018 on Of Love and Light website)
There’s a show that I’ve recently discovered that I truly love. I know I’m a little late to the game, but I don’t mind. That’s allowed me to binge watch four seasons in a row. For someone who hates waiting to resolve a cliffhanger, that’s a good thing!
Maybe you’ve heard of it: Mozart in the Jungle.
If you haven’t seen it, Mozart in the Jungle is an Amazon Prime original series that essentially follows the mixed-up, passionate, emotional, beautiful lives of the fictional New York Symphony Orchestra. It stars Gael García Bernal, of Y Tu Mama Tambien fame, as the eccentric, charming and infuriating conductor. It’s great.
Anyhow, there was a line in Season 3, in which Bernal is speaking with the manager of the symphony, played by Bernadette Peters. She has a hidden talent as a singer, but surrounded everyday by expert professional musicians, she downplays her ability and her passion, instead assuming her role as a brilliant negotiator and fundraiser.
When Bernal discovers her talent, he encourages her to pursue her passion.
Here is a snippet of that conversation:
Gloria Windsor (Peters): I’m not an artist like you people are. I’m just an amateur.
Rodrigo de Souza (Bernal): “Amateur.” You say that as if it was a dirty word or something, but “amateur” comes from the Latin word “amare,” which means love, love. To do things for the love of it…. Gloria, we are notes in this beautiful concert of existence. If we don’t play ourselves, nobody will.
Profound words that bear repeating:
If we don’t play ourselves, nobody will.
I included the photo of the piano keys because I’ve recently found a lot of joy in sitting down to play. As a child, I studied piano for 10+ years. In high school, I even taught a few students of my own. I liked it. I was decent at it. And yet, there was an element of struggle and responsibility that I didn’t love.
When I moved out to go to college, I left it behind altogether. This past Christmas, my mom bought me (and my family) a really great digital piano. And even though it’s been a couple of decades, I found that my fingers could find the notes okay; my eyes could read the music okay. More importantly, when I sat down to play, without any pressure of an assignment or a recital, I found pure love and joy in the music.
Sometimes, I’ll just sit down and improvise—something I never did as a child. My teacher always wanted me to try, but I held too tightly to an idea of perfection. I wanted every note to be expected, to be right. Now, I still want to be able to play a piece well, to feel it naturally, but I also want to simply explore and play with rhythms and sounds. And this amazing thing happens. I lose all sense of time, and get lost in the joy of making music. Then… when I get up… I discover that my subconscious has spent that time working out bits of story lines or solving editing challenges the whole time, without any effort on my part.
That’s the thing about time measured in the midst of happiness. It’s never wasted. Time does not need to equate to finances. In fact, I’d argue that it often shouldn’t. To be at your best in whatever you do professionally, you need to take a soul break and practice being an amateur.
If there is something that you love to do, something that you want to learn, DO IT! There is no shame at all in being an amateur. In fact, it is what makes life beautiful. Whether or not you have the talent. Whether or not you have any chance of going pro. Whether or not you improve. There is beauty and wonder in the simple act of doing.
So get out there, and surf that wave. Shoot that basketball. Paint that canvas. Write that story. Sing that song. Take that photo. Tell that joke. What are you going to make time for?
Really, I’d love to know!
Give one hour this week to your inner amateur. What will you do?
Who cares whether or not you can get paid? If you love something, if it makes you feel more alive, more connected to this planet and this universe, more authentically yourself, you have to do it!
Oh, and one more thing? Every professional started out as an amateur. Just sayin’.