Tuesday, August 10, 2010

BloG #45: Of Passing Breaks & Discovering That Elusive Purpose

Another summer vacation has passed & here I sit the night before returning to my classroom tallying up my summer to-do list. Did I get through whatever needed to be accomplished? Was it a productive summer? Were my objectives met? Or was it a complete waste of time?

Looking back, I have yet to wish for a shortened summer vacation. This goes all the way back to my childhood. Even when I was in a career that had no summer vacation benefit attached to it, I still yearned for an extended break where I could recharge, re-evaluate my path in life and just simply veg. I value that time greatly and truly appreciate every moment I am given for that purpose.

This is not to say I don't appreciate being employed. I do! The benefits of working far outweigh the alternative and I find it beneficial to my own self worth to be productive in whatever sector I am employed with. This is part of the reason I ventured to complete my masters degree. To help myself become better and more informed at what I do (plus reap the benefits of being on a somewhat higher pay scale).

Returning to the questions at hand, I found this break to be a textbook summer in terms of satisfying my own personal needs. Those needs included (but were not limited to):

1.) Distancing myself from work - physically & emotionally (check)
2.) Spending time with family & friends (check)
3.) Catching up on rest (check-minus)
4.) Reading (check)
5.) Composing/creating (check-minus, minus)
6.) Performing (check)
7.) Advancing JavaMusiK into new territory/frontiers (check)
8.) Traveling to a new location (no check)
9.) Traveling (check)
10.) Bungee jumping (no check)

Not bad, considering all things. This summer will likely go down as a slightly better than average one, though it is not yet far enough back in the rearview mirror to catch a complete perspective on it in relation to the bigger picture. But looking at it from the here & now, a lot was accomplished, as you can see from the somewhat predetermined list. Some pleasant surprises helped the break to actually have some unexpected highlights, though the checkbook seems to be screaming a little louder than normal.

Since I have spent the last few years in my forties, I have found it less appealing to simply relax without some sort of opportunity lurking in the bushes. Let me explain...

I have never quite nailed down what it is I want to be when I grow up. This little tidbit has caused a fair amount of consternation in my ability to be productive, b/c I often have it in my head that I should really be doing something else (without ever really being clear what that something else could or should be). During my time in college, my poor advisers had to feel somewhat dizzy after their visits with me. I went from being a completely undecided major, to music ed to pre-engineering to undecided again to music business. Did I have a clue what I was going to do with a degree in music business?? Not a chance! It took me five years & a summer to get out of that school with a music business degree because I was still dinking around trying to figure out what I wanted to do!

Then after all that, I tried again five years later & got a degree in music education. That degree has served me well, but has also not quite fulfilled my inner need for more. Nevertheless, my time between earning my first and second undergraduate degrees enlightened me to discovering a calling of a higher purpose. Before going back for the second degree, I continually felt the burden of feeding a corporate machine and not much else. That really started to wear on me, almost to the point where I was not feeling real positive about going to work anymore.

During a time when I was training a new assistant manager on the job, I was told I would make a good teacher. Didn't think much of it at the time, but eventually those words began to echo kind of like you sometimes see & hear in the movies. After some soul-searching moments, I finally made the move to get after it & go forward. After all, this could fulfill that higher calling I wasn't feeling in my previous line of work. Teaching children about the creative arts was going to be my ticket to happiness.

Now, with 20 years under my belt in this career of music education, I have found much fulfillment and happiness. I have also discovered much opportunity for personal and professional growth. As a musician with a continual fire in my belly, I have also harbored a fair amount of need to create. And, yet another ember that rears it's head occasionally is a spirit of entrepreneurship. I truly admire those who start a business and make it successful.

Thus, the somewhat uneasiness with simply going fishing, or planting my butt in a lawn chair (for too long). All the above identifiers have conspired to form what has become somewhat of a mission for me. After 12 years, the mission is still in it's formative stages, but becomes a little clearer everyday. The name is JavaMusiK. The mission to this point has included the creation of new music and arrangements without the use of words, giving this music a life of it's own, and bringing people together in fellowship through music. I often get the feeling that there is more to the picture and have recently been testing the waters with that thought in mind. More may be written of that later. Meanwhile, the word legacy begins to creep into my inner thoughts as I continue to advance in age...

This is what rides the forefront of my mind during downtime. How can I advance the mission of JavaMusiK? One thing that drives it forward is the financial investment laid out to get JavaMusiK this far. The cost of studio time and equipment, thousands of cd's that need to be sold and return on investment of the education and opportunity cost of what has gotten me to this point of musicianship, etc. Can I ever reach a break-even point on the sum-total of those elements? Can this ever be a profitable venture? Could it ever become self-sustaining?

I think I have spoken in previous posts about the passion that drives JavaMusiK. I truly believe any thread of sanity I may still possess can be credited to the release that comes from working with the product hosted within JavaMusiK. My appetite for creativity, entrepreneurship/business and desire to perform, in addition to the pursuit of a legacy are all being satisfied under the mission of JavaMusiK.

As I write this, I wonder if these feelings are common among other people? I truly do, because I have often felt alone in my lack of focus as to career direction, etc. The people I am usually around seem very confident in their chosen direction. I rarely feel that... JavaMusiK, as small as it is, is the one truth that I feel comfortable hanging my hat on. Do others feel the need to create? Or is that need being satisfied through whatever it is they do at work, or at home? How about starting a business venture and nurturing it through various stages of growth? Or is working for someone else satisfying enough?

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Jeff Van Devender