Column: Epiphanies in isolation-Relearning to love a hobby

Editor’s Column: Epiphanies in isolation

Tatum Mapes is the Editor-in-Chief at Redlands East Valley for Ethic.

By TATUM MAPES

Pretty much everyone has a hobby: some extracurricular that gets them excited to get up and go somewhere. It’s where they find colleagues and friends who share their interests. Hobbies are something we love to do. However, do we love them for the right reasons?

Music has been a part of my life since the beginning. My dad would play the guitar until toddler me went to sleep. My mom signed me up for piano lessons when I was five. My brothers and I still play and enjoy music together to this day. 

At school, I have been involved in choir, band and theatre. In ETHIC, I write often about movies, TV shows and music. I was constantly surrounded by music and the arts, until COVID-19 hit. It would be over a year until I stepped foot in the performing arts building again.

My experience is probably similar to many others like me. After the epic highs of a successful spring choir concert and school musical, I was suddenly deprived of the communities I loved. I was initially excited when, on March 13, 2020,  it was announced on the school loudspeaker that we would be leaving school for a “four week spring break.” If I knew what would happen next, I would not have been so excited.

Suddenly, the arts at school were ripped away from me. Spring concerts, tours and rehearsals were cancelled uneventfully. I had become so dependent on school for my daily dose of arts that I had no motivation to practice for the next few months. I had no desire to sing or play instruments. I would just lie in bed sulking over what I lost. 

Tatum Mapes, a REV senior, plays the piano without an audience due to the pandemic. (Ethic Photo/ Tatum Mapes)

For someone auditioning for college music programs in the fall, this was not the best way for me to deal with my music deprivation. I had to force myself out of bed to practice my audition pieces. Over time, practicing once again became habit, but the love was gone. 

I realize now that, prior to the pandemic, music had become a way for me to keep my ego intact. I did not love music: I loved the attention music brought me. My lack of motivation to practice stemmed from my lack of an audience. Obviously, there was very little I could do about this, so my only option was to relearn how to love music again. 

I talked to my piano teacher about what was happening and she advised that I stop practicing my audition pieces as much and start learning pieces that I wanted to play. I was hesitant to spend less time preparing for college auditions, but I decided to learn a Chopin Nocturne that was on my “music bucket list.” 

It was strange taking it upon myself to learn new music. My piano lessons were through Zoom and my choir and band classes were cancelled, so no one was going to teach me new music at this point but myself. There were no teachers, classmates, or audiences for me to flex my piano prowess: this would only be for me.

Because I learned the Nocturne out of self care (and the piece is absolutely beautiful), I learned to love music again. I was no longer practicing for other people: I was practicing for myself. When music program auditions and interviews rolled around, I was able to give sincere responses as to why I wanted to pursue music as a career. 

This last Monday, I was finally able to step into the choir room again after thirteen long months. While I was ecstatic to be back, I was also reminiscent about how I and my relationship to music has changed. The last time I was in that room, music was a selfish endeavor meant to bring me praise and accolades. It was not the actual music that made me happy, it was the attention. Now, I realize that I do not need a choir room, a sold out theater or even Instagram likes to prove to me why I do what I do. I just need myself, because personal enjoyment is enough of a reason to keep going.

I know my situation is not unique. All across the country, athletic, art and academic programs have been put on hold, leaving students to find other outlets to do what they love. Many failed to keep up with these hobbies. The ones that succeeded, however, were the ones that learned to find personal joy and self satisfaction in a job well done. The most successful softball player is not the one that loves the cheer of the crowd after she hits a home run. She is the one that loves the fact that her practice and hard work payed off. The most successful scientist is the one who loves the research, not the accolades. If you truly love something, train yourself to appreciate it when there is  no audience.

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