It’s moved swiftly from the end of a year into another and I feel like someone has pushed the fast-forward button. We all wanted to fast-forward to end this bizarre, heartbreaking, disaster of a year, but like every year I just want it to stop for two seconds so I can collect myself.
This is something I feel like a lot people go through during this time of the year – whether it’s because of money having flew out of our pockets faster than it can be replaced, dealing with extended families (which reminds us why we don’t live in a giant house together…ever), or deadlines at work that MUST be completed as if you won’t be coming back after the 1st of January only to find our emails and desks full of new projects upon our return.
And yet, this has always been the season whether you’re social or not, where you’re compelled to go out and spend time with friends, family, and co-workers. It’s the season to grab hold of those around you and enjoy the company or find some time to reflect on the past year with a cup of hot chocolate, a good book, and a rented moat full of alligators to prevent any chance of interruption.
Weirdly enough, I’m not a big fan of this time of year. I hate the cold, I suck at gift giving, performances and side gigs control all your free time, and for someone who is slightly recluse I suddenly have to become social for weeks which is exhausting. This past season, for obvious reasons, has been low-key and I have been relishing my time at home, but something has been off, and I haven’t been able to relax.
With the past year, an underlying theme has been the difficult nature of rehearsals, work and socializing online which has its own pros and cons. The dynamic of rehearsals and chorus goals have changed. Despite all the good information, new avenues of rehearsal, and resources at the tip of my fingers there was still this nagging feeling of how to approach rehearsal.
It wasn’t until after one of my Zoom meet ups with my college girlfriends that I started to realize something wasn’t quite right.
As one of my friend’s joined our planned Zoom meeting, I was greeted with high-pitched greetings and exclamations of how it was good to see each other after the Thanksgiving holiday. We weren’t in the call for more than 2 minutes before she said, “So, I’m not sure how long I’ll actually be on. I’m kind of Zoomed out from having to use it for school and work all the time. I’m just kind of tired of it.”
Well, I was slightly taken aback for a second. It wasn’t the first I’d heard this, but my hindbrain felt slighted for just a moment before I felt reassured because I was in complete agreement. Just 10 minutes before, I was dreading going to the call – despite knowing that I would enjoy seeing my friends – because it was another call on the computer. We kept it short once everyone was on and I decided to blame Zoom fatigue for all my problems for the next couple of weeks.
It had to be Zoom fatigue, right? Why else would I feel apathetic about something I’d usually be excited for?
I did some research on Zoom fatigue and a lot of the reasons and thoughts behind it did align with what I was feeling. This wasn’t exactly a new phenomenon. But something was still nagging me – there was more to the problem. I just didn’t know what it was.
Like most of my epiphany moments about life, I was doing something mundane: laundry. I was thinking to myself, “I’ll hang up the clothes and then I’ll wash the floors, get the bathrooms done, clean up my workspace…” and my list continued to fill up my weekend. I stopped and thought, “What’s my motivation?” and my immediate answer was, “I like having a clean house and if I don’t do it now, I’ll have to deal with it all week.”
And then it hit me: Motivation. Where was my motivation?
I felt relief for 5 seconds before all my other emotions crashed over me like a wave. I had lost my motivation. I hadn’t written in weeks; my personal art project was collecting dust again and my vocal cords felt rusty. I was singing, but I wasn’t singing like I was last year. I had purely focused on getting through this year with work, with my finances, and what small family events could occur safely.
I tried to reason with myself. It’s the end of the year so my motivation to do anything is low. Hmmm, no that isn’t it. Okay, it’s definitely Zoom fatigue that is messing with me….no. I wasn’t enjoying all the zoom calls, but I have been working to reduce it and I wasn’t feeling its effects as much as I was before. I’ve been stressed with work? Sally, you’re always stressed out about work. You do it to yourself even when there’s nothing to stress about.
What’s my usual motivation?
It’s weird when such a simple question becomes a philosophical debate that toys with your brain for days. This may have been a result of bingeing The Good Place for the past day or so.
Our motivation to do anything changes depending on what our needs and wants are. My motivation to go to work is to provide for myself now and in the future. I eat food because I want to stay healthy and I clean regularly because I don’t want to spend all my free time on the weekends doing so.
The question of motivation becomes murky around our interests and wants. My motivation to exercise is more like a wave – I don’t have the time I need to exercise or I’m tired from work, but I also hate shopping and I love to eat whatever I please. See? It gets complicated.
Chorus is an interest. My motivation to go to chorus has always been defined by my love for music, my chorus mates, and the competition. If I’m being honest, there’s more emphasis on the competition. I couldn’t imagine competing with anyone other than the ladies from my chorus, but I love to compete and it’s that extra piece that keeps me motivated to practice and work on my vocal skills. I go to chorus on Monday nights to socialize and find that moment of pure harmonized bliss, but I practice and work to improve because of the competition. In the end, my motivation for chorus rests on two very different levels.
This is why something didn’t feel right. In a cloud of confusion, disbelief, and pure need to connect my attention was drawn to rehearsals and making the best of them. I can’t thank our directors, Amy and Bonnie, and all the people behind the scenes that make our chorus work and for all the time and effort they’ve put in this past year to make sure we have rehearsal every week and things to do to keep us engaged. It’s truly an acrobatic act that has been performed smoothly.
I was distracted for a while by the change in rehearsal and it kept me occupied, but I found after only a few weeks to be lacking motivation to practice with sincerity. It started with the need to be considerate to my neighbors and not sing at the top of my lungs for 3 hours and slowly evolved to, “No one was going to hear me anyway.” I could learn the songs and enjoy all the vocal workouts, but…there’s nothing to personally push me.
I have always been a self-motivator. I told myself in high school that I was going to write a novel just to prove that I could, and I did. I told myself that I was going to put my art out there and I did. I told myself I was going to run a marathon and I did. I told myself that I could eat an entire pizza on my own if I wanted to and I did.
So why couldn’t I motivate myself to practice more frequently or with more integrity?
It’s because the reason for my motivation was gone.
Competitions have been canceled. Rehearsals relegated to online events only. It was bad enough that competitions were nowhere in sight, but then I also lost out on my ability to socialize, (online is just not the same). Two of the three core values I get from singing in chorus were removed leaving my motivation for learning music to be the lone value standing. In all those months of online rehearsals I hadn’t compensated for the actual long-term effect I’d experienced in 2020. It’s like working on a PC all your life and then suddenly switching to Mac for two weeks – I don’t know where anything is and if it’s only for two weeks, do I really want to learn how to use it?
And there’s no one beside myself to blame. There’s been so many opportunities and tons of resources through Sweet Adelines and my own chorus that I could use to keep myself on track, but I haven’t used them to their fullest potential and it’s because I’m just sitting and waiting. I’m waiting for everything to go back normal and I’ve been telling myself that I’ll be better then.
This is hard. Really hard.
How do you change your motivation? How do you change your motivation into a positive, healthy way?
I don’t know. But I believe the first step is acknowledging it.
There. It’s out there.
I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I’m a firm believer that if you want to change you will and it won’t matter if it’s at the beginning, middle or end of the year. I have, for weeks, had many ideas of how to keep myself motivated into next year and beyond returning to normal. It’s not going to be easy and I may fail, but I can’t let that stop me. It just so happens that I’m starting around New Year’s to move forward with them.
I invite you, readers and singers of barbershop, to think about your motivation in 2021 and join me on my mission to discover: What does it mean to be a Barbershopper beyond the competition? Why do we do it?
I don’t have a clear idea of where I’m going to end up, but I know that this will only make me a better singer – whether on the stage or sitting in my house.
The “nail” has been hit…right on it’s head! OMGosh. Sally, once again you’ve moved me in your writing. I plan on reading this over and over as I could not have possibly soaked it all in. Thanks Pal.
Sally. You are so great at putting a lot of our thoughts into words. I too have always been very self motivated but lately have had to dig deeper to find it. Fortunately my absolute love of singing continues to help the motivation. Thank you for expressing how I’m feeling better than I can.
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