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What Most Musicians Struggle With

What Most Musicians Struggle With

Five hours into the drive to Oregon and I am cruising without a speed limit and my eyelids are fluttering closed. Okay, there is a speed limit, but I don’t know what it is in kilometres, so I just copy the other cars.

In between losing focus, I think about work. I worked at a big name company over the summer and I finally felt the weight of other people’s actions on my work, and how perhaps some people may not be as interested in seeing you succeed as you might hope. I have never experienced this before.

The only way I can write this is if I tell myself it won’t be published.

I have been hit before by an open palm, and now when someone raises their voice at me in an enclosed space, I feel as if I may be hit. Two angry people have raised their voices at me in an enclosed space at work.


I didn’t know how to deal with it except to try and smother those instincts and keep going. But everyone has a breaking point, and when I finally spoke up, someone in the room said I was making up stories. My trust and hope in the work evaporated, because not only were there bystanders, there were endorsers.

I don’t mind if people tell me to toughen up and trudge through—to suck it up.

Yes, I’m trying, I will say.

But to tell me that the events did not happen and that I should not feel anything, to tell me to my face that my feelings are not valid, is unacceptable. You can say that you don’t care, but you can’t say that it didn’t happen. I slipped backwards and stopped speaking during meetings unless I was called out.

The world I try to live in is bright, and the people I try to surround myself with are strong, talented, and goodnatured.

This summer chipped a mark in a lot of my beliefs and I no longer believe that you can succeed under any circumstance as long as you are smart and bold. I now believe that you are dealt a hand that involves an environment which you have little control over.

Maybe some people dislike you just because. Maybe you are in a role that they wanted. Maybe you stepping back is their cue to step forward. Maybe your best just wasn’t good enough for the moment but it was good enough for you, because if you’d tried to push, you might’ve lost everything.

Let some shit hit the fan. That is what I was told by a mentor this summer.

If you’re smart, you will learn, but you will not always succeed.

You learn from your failures, not from your successes. That is what I was told by a mentor this summer.


After spending my summer being a jack-of-all-trades person to support multiple teams (if you want the honest version, it’s “mother to children who are older than me”), I craved focus, craved time to sit down and do what I like and what I’m good at. I miss design and I miss solving problems. I miss doing user experience research.


I was a useful jack-of-all-trades but I didn’t feel important. It was like I was doing all the stuff that no one else had time for, but it was still important stuff. Like UX research or like design for a certain part of an app. I liked both those things but it’s strange to be picking up someone else’s work.

I had less time than I needed. Different people wanted my attention. I tell myself I can divide the day into chunks for different people, but you only have so much energy per day. My head shuts down when I cannot deal with more people.

Not having enough time is true for any fast-paced environment, but then, if we are all so short on time, that is all the more reason to spend it on honing one or two areas that we enjoy.

In the software industry, if you work in a big company, your team is a luck of the draw. I tell myself that maybe I need to take time off to travel while I can. It’s too wild, too cut-throat, too political, too mean. I could’ve been stabbed in the meeting room and probably no one would notice until the janitor found me at 11pm.

But at the same time if I leave to travel, I might become, again, the person coming back home to a city with a place to call home but no one to share it with. The hole that I’d open if I left the people I know, would be filled when I’m gone.


A post shared by Grace (@letgracesmile) on


There is a baby grand piano in our airy Oregon living room with little trinkets on the lid. I know it’s not tuned without touching it; people who care about their precious baby grands don’t place glass decorations on the lid.

It’s very hard to forget how to play the piano. It’s been a few years since my performance exams, but my fingers can sweep off some Chopin or Liszt, if I don’t think too much.

The sound is wiry and the keys are loose, but it’s simple to play if I don’t think too much.

Sometimes it’s enough to let things flow and not think too much.

When you find something that feels right and makes you happy, your body doesn’t let you forget it, even if you’ve taken a long break. It comes back if you don’t think too much.

This brings up my question: what is the thing that keeps coming back to you, if you don’t think too much?

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Kate Hofherr
Kate Hofherr
6 years ago

Very much enjoyed listening to you play. If that’s easy to do without much thought Grace, you need to follow that road. You’re gifted! So bummed to hear about your summer experience — life is so hard and sometimes the learning is even harder. My prayer is that you find your niche that God has all planned for you. He’s given you a precious gift of creativity, intellect and discipline. Go Grace!!

6 years ago

Sending you moral support. Some spiritual writings a while back instilled in me to not be too surprised by other’s weakness, but, still, it can be surprising. What goes around comes around though, so maybe those two people will have a taste of their own medicine one day. Wonderful music clip!

6 years ago

I never wanted to ask before, but if you will share some personal info: (1) how old are you, and (2) where did you go to school and what did you study? I’ll explain why I ask when (or perhaps if) you’ll answer. And if you’d prefer to answer privately, I can be found at southlander@bigvalley.net