As this orchestra season draws to a close, I am once again thinking about how being an orchestral player is seeping slowly (inevitably? unclear) out of my life. Some days that feels fine; I'm not really so much going anywhere with playing, just kind of keeping on keeping on, and I might actually make more money just working instead of having two to three different jobs at any single point in time, etc. But other days I know I'll miss it terribly if I leave entirely. Partially it's frustration: I spent more than a decade learning how to be an orchestral player, and if I leave than those skills will atrophy and become mostly useless. It feels good to do something I'm good at and know I'm good at--a rarity, for sure--and I hate the thought of moving on and forgetting about this part of myself.
But mostly I'll miss the heart-lift I get from playing exciting things. Sometimes now I sit in rehearsals and think about what a freaking weird job I have; I get to have emotional epiphanies in the middle of symphonies, I get to bite my lip at Tchaikovsky's trumpets and sweat out my anxieties over Stravinsky's rhythms. I get to feel like, for once in my life, I'm doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, and how often do you get to say that? I work as a cog, I give up my musical autonomy and to some extent my personal choice, to make sounds that can make your heart quake and are gone as quickly as they occur. I bring ephemeral joy to people I've never met. There's a purity of purpose there.
I'm not saying goodbye this time, because every time I do that it ends up not being the end at all. So I'm saying instead that I hope it hasn't all been for nothing, that I hope as I look back I can remember that all these years haven't been wasted if nothing else because of the joy they have sometimes brought me. I'm saying I love you, and I hope I see you again soon.