Being Talented, but Not Wanting “The Life”

When you look across the internet during a time of struggle, trying to find like minded people, sometimes you type a search phrase that brings up the exact opposite of what you were looking for. I did that today.

The phrase I used in this search was “the difficulty of being talented but not wanting the life”. I was surprised that all the results were from people complaining about how they don’t feel talented enough to pursue their dreams… Which simply wasn’t what I was struggling with. So I’m writing here in hopes that others like me can find a like mind.

Some context: I received my degree in vocal performance. Before we go any further here let me make one thing clear, a degree in this field does not guarantee that a person is talented. Some may get angry at me for saying that, but it is the truth. There are people who have graduated with the same degree as me that are of all different talent levels and types. This is because this degree is not just based on performance (despite what you may think). It is also academic and that is exactly as it should be. I only say this because you should not take my degree as a measurement of my talent.

That having been said, I am a talented person. Many are more talented, in my opinion, and many are less talented. I would consider myself above average on the talent scale, but my opinion of myself doesn’t matter in this context. What matters is that many of the people in my life, professionally and personally, consider me talented and think I would be successful if I chose to pursue that. The problem I run into is that in order for that to be my living it requires a life that I am unwilling to live, even if just for a few years.

I do not want to be away from the people I love for months doing shows. I want to come home after a long day of work and sleep in a bed that is mine in a house (or apartment) that is mine. Those things to me out weight the joy I get from performing (and yes, I do enjoy performing). As a performer once you have “made it” then you can settle down a bit… but the road on the way there is one where you will be spending a lot a time away from home. I’m not the type of person who is okay with that.

I suppose a person could move to some place like New York or other cities that have a strong theater scene with their family… But what job will they have? Are they across the country from their parents who they love and want to visit more than two times a year? What kind of housing could they have on the income they would make as a performer (not that housing here in the Silicon Valley is all that affordable)?

Those are all questions I asked myself as I neared graduation and the answer to each of them pushed me away from ever wanting that career. However, there was another thing that pushed me away. I though, “If I could be rehearsing and performing eight hours a day five days a week, would I want to be?” My answer was “no.”

That is all context to explain why I searched for the phrase typed out above. How do other talented people who do not want that life style feel? I have had so many people support me through my education who had high hopes for what I would become. Do other talented people who have chosen not to make performing their career feel like they have disappointed their coaches that they have met along the way? Do others feel that their teachers would be disappointed if all they do with their talent is community shows? Should I even care about that stuff??? I just don’t know.

I currently work as a web designer for Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and I love my job, my team, and the stability that this income provides. My new career challenges me in ways singing didn’t and there are many times my coding efforts have failed, but I kept trying and eventually I come up with a solution that works… And I love it. It is satisfying in a different way than singing is and it is something I can do eight hours a day, five days a week and still enjoy.

I only got to thinking about this whole talent vs. reality thing because I was considering auditioning for some local shows (after all, I still love performing) and what popped into my head was guilt… Guilt? Why? Why should I feel guilty for not being what a bunch of other people wanted me to be? Why should I feel guilty because I want to audition for a show with a company that is not at the level that I “should” be performing at according to people in my past? Maybe I could “make it” but I simply don’t want that life and I should not feel guilty for feeling that way. This is my life after all.

If you are feeling that same way just know, it is YOUR life and you may not be what others wanted you to be. The question to ask yourself is: “Do I want to be what others expect from me with everything it includes?” If your answer is “no” then you are doing exactly what you should be doing; living your life on your own terms.

No guilt needed.

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