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You Are Valid

Music is one of the toughest majors out there. Not just because of the classwork – although I can tell you, that part is tough too. No, it’s tough because of the sheer number of people you’ll meet who do not believe in it. There are hundreds of thousands of people out there who will sit through a movie with an amazing soundtrack (written by musicians, performed by instrumentalists), sing to the radio on the way home (playing music written and performed by musicians), go to the grocery store they like for its jingle (musicians!!), then finally get home and scold you for wanting to go into a field “where there aren’t any opportunities.”

There are a lot of those people. They see something artistic as being lesser. They see something where women regularly excel, and think it girly and therefore not as important. They see something that ignites a passion in you, and believe that you’re wasting your life, just because your job isn’t boring. These people are everywhere, and they aren’t going away. I’m sorry.

However, that doesn’t mean you need to listen to them. These people, these naysayers, are trying to live their own lives through you. A parent insisting you major in accounting? They want bragging rights. A friend who scoffs at your dedication to something unprofitable? They want you to change majors and validate their choosing of civil engineering for the money. (Also, they’re a bad friend.) A stranger, asking what your backup plan is? They want you to stay on their level, and not excel.

There’s a type of thinking that Terry Pratchett labeled “crab bucket”. If you put a bunch of crabs in a large bucket, something weird happens. Any one crab is smart enough and strong enough to pretty easily get itself out of a bucket. However, if there’s a bunch of crabs in the bucket, instead of trying to get out, they just try to be the crab on top. If one crab manages to get to the top of the pile, or tries to escape, the other crabs grab it and yank it down, in order to get higher up themselves. None of them ever make it out of the bucket.

People think a lot like crabs. They see someone doing well, moving themselves up in the world – or even moving away from that person’s idea of a normal life! – and they have to yank that person back to their level.

“Well, have fun going back to school in ten years.” (Translation: I have to believe you can’t be successful as an artist to make myself feel better about life.) That’s crab bucket.

“But what’s going to be your real job?” (Translation: I cannot imagine a means of making an income except for a 9-5 or retail job. I dream in black and white.) That’s crab bucket.

“You’re wasting your potential.” (Translation: I feel like I wasted my potential.) That’s crab bucket.

If you don’t let those people get to you, you’re okay. If they don’t manage to grab you, to catch you with their petty-minded words, then you’re home-free. You can be the crab that gets out. I can’t guarantee that life outside the bucket is nice, or pays well, or safe.

But I do know it’s much nicer than being in the bucket, that’s for sure.

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