I know many listeners are struggling with health issues, especially now. You may think this means you can’t have a career in music. I am here to tell you that isn’t true. I did it and so can you. It just may look a little different than you imagined. I’m giving you some practical tips from my own experience on how to navigate it successfully.
This is pretty much my first recorded episode for the year. It’s been a while that I’ve done a solo episode. Things have come up for me especially about health challenges. I’ve talked to my students over the past year and many of you have had health issues as well. It may come up with age or genetics and I wanted to talk about how I’ve juggled it with my music career. Some may compare themselves with what others are doing and it may be difficult to manage while having a chronic disease.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. I wasn’t surprised since we had it in the family, but it wasn’t so welcome especially when you’re 29. It didn’t bother me much until after I had kids and that exacerbated the issue. What’s ironic though is that my music career didn’t kick off until after I had gone through the absolute worse due to my auto-immune disease.
When I was almost 31, I had my first daughter. I didn’t have problems with my disease since the pregnancy was really good for it. When she was about 7 months, I started getting really sick and weak, and having trouble doing day to day things. I still had my corporate job that time. I pursued music on the side — different bands, different home recording projects and things like that, but nothing has really taken off. After that, I got it under control for a few years. When my daughter was 2, I was working from home, performing and really starting my music career, I started to have uncontrollable symptoms and ended up being in the hospital twice. During the time I was in the hospital, I had an epiphany thinking that it’s either I work on my music career or I might die with this disease not being able to pursue my real passion which is music. When I got out, that’s when I really started working on my music, networking with people, and recording my album. It was all about working on faith because I didn’t really know what will happen with my health. There’s definitely something to say about optimism and hope but I also believe in medication and diet and lifestyle. Having that drive, that optimism and that right mindset will give you an edge over the health issue.
As I started developing programs that I was performing, I felt that if I had to go through this, couldn’t I use this to inspire and help others. That became one of my brand pillars. The reason it’s coming up for me again right now is aside from my students talking about it, after 7 years without remission, I was seeing some signs again in the last two months. Then it was also triggered by me having stomach flu during the holidays. So now, I am having some tests done again. I am not currently navigating a music career, I am running a company with multiple employees and multiple projects. During this time, I cannot really work my normal hours. I have to take some rest and watch my diet.
What can you do?
Your goals need to be your goals. You need to do what is possible for you. You need to temper your expectations while still having aggressive goals.
I give myself a 7-day workweek. It allows me to give myself more leeway in terms of deadlines. This is not for everyone. I can compartmentalize myself so it has worked to take the pressure off.
If you are touring or performing, scheduling is the key. Be honest with yourself of what you can do. I almost never did a tour where I was performing every day. What I found worked well for me is if I could stack two performances in a day, I’d be in a performance mode. Then I’d take a rest the next day. Schedule your tours accordingly. Make sure you have a way to get that needed rest time.
Figure out what works for you when it comes to food.
I performed at a lot of mothers of preschoolers and community events where there was a lot of really rich food. I had to control my mind that if I eat a particular thing, it would affect my performance. I immediately had to box my food up to bring it home. What’s not good for me, I gave to my children, such as chocolates. Keep in mind what will happen to you if you eat something that doesn’t work for your body. If you need to figure out healthier options before you go to a venue, then do that. I stayed with host families a lot of time and I was always upfront with them about my dietary restrictions. When you are at home, you have to take that time for food prep to feed yourself the right things. Think of it as part of your work. If you don’t feed yourself the right things, you will not have the energy you need to do the stuff you need for work. You won’t be in top form if you don’t take your time for the food prep. Re-appropriate that time in your mind to time that is for work.
Ask for what you need.
Make sure you had the right accommodations. I need to have good rest and introvert time to give a good performance.
Have the right support system.
Ask for the support you need. I did bring my mom with me when I was on tour. You have to have a support system to be your best self.
Explore all the streams of income.
There are so many more ways you can do your music career now as compared to what I had available before. Working from home — there is so much flexibility in that. Having the ability to choose your own time of performance, that’s amazing! There are so many other opportunities you can do from home — doing live streams, recording, singing in other people’s tracks, producing, doing other’s arrangements. You can have your own deadline and you can fit them into your own schedule. You can do online teaching or maybe do asynchronous teaching. There are so many options.
I hope you take this to heart if you are navigating challenges. We need to be real about it. We are amazing musicians who have something to give the world and it just might take a different approach for us to get it out there, but that does not mean that what you have is not valuable. So don’t let these health challenges stop you. Figure out how to work within the constructs of what you’ve been given while of course, trying to figure out how to make it better. It is what it is for now and it is important to work within that. I don’t want you to lose any time creating amazing music that the world needs to hear. It’s going to look different from what you imagined, and that’s totally fine but you need to do it. So I hope this gives you a kick in the butt to get past any feeling of inadequacy. A lot of us have health challenges. You are not alone and you can absolutely do this.
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