I think the most common question I get asked these days is, “What do you want to do?”

If blogging and writing and private lessons paid the bills, then I would happily do that and feel like I was putting enough good into the world via those channels. Unfortunately, they do not. Hence, the big move and the Masters and the endless combing through the world of music and education to try and find a position that seems right for me.

I’m learning that many places that have to do with crafting or influencing arts policy or curriculum are these giant machines. Neither nimble nor particularly effective, they resemble the same bureaucracies they allege to wrangle into varying forms of compliance and progress. If my goal is to do something positive for the warring factions in the education debate and positively impact students, I can’t expect to do that as a cog in a mechanism whose purpose is only to drive itself, can I?

So the hunt goes on, with the drumbeat of “What’s Next” keeping me from restful sleep and setting my stomach at nearly constant unease.

The cello continues to be a reprieve from all sources of grief. I went to the basement this afternoon to practice. I sounded good. It felt good. My vibrato was even and my bow bounced just as I asked it to. I finished a slow run through of a Popper study and felt a lump in my throat. What happens to Emily the cellist if I do this other stuff? Where does she go? Does she matter? The prior struggle of cello teacher versus performer seems like an indulgent bagatelle compared to this seismic shift in identity.

I stopped playing, and cried.

I carried my cello back up the stairs and began writing this post, without a humdinger to close, without an eye on snappy prose. It occurs to me that my life has been punctuated by three main things: luck, music, and a seeming inability to do a single thing by the book, no matter how closely I adhere to its wise admonitions. Why should any of that change now, when it’s still me? Adding to the list of hyphenates does not diminish my abilities: it broadens them. At the end of the day, it’s still the same question: Did I make the world better today? The next step I take must increase the number of days I can say “Yes” to that, with less worrying about what word or phrase most conveniently sums up who I am. How much good can I possibly do while wrapped up in self-doubt?

It would be as if I had learned nothing at all from writing this blog.