For some reason, even in my 20s as I was dreading the end of my timeframe to be impressive, I have always loved my birthday.  It's a nice day to wear something nice, have a nice coffee and a long breakfast, and take the day as a reminder to be nice to yourself.  Nice. :)

The truth is that this message has become more important to me in recent days.  I have a lot of people who need my love more than they are able to give it and, most of the time, the only person left to treat myself well is me.  That reason, and some recent conversations I've been having with colleagues, has got me thinking about the importance of being kind to others that we meet on the job, on social media, and especially those who are often not kind to us.

I've had many many lessons with teachers that have told me to avoid certain styles and colors of clothing because I wouldn't be taken seriously as a musician, which was probably a message to my deaf ears that being a woman meant that I wouldn't get anywhere.  These same teachers were incredibly harsh and abrasive.  While some would argue that these musicians were subjected to the same treatment by their own teachers and are itching to wield that same power that comes with success and talent, I used this treatment as a way to prepare myself for the abuse that many conductors choose to work with to portray control over an orchestra.  As a result, I feel that I owe apologies to many other musicians that I incorrectly chose to speak down to, because it's what I thought was the only way I would be respected.  After all these years as a horn player, I'm relieved and a bit ashamed to admit that I was wrong.

I know that I'm not alone in being treated poorly, and then turning around and treating those around me just as poorly as as a justification of success.  However, with the power that unions have been giving to musicians and contractors in recent years, I see this changing.  When I play with orchestras, it's very rare that the conductors are belittling and abusive, just for the simple reason that they're freelancers, just like us.  They want to be invited back to these situations and now have to do it based on their merit, and not their control or fame.  As a result, I'm happy to report that the interactions I'm having with my colleagues are based on respect and the earnestness of getting the job done.  All this of course is taken with a grain of salt, as I'm really not working in high-profile jobs at the moment, and just because this is my experience, it doesn't mean that many more freelancers are being persecuted by their leaders, and by other musicians.

Then you're faced with that awful circumstance of taking the abuse and coming out of it as a kind person, but you're just not professionally where you want to be, or maybe you've always been kind to everyone you meet but you're still struggling to buy your groceries.  What's the point in being nice to everyone you meet if it won't get you anywhere?  Why bother trying to delicately handle that irritating post, why not just let LOOSE on that person and give them a piece of your mind?

I'm guilty of having those days where you loosen the pressure valve just a little bit and, in my case, it gets so easy to let it all the way out and become a horrible person.  I have literally felt the same corrosion inside of myself as I think about the way I'm being treated, or realizing how hard I have it as I'm scanning my feeds while I'm starving and nursing my daughter.  But these kids and this family save me.  I bring myself back and do my best to think "no, you're needed at your best" and I do what I need to do to replenish myself, whether that's talking to someone I trust about my feelings or just taking a walk, or sometimes even a shower.  Giving into the negativity just breeds more negativity, and it sends another person further down the spiral that I'm going down.  These social media platforms have the power of connecting us in love, and most definitely also in hate.

Why be kind?  Why take the crap from people that upset you, and why treat others well when they're doing something that irritates you, or when you're leading a section and others are deliberately playing behind you, or not following your breaths, or taking your articulations?  Why hold your tongue in response to someone's online comments, and why be nice to the people that promise you work, but deliver to someone else?  For me, it's as simple as this: I'M the one that suffers the most from being unkind.  I lose touch with the fact that many other people are in my shoes, and we'll all get our turns at happiness at different times.  My playing becomes heavier, and my sound gets constricted.  I start carrying tension in my shoulders and neck.  I start to hate what I do.  At the end of the day, the only person that can ruin the horn for me is me.  And I'm worth my own kindness, even when I feel like others aren't.

For all of you that need it out there, I'm sending you good vibes and love on my birthday.  I wish I had more to show professionally for being 35, but I'm happier than I ever thought I would be with these kids and my family.  I hope the career catches up, but I still love the way my horn rings in my hand after I play, and I can't get enough of sitting in the chair and doing the job.  This year, let's resolve to be our own kindness and spread that light to everyone we meet and work with.

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