Neil Patrick Harris Never Went Through This
It just occurred to me that, all those years ago when he was still a precocious child doctor on Doogie Howser, M.D., Neil Patrick Harris was saddled with a completely stupid character name. But at the end of each show, before blogging was a thing, he sat down and wrote in a computer journal, much like I’m doing now. He was paid to do it, and he was only pretending, so there are important differences. Since then, however, NPH has rarely been on the underside of things. Sure, some people may have been surprised with the transition to Broadway, or the um…well…let’s just not talk about Starship Troopers.
For more than two decades, he has been, for the most part, consistently successful, according to some metric or another. This is where any comparison between Doogie and me breaks down.
Last week, I got the first faint inklings of positive professional recognition in a veryveryveryveryvery long time. Like, ever. I write music, and I like to think that it has value, and that each piece represents an improvement and facilitates some sort of meaningful emotional experience for the listener. Yet, apart from the compulsory compliments of the post-concert mingle (well-intentioned, many of which are certainly sincere) there has been nothing to suggest that any tastemakers or even tastehavers share any similar sentiments.
Game(s One) Face(s)
I received a nomination for an award recognizing my string quartet (I have no idea how the nomination process works or who nominated the piece, so, assuming that it’s a person and not some series of randomly connected google searches, thank you very much) and was delighted. Thrilled, excited, perfused with messy words. But I also didn’t want to overreact, so I didn’t make a big fuss about it, only telling a couple friends and family members. Keeping it low key also meant that I would hopefully be able to avoid the post-award inquiry into the results. I do not expect to win. The nominees are all incredibly talented and more established than I am, so I’m trying to keep it in perspective.
It was a much needed boost, though, as I shift from student-proper to doctor-candidate. The gains made were quickly squelched by three “so many wonderful pieces, we regret to inform you that yours was not among the wonderfulest” in two days, cut further by ill-advised browsing of the resumes and C.V.’s of other composers who are ostensibly in the same phase of their careers. “Humbling” doesn’t even begin to approach the appropriate threshold of denotive severity. John Adams’ eloquent and encouraging commencement address to Juilliard might have been of some assistance to me, if it were not given to Juilliard students who are generally unlikely to encounter the kinds of travails of self-esteem and panhandling to which he makes reference.
Instead, one is left with the choice to believe in one’s self and one’s art, whatever it may be, or to abandon the chase to those who have already been cited, anointed, awarded, or otherwise acknowledged as possessors of creative magic surpassing and chosen for exponential trajectories of recognition. Space, after all, isn’t for everyone. Addiction is mightier than wisdom, and quitting is not my strong suit. Birthday. That’s my strong suit. Tomorrow night, I will have the pleasure of losing in person for the first time, rather than in the dignified and isolated confines of a car by the mailbox or in the taunting glow of a computer monitor. Hopefully, I will bear it well, but until the moment, one never knows.
Looking Up – Smeagol Lessons
Admittedly, in the hours after receiving the “bad” news, I’m unpleasant and a bit grumpy. It has an unfair impact on my wife and daughters, who have to put up with a temporary surliness that would make most 70-something’s with lawns and neighborhood kids blush. So I’m trying to snap out of it quicker. This weekend, thanks to a kind friend’s invitation, we got to spend a whole day as a family, having fun and being outdoors. Seeing my little girl get over her fear of the swimming pool water enough to take her first tentative, independent doggy-paddle strokes across the pool…let’s just say that there are some things that mean more than a stamp of approval. They’ll come, if I keep at it. And I have more than enough to keep me steady until they do.