You're drowning in an overbooked schedule, too much work, not enough pay, sleep deprivation, and the constant worry of not being the best for those around you. You look at your peers who seem to be living "an easier life" and the question comes...

Why do I even do this?

You're living a passion-driven life. You're putting in countless hours and taking out the student loans in pursuit of the future you've been building your whole life. You work in a field designed to help others. Or maybe your passion is what that paycheck is for: your home, your family, that little guy running around on all fours.

What happens when that passion isn't enough? What happens when you find yourself laying in bed, ready to quit it all and just take on something easier?

I may not have all of the answers, but as I come around the corner of my first year as a Music Education major, trying to balance hours of practice, music classes, honors classes, teaching, marching WGI every weekend, and hanging on to an ounce of social communication, I've been super blessed to have welcomed a multitude of conversations of how to survive a passion-driven life. 

Of all of the near-breakdown talks I've had in the last 8 months, I owe a huge chunk of my mental sanity to Professor Lloyd. Professor Lloyd taught an Honors Intro to Music class. The 11 of us that were crazy enough to take on high-level academic courses on top of being music majors were given a mandatory class as a guide to survive our journey. Coming in, I didn't understand why it was necessary, but it didn't take long before I found myself spinning in my own head. I made a two-hour drive to go hiking, and was so over-loaded with music that I listened to nothing but static on the radio the entire way. I eventually made a transition to NPR, and it wasn't until Christmas that I played music in my car again. Professor Lloyd knew this feeling all too well and gave us a challenge that I will take with me for the rest of my career and life.

Make a "Why I Do This" list.

Professor Lloyd's list took on a musical form: songs that got her through college, orchestras that changed her perception of music, the work of composers that give her goosebumps every time.

Since time has gone on, I've come to realize that the list comes in all forms beyond that. It is essentially a scrapbook of inspiration to get out of bed when life is overwhelming.

How can you make one?

Spend 10 cents to print pictures of the people who mean the most to you, places you want to travel to, moments that changed you. Hold on to the letters or birthday cards or sticky notes that people write you, and don't be afraid to ask people to write to you. Create a playlist of videos of ensembles that sparked your love for music or songs with lyrics that pick you up on bad days.  Get out actual paper and write down memories that inspired you to pursue what you do. When the days are good, write pep-talk notes to the you that is going to get worn down in the future.

Then...when the bad days come, take out what you need. Slow down for a moment. Grab a mug of coffee or tea or hot chocolate and let yourself dwell on those things. Even if it doesn't solve every problem, I promise it will be a more uplifting night than a mindless Netflix-binge.

There are people that believe in you. There are people whose lives are different because of the hard work that you have put in day-in and day-out. You may not always get the direct recognition you want. You may not be as far-along in your endeavors as you thought you'd be. You may not even know how you got to the place you are now. But I promise, you are here for a reason. You are an integral part of the world, and the people in it need you.

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.