Doers vs. Those Who Do

28 August 2022 • Personal

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I wrote a note to myself at midnight a couple of nights ago: “Blog idea for myself: A Doer vs. A Person Who Does (Related: hello, existential crisis and depression)”. I don’t remember exactly what caused this thought to enter my mind, but I do know what it meant and where my mind was going.

Here’s the general gist of what I was thinking: a doer is someone who really embodies the thing that they are doing, whereas those who do are people who aren’t fully entrenched in the thing that they’re doing; more like a casual hobbyist, or a passerby, or something like that.

Confused? Sure, I get it. Let me give you an example.

I started playing piano at age 4. Picked up drums at 10, bass at 12, and guitar at 14. Went to college for music education, before an injury forced me into a career change. Gigged regularly from age 11 until I was 29 - a solid 18 years of my life. Recorded an EP, with aspirations of doing more.

If you had asked me last week if I would’ve called myself a musician? I would’ve said yes. Yes, I was a musician. I lived it. I considered myself defined by music. I was a doer. I’m not anymore… probably wouldn’t even lump myself in as a “those who do” these days. But back then? Absolutely.

I talked about how I started playing piano at age 4. My mom was a piano teacher with a Masters in piano performance, and the story goes that I sat down at the piano one day when I was 4 and said that I wanted to learn how to play. So, Mom taught me. I played til I was 17. I was really fucking good at it. It fueled all of my ancillary musical endeavors, led to me being an All-State percussionist (twice), and why I decided I wanted to be a music ed major in the first place.

But a lot of people don’t know how much I ended up hating the piano. How much my mom and I fought about practicing (2 hours a day by the end, always before school every day). How she ended up basically owning everything that I did - I never was able to play organized sports because she was afraid I’d hurt my hands. My mom had early onset arthritis, among other things, and looking back, I feel like she was living vicariously through me.

In fact, I think a lot of my first 19 years of life were truly not my own. Piano. Even the pivots into the other instruments. The initial college major. If I push beyond that, my desire to keep playing and pursuing music for the following 10 years after that. In hindsight, I may have been a musician, but I wasn’t a doer, because it was never about me. I was just an extension of what my mom wanted for my life.

And then, she died. She got cancer, and she passed away 2 days before my birthday. On a Monday. And on that Thursday, I went to a practice section for my gig, buried her on Friday, and gigged on Saturday and Sunday. Because that’s what Mom would’ve wanted.

Fast forward 9 years. I have so many things that I felt defined me over the years, things that I would’ve considered myself a “doer” of, that don’t exist to me, or don’t matter anymore - they were just fleeting things that don’t matter to me anymore. Including music. The only things that matter to me are my wife and daughter. The only things I’m a “doer” of are being a husband and a father.

I came to this realization over the span of about 5 seconds on Thursday night/Friday morning. It was so sudden and so all encompassing. It was both a clarifying purpose, and something I can only describe as feeling like I’ve made 300 successful parachute jumps, but realizing that somehow I never had the chute on. That every lifeline that I’d anchored to my being, every foundational layer of who I believed I am as a person, the things I would say that I was a “doer” of, was nothing more than a thin verner on top of a pile of hobbies. Every part of my life, I’m just a “those who do”. Except for my family. And it’s really weird to witness my brain process all of these facts in real time and try to cope with it in a healthy way.

This post might get deleted tomorrow. It might be something that only sits up long enough for me to get some sleep, wake up, and go “oh god, what did I do???” But I think it’s important to really examine one’s life and truly understand what are our bedrock, foundational, “doer” things in life, and where we are just “those who do”.