Dear present Hanne, this is your future self.
First and foremost, I know you are going through a bit of a tough time right now. There’s some wonky old thought patterns, there’s some brain chemical fuck ups, and there’s some financial strain. You’re feeling a little shaky, and finding it difficult to get to work. But I’m here to tell you that it gets easier. It really does.
That’s not to say it gets easier easily. You put in a lot of work. You set yourself some strict guidelines. You set your bar too high and you failed, multiple times. You set it too low and you didn’t even get off the ground. But eventually it starts to pay off and you commit to a routine that will probably form part of your everyday for the rest of your life. This commitment is something you can do, by which I mean you do start to achieve a real consistency, something that might seem impossible from where you are sitting right now.
The key is self-compassion. Here’s a few pointers.
Stick with the Bulletproof Musician stuff. Do every exercise. Bug Latham to do them and then keep each other on track. Send Alethea the occasional reminder as well. It may seem like a lot to take on, but just add a little habit to your program every now and then. The confidence chapter is especially important. You can in fact do what you are setting out to do. Keep at it.
Look after your body. Make this a real priority. Exercise and movement is more important than what you eat, although don’t neglect that either. Pay attention to your posture, do your pilates, do some yoga. Go for walks. Moving is absolutely essential to your wellbeing. If you’re feeling foggy or low, even if you achieve nothing else just move yourself, sweat for ten minutes. Move first thing every morning, without fail, no matter how late you crawl out of bed. Drink more water than you are presently. Do Helen’s Tai Chi finger exercises.
Make the most of your lessons with Helen and Camilla. You will come to see this period in Cologne as the beginning of a major turning point in your life. It doesn’t happen straight away, but these teachers and their support and belief in you, as well as their knowledge of the repertoire you are throwing yourself into, are the best cheer squad you’ve ever had. Maintain your friendships with the Aussies of the Köln new music scene. Enjoy your time in Belgium and be on top of your game. Playing with that ensemble (now … and next year) will be really rewarding for you.
Your two years at Ghent are really really good for you. Take my advice, go with the cheaper one bedroom apartment and practise at the Conservatorium. Book rooms in advance and just be there. Make friends with as many of the other students as you can. Practise your French.
Some days are harder than others. Come up with more lists like your 30 Things. Have a list like that for a number of possible feeling-not-so-good scenarios, or other cases where you’re for some reason unable to do the amount of practise you’d envisaged (long day of train/plane travel, important meetings/classes/rehearsals, massive to-do list). These are the things you never get around to anyway, and they matter.
Helen is the kind of teacher that leaves some things open, but in a way that doesn’t leave you hanging with questions. Come prepared to lessons. List down questions in your practise notebook and throw them at her. On the occasion that you are underprepared (it happens, but it happens less and less), admit it. Tell her when you’re struggling with a big load of notes to learn. Eventually you’ll tell her when you have days that just never get going. She understands.
Oh, I should say that Darmstadt is crazy. Try not to get overwhelmed by all that is going on! There’s a big class of flutes, but Eva Furrer really enjoys working with you and Alex on Presto, and she is impressed with how far you’ve come. It’s daunting, it’ll exhaust you, there’ll be tears, but you can do it.
And – you finally learn Cassandra’s Dream Song! It’s another big step for you, like the Furrer was, and like the Hurel. It takes you a bit longer than you hoped to feel really comfortable with it, but once you do that the possibilities really open up. You can tackle anything.
My final bit of advice: try not to compare yourself to others. I know, I know, it’s a pretty thoroughly ingrained habit. But the more you stay focussed on just getting yourself to your next step the better it is for your mental health.
I don’t need to wish you luck. I am the living proof that you did it and will continue doing it, and also, it’s kinda awesome.