You might think, given that I’ve played the organ since I was 13 (and I’m 26 now), that I’ve always been happy as a church organist.
Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Actually, accepting that being a church musician is a large part of my identity was something I was unwilling to do for a long time. To that end, I decided that I was not majoring in music in college. I didn’t identify myself as an organist to anyone I knew in college until well after I had graduated. (Sorry, best friend from college. Thanks for being cool about it.) I didn’t tell anyone at my first job from college that I was an organist until well after I had been laid off from that job. In those six years of college and the first job, I almost never played a Mass. And even then, the way most of those people found out was me posting it to Facebook when I returned to the organ bench.
I didn’t like that being an organist seemed to set me apart from everyone else. In high school, when my peers were having fun on weekends, I was making music. Not a bad thing, but it wasn’t with my peers. And it allowed others to ascribe characteristics to me that didn’t really describe me. (I’m a church organist, yes, but I’m not a choirboy.)
The problem is that when you do something like that, you suppress a part of yourself. I’m a lot of things, but not a church organist isn’t one of those. And after I lost the job that left me without the time to play the organ, and after I moved home because I was out of money and unemployed, that part of me was still there — and at some point, I couldn’t deny it anymore.
So since I returned to the organ bench, I simply haven’t denied it. If a coworker asked what I do on the weekends, I simply tell him or her. And, it turns out, it’s richly blessed and enriched my life. Turns out most people think it’s interesting, or cool, or at least better than collecting stamps and dryer lint. It may set me apart, but not in a bad way; people remember me and are interested in what I do. (How many 26-year-old church organists do you know?) My boss, another coworker and I had a chat one day on how bad praise bands were at church services. And in a few days, another couple of coworkers and I are going to see this guy, a young organist, on the South Side of Chicago, and it wasn’t even my idea.
I am a church organist. I am more than that, of course, but if that’s all that someone might remember about me, that’s OK. After all, it’s a blessing — and it’s even more so when I accept it.