Living in Two Worlds

Cumberland Mountain Park intrigued me as a child.  I remember going there on an elementary school field trip.  The most exciting part of the trip was that moment when you got to put your foot in 3 states at the same time.  The Pinnacle was a point in the park where the states of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia meet. There is a marker there and you can literally stand in all 3 states at once.  It was a pretty cool event for me as a young child.  Little did I know that it would become a metaphor later in life for the way I live.

You see, I often feel as if I live in two worlds, constantly being conflicted as to which world is better for me or which world I am more suited to be part.  I have friends in each world who don’t really understand the life I live in the other world.  As a result, I feel as if I am constantly explaining who I am and justifying why I do what I do.  You must be asking yourself at this point what horrible piece of my life I am about to confess in this newly published blog.  Do I live some secret double life? Am I the female version of Clark Kent, mild-mannered business person by day, world-saver by night? The short answer is no.  The real answer might be a bit more complex.

I am a musician.

I am a manager for a personal income tax firm.

Funny, huh?  How on earth did those two worlds collide?  Trust me, they could not be more different, so how do I do both?

I was hooked on music from my first piano lesson with Mrs. Workman at age 8.  I think I was probably hooked long before that, but it is my first real recollection. The art of making music, even if it was John Thompson Book 1, was fascinating for me. The way melodies are created.  The sequence of notes on the page.  The sheer organization of it all was consuming.  I practiced each day, sometimes not very willingly I admit, but the more I played, the more I loved music.  Several years later, I opened my mouth in children’s choir at church and discovered I could sing. Wow……making music with other people… fun is that?  In what felt like the blink of an eye, I was a student at Carson-Newman College, with a scholarship, making music at a level I never dreamed about before. Could I really make this my life’s work? Young and determined, that was exactly what  I was going to do.  The result, an amazing career serving in churches throughout Tennessee leading and making music.  Also, a marvelous opportunity to sing with groups like the Knoxville Choral Society and the Knoxville Chamber Chorale.  With all those opportunities came trips across the US, Canada, Mexico, Italy and this year, Ireland.

The second world presented itself just 11 short years ago.  A brief meeting with a man in a church where I served (where he told me he had never had much luck working with musicians) led to a part-time job in his office during a tax season.  As the story progresses, I find myself ready to enter my 8th year as the full-time Operations Manager for 5 tax offices.  I jokingly refer to this as my left-brained job and my work as a musician as my right-brained job.  There are people in both worlds who think I am an idiot for trying to do both. Honestly, in early February of each year, I usually agree with them!

I struggle with doubt as to whether I am good enough to be in either world full-time. You know the old saying about being a “jack of all trades and master of none.”  My most nagging thought as of late is whether or not I am a good enough musician to really perform in the musical circles I am in right now.  A recent and somewhat personally negative experience made me stop to take count of my musicanship.  Do I do dis-service to the musical talents God granted me by not practicing more and honing those talents on a full-time basis? Am I a strong enough musician to continue to “fly” with those who make music their entire life? Never mind the thoughts from non-musician friends who think I am a musical snob or don’t want to understand the drive and desire for perfection that is innate to any professional musician.  There are also the quizzical looks from non-musical friends who can’t figure out why I would spend 2 days a week at church in services and rehearsals and another 3 hours on a Monday evening in rehearsal with KCS, or cannot figure out why it takes 3 nights of consecutive grueling rehearsals to pull off 1 or 2 choral performances with a symphony orchestra. Never mind my musical friends who act like I am speaking a foreign language when I talk about taxes!

I finally came to the conclusion that it would be much easier just to keep both feet firmly planted in the professional world of income taxes.  My boss is appreciative of the work I do and rewards me well for my efforts.  I get great enjoyment from the people I work with each day.  They make my job easier and rewarding.  The money I make from this job is sufficient to take care of my daily needs and a couple of “wants” here and there.  Seems like this would be the most logical thing to do; right?  No more conflict, no more wondering if I am “good enough” as a musician, and I can still live a pretty good life.

“No can do”, my friends.  It is just not possible.  Perhaps I will live with this conflict of a foot in each world for the rest of my life.  Perhaps God will lead in other directions where I do not feel the conflict as much.  I don’t know what the future really holds, but one thing I am absolutely certain.  The drive to make quality music, to lead others in the experience of corporate worship, to exercise those talents and gifts God bestowed me with doesn’t ever go away.  I AM a musician.  Whether I am a part-time church musician or joining my voice with others in a professional chorus or standing on a concert stage, the drive will always exist.  It beats within me as distinctly as my heart beats and breath comes and goes from my body.  It IS who I am.

For those friends I have in each world who don’t understand, please just love me, be my friend and forgive me when I talk “music” or when I talk “taxes”.  On a good day, I will remember which world I am in at the time, and I will speak the appropriate language.



About Tina Swaggerty Collins

Tina currently serves on staff at Ball Camp Baptist Church. A music graduate of Carson-Newman College, Tina has been active in church music ministry for over 30 years and is an ordained minister. She is the mother to two amazing grown children, who still allow her to be a nurturing mom from time to time. Her blog is an invitation to step into her life as a mom, a minister and a follower.
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2 Responses to Living in Two Worlds

  1. Terryl Oliver says:

    Awesome, Tina! I need to talk with you about one of your comments tho… a curious one to me… Keep up the great work in both worlds and now in your writing world!

  2. 805diva says:

    I cannot address the “taxes” world. The “music” world is beautiful and harsh, sublime and ridiculous. We are never good enough…and we are always good enough. ALWAYS.

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