Our Life in the Arts

Questions, reality, and musings on a life of joy and wonder

Vol. 3, No. 4

May 1, 2023

It’s Time

By Rich Holly

Quite regularly I remind myself how fortunate I am and have been throughout my career, and I will always cherish the great support I’ve been provided by family, friends, and colleagues. I also am glad I’ve chosen the career decisions and directions I’ve pursued.

Yet it’s time to move on – again. After 43 years working full-time in the arts in higher education, I’ve decided to retire.

As with most life-changing decisions, this one took many months to decide. I could also say it took many years. My wife and I have always been planners, and back about 20 years ago I would have said my plan was to retire in 2020. Well, we all know what happened in 2020, and it just wasn’t the right time for me to retire.

So here we are, three years later.

It’s time.

Another thing I’ve long been grateful for is that I have a life in the arts. I do believe it’s important to retire to something rather than from something. And in this regard, I have several artistic and personal pursuits I’ve been putting off (one, for decades) and I’m thankful that I’m at that point where I can now pursue these.

In many ways it won’t be retirement – it will be a new set of paths in my (thankfully) long artistic career. Which got me thinking about how we all need to navigate the combination of priorities, risk-taking, and procrastination.

Frequent readers of my posts know I’m a life-long fan of The Beatles. Let’s all take a few minutes to enjoy this George Harrison-penned classic about moving on:

Here Comes The Sun (2019 Mix) – The Beatles.

When is it time for something new? In some or perhaps many cases, it’s due to unhappiness or boredom in your current situation. In other cases, it may be to pursue a passion you’ve been ignoring. In still other cases, it may be due to an unexpected opportunity that comes your way. And for others, it may be that you’re somewhat like me and have a thirst for learning and pursuing a wide variety of avenues.

Several years ago I wrote an article based on procrastination, motivation, and planning. Regardless of your personal place in the world of the arts, I’m pretty sure you can find yourself somewhere or at some point in your life in that article. Although I authored that article, I’m as guilty as the next person for having procrastinated many times.

And while I don’t consider myself a risk taker, when I think back on opportunities I was presented and actions I took for some of those, I have to agree that I certainly have had my share of risk-taking moments along the way.

Rich and his percussion buddy Robert Chappell performing on a Ugandan amadinda xylophone with the Northern Illinois University Steel Band (2023).

Have I found myself bored or unhappy in my work situations? Of course – I don’t think I’d be human if that hadn’t been the case. And yet, as noted earlier, my work colleagues in the arts have been a tremendous source of support and joy for me, allowing me to pick myself back up quickly, put the systemic and frustrating bureaucracy behind me, and keep finding ways to move forward.

I bet you can do as I have – think back on all the decisions you’ve made regarding your artistic pursuits. How many new things did you learn? How many of those came about unexpectedly? How many turned out to be a blessing? Did you turn down opportunities, and, if so, why? (I twice turned down opportunities to change careers and earn fully two-to-three times what I was making as a salary in the arts.)

In the arts I think it’s important to constantly be looking for new opportunities and adventures and things to learn about – daily, if possible. Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop thinking. Don’t ignore your emotions. What would be an exciting new path for you to forge?

These paths don’t have to mean uprooting yourself and your family and moving across the country (although they might: I did that four times in my career). It can be something much more simple, as long as it’s meaningful and the thought of pursuing it puts a smile on your face. It can be you, by yourself, or it can be a collaborative effort. It can be something you tackle head-on or it can be extremely part-time.

The point is to always keep your eyes and ears open for what else is out there for you to pursue next. We need more trailblazers in the arts, and we won’t find that if everyone keeps doing the same things year after year. Take a few moments every now and then to assess where you are in your artistry, where you are in your career, and what might be something new to latch onto.

If you haven’t been doing that, it’s time. Look back fondly and in order to remind yourself what you’ve learned along the way, and keep moving forward.

It’s time.

Rich Holly serves Arts NC State and the NC State University community as the Executive Director for the Arts.

All posts in the “Our Life in the Arts” series are available here.