Deserving or Entitled

Oh, how I hate getting triggered. Privilege and entitlement still get to me. I’ve often heard what bothers us in others is what we don’t like about ourselves. I’ve thought that I’ve acknowledged the many privileges I’ve had, but do I hold some sense of entitlement? Do I feel that I am entitled to respect and appreciation? Entitled to a fair world? Entitled to a fair pay for my talents? Entitled to have drivers be courteous?

For all of the complaints I listed above, I can think of times that I did exactly what I am complaining about. I can think of teachers whose concerts I rarely went to; musicians that I didn’t care to play with because they weren’t accomplished enough for my ear; paid someone far less an hour than what I make, but feel aggravated to pay someone else half again more than what I make; cut into a backed up line to get on an off-ramp without waiting.

Or could it be that I don’t value myself enough? To have a sense of entitlement, according to the online Oxford Dictionary, is “the amount to which a person has a right.” I remember talking to someone about why I haven’t continued writing music. I said, “There is so much out there. I don’t want to fill the world with more stuff.” She brought tears to my eyes when she replied, “but you have a right to have your music heard too. Only you can write your music.”

If only it was that simple—create something and it will be heard/seen/witnessed. Isn’t that all what we really need—a witness? How many people do we need to see us to feel seen? Maybe that is what makes the difference between a superstar and a private amateur—how many people one needs to see them to feel validated.

I was brought up to feel grateful. That is a beautiful thing, but I just realized (without their intention I’m sure) it came with me internalizing being unworthy. So that is the mystery—how can one feel grateful without feeling undeserving of the benefit? How can one not have a sense of entitlement when they accept the benefits they receive in life as being deserved?

My dad also taught us “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” So, I’ve rarely been afraid to ask, though sometimes I fear it came of as insisting. I remember once when my car was being fixed in Santa Monica and I lived in Topanga—where no buses ran. It was several miles up the hill and I didn’t think of spending any of my tight income on a taxi, so I began hitch-hiking. I’ll never forget the woman who picked me up. She said, “I normally don’t pick up hitch-hikers but you looked like an indignant angel demanding a ride.” I didn’t know how to take that. Angel seemed like a positive thing, but indignant and demanding seemed like projecting a sense of entitlement.

This past week, I gave a “free” flute class. Was it really “free”? I built up my original teaching studio by going to schools and giving these master classes. I now have a couple of open teaching slots because I had two students graduate high school. I was hoping to find new students. So, if I’m really being honest—was it free?

I didn’t receive the respect I thought I deserved. The class was not at the original time we agreed upon. (It was later, and I had to cancel paid classes afterwards to accommodate the school schedule. I even confirmed the night before.) I was not given a room where we could actually listen well and one of the students kept playing over my talking. On top of that traffic details (not worth going into) exasperated the feeling. It took several hours for me to get over the feeling of my heart being inside a box where the walls were closing in.

Now, that I’m over the feeling. I see ways that I have felt entitled—or to put another way, frustrated when I don’t get what I am after? Do I feel entitled to have my entire day be enjoyable? Is frustration just a subtle way that a sense of entitlement not being met is thwarted? I wonder who am I to think that I am entitled to ALWAYS having an easy time? Who am I to stop trying to figure out a new technology when it isn’t easily learned? I was a quick learner. But all quick learners have a point when they have to put in more effort then they are accustomed to, and the learning is no longer quick.

I think that we pursue the vocation in which we can work through the difficulties. I rarely am defeated if I can’t get something in my flute playing, and yet I have stopped at areas that I’m not confident in. For example, I was always told that I don’t have an “orchestral” sound. So, instead of taking that as a challenge to work on my sound, I accepted it and went another direction.

I grew up listening to more jazz flutists than classical ones! Flutists I listened to in high school: Herbie Mann, Rashaan Roland Kirk, Joe Farrell, Paul Horn, Hubert Laws, Sam Most, Tim Weisberg, Jeremy Steig, Eric Dolphy, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Andy Kulberg (Sea Train) and the only classical flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal. I didn’t have ANY orchestral records.

There’s no right way. When do we need to work through challenges in areas that we are weak and when do we need to spend the time working with our strengths? I often joke that being a pessimist is the most joyous way to live, because if you always expect the worst, anything better than bad is great!

I have found that when I can find the enjoyment in effort, I can break through a challenge.

Some of the ways that I find enjoyment in the effort is to: listen to the sound; feel the body sensation; use an objective measuring device like a metronome speed; set the timer for ten minutes (I can do anything for ten minutes); make up my own tunes with difficult note combinations; transpose favorite sections to all keys. Sometimes I just take a break when I get frustrated by making crazy sounds; improvising; sight reading; getting something to drink!

Everyone has a path in life—an ultimate quest. Rarely is our vocation our path. Our vocation is just a way to actualize what is important. I believe mine is finding the truth of the situation. What is yours?

(When looking for a featured image I ran across this article: