I’m Julia Seager-Scott, 45, and I am a professional musician. I live with my two kids aged 16 and 12, my software developer partner of 27 years, and our six-year-old Labradoodle. I have lived in Toronto my whole life. I started playing the harp at eight years old and had my first paying gig at 16. I am a freelancer, although I have a long association performing with the Stratford Festival. I am also a professional baroque harp player, one of three in all of Canada. I fell in love with the baroque harp and discovered I was pregnant with my first child within a month of each other. I worked hard learning a new musical language and mastering a completely different way of playing the harp while raising two kids. I appreciate that the flexibility of my music career has enabled me to be a very committed, hands-on parent.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40?
It hasn’t been a sudden shift or dramatic change. I feel I have fully entered into my own skin. I see this expressed in my music, in my interactions with others, and in my parenting. With interactions specifically, it is the choices I make about who I surround myself with and in the way I measure the impact of my words and behaviour on others. In all of these important areas of my life, I have more confidence than ever before and I am making choices that make me feel alive and not out of guilt or fear. I realize now that I was giving to others at the expense of myself and now at 45, I’m recognizing how important my own fulfillment is.
When do you feel you are most powerful?
I have only begun to realize this. In performing there is a connection with the audience that is difficult to describe but when it’s working you are deeply communicating without words. Telepathy doesn’t really describe it but gives you the idea. I feel most powerful when I am behind my harp performing a piece I love that I can share with people this way. I can feel the emotional response to what I am playing but I can also anticipate what the audience WILL feel after this note, this phrase, this pause, this page turn. And to be able to bring that out, execute that or even more thrilling to be able to do something new in that moment that even I didn’t see coming that elicits that group response is an amazing feeling. People coming together to share a group emotional experience is such a powerful force and I revel being at the centre of that and feeling those connections being made all around me.
What are the top three most important things to you right now?
- Me: Choosing to invest in my musical self
- My Family: Supporting my husband and kids so they can develop what they need to thrive
- My Health: Finding enjoyable ways to move so I can keep moving and doing the things I love for as long as possible
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
By saying “yes” and saying “no”. Things I say yes to I schedule into the family calendar. Top of the list these days is scheduling “me time”. It could be taking 30 minutes to send off an information package to music groups to find new musical opportunities, it could be booking a morning off to go to the spa after a particularly challenging performance, it could be making sure I schedule enough practice time so I don’t short-change myself because of some other time-consuming responsibilities like grocery shopping, cooking, or dog walking. If I am taking care of myself I can be much more emotionally available and in-tune with what my family needs to thrive. With teenagers, it seems they need more alone time yet when they need you they REALLY need you RIGHT NOW so if I am already filled up I have more to give and can give fully in the moment. For my physical health, I have joined a NIA class, re-introduced skating to my life, and will be biking more this year. For my emotional health, I have started scheduling visits/activities with people I want more of in my life like friends from high school and university and newer friends from the neighbourhood. I have just joined a pottery class having never done any visual arts before! As a freelancer, never knowing when the work and money is coming in next, I was scared to say “no” to any work ever but have realized saying “no” to work that is not meaningful or financially rewarding means having way more time for the “yes-es” in my life!
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
- Being proactive about finding musical work that is high-level, fulfilling and pays me what I’m worth.
- Finding ways to move that I enjoy so I can keep moving for the next 45 years
- Connecting with people on a deep level
- Being open to new things that seem scary because they may lead me somewhere amazing
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
Really think about what you want out of your life and what you are missing from your life. Say yes. Be open to saying yes. Start with “maybe” if you want to think about saying yes. At any point in the process if you feel stuck, angry, depressed or anxious, ask for help from your partner, your best friend, a doctor, a therapist, a coach or all of the above.