My life, as I had defined it, pretty much fell apart during the summer of 2012, ushering in a new and exciting reality that pretty much consisted of, ” Dear g~d, how am I going to acquire money so I can live?!” I applied for every job posting for which I was qualified. I applied for many job postings for which I was NOT qualified, but which I was confident I could successfully accomplish, given the chance. I even applied for job postings for which I was radically unqualified, uninterested, and unsure of my abilities to perform. I spent every morning scouring job postings, revising my resume, worrying, crying, watching bad television, stressing over personal relationships (most of which actually required no worry).
About a year ago, I finally got a job, working for an at-home business. It was one of the most awful experiences of my working life. At 35 years old, I discovered what it was like to go to bed dreading going in to work the next day. It finally got to the point last October when I simply walked out.
Besides wracking my psyche with hate, that particular job didn’t give me enough hours to successfully sustain my overly-modest lifestyle. So I took an additional job sewing at home for a small clothing factory in my city. I grew up sewing, and hating sewing. But I was confident in my abilities. I had a skill, given to me by my amazing parents, and I was able to utilize it. And I was allowed to make my own hours, working as much or as little as I needed. My time was mine again. This hearkened in the new period of my life, one which was remarkably similar to my pre-2012 self. I enjoyed the sewing, not for the work itself (which I equally hated and enjoyed), but for the freedom it offered at the time.
Then I walked out on the hell-job. That very day, 4 of my former piano and voice students re-joined my schedule. I added a couple more students in December, a couple more in January. Life was straightening out again.
The biggest change was yet to come. I was still sewing for extra income, and it was getting a bit tougher to make time to get to it. About a month ago, my mom asked if she could do some of the sewing, both to help me out and to make some extra cash for herself. The very next day I was offered, out of the blue, a job accompanying the choirs at a local college. By the end of that week, I had 6 new lessons on my roster. So my mom and I decided that she would take over the sewing, after I trained her on the process.
After over a year of extreme under-employment, I was suddenly over-committed. I thought I was handling it fairly well. But then the dreams started. I started dreaming about writing. Rather, I dreamed that I was having writing ideas, but no matter how much I ran around searching in the dreams, I couldn’t find any way to write the ideas. No electronic devices, no pens or pencils, no paper. It was my subconscious saying, “Hey, remember all the writing you did to fill the time while you had nothing else to do? Remember how much you loved that? Yeah. Do that again, ya moron.”
Last night was the final night of sewing. It wasn’t intended to be. I still had work to do. But after talking it over with my mom, she said she felt ready to take it over completely; she needs the money, I need the time. It works out. And I no longer sew endless streams of tiny white blouses for my income.
Why is this story important to me? Why is it SO vital to my sanity that I’m no longer sewing? It was a good thing for my life. But it was the final, lingering reminder of how much my life sucked for so long. I spent a lot of my professional adult life being incredibly lucky. From the moment I started college, I was a musician, and a musician only. I taught piano lessons, voice lessons, played piano for choirs and religious services. I played in bands, wrote music, practiced my instruments. The summer of 2012 robbed that from me. But now I’m back. I’m me again. I have my own life, my own schedule. I am a musician, an artist, a writer, a teacher. I hope to be an actual filmmaker; I’m at least enjoying the heck out of the contributions I’m making to others’ films. But I’m back to being able to support myself by doing what I love. Not many people are that lucky. I’m so thankful that I am.
I thought that I was ready to join the traditional workforce. But they didn’t want me. And I’m glad about that. I get to be myself every day. I get to work with a huge variety of people. I get to choose to NOT work with people if I don’t want to do so. Am I still over-committed? Moderately. But the downtime rewards, infrequent as they may be, are totally worth it. I can see my family when I want. I get to go to the gym. I get to write overly-long blog posts about how much “real” life sucks. I get to spend time with my close friends without worrying when I’ll go to bed or when I’ll have time to see them. It’s the life I structured for myself almost 17 years ago.
And I love it. Strike that. I’m IN LOVE with it. I wake up every day excited to go to work. When the weather or car trouble or sickness keeps me from doing my paid work, I get sad because I miss it. I don’t like to take time off, not just because of the lost wages, but because I truly don’t want to miss a moment spent with my students or colleagues.
And if it all falls apart again, I won’t worry. Because I survived the last time and came out the better for it. I’m more thankful for my life now. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.