This part of summertime has always been an interesting time of year for me, as I tend to be moving around the world, in some form or another. Facebook, for all its joys and faults, has recently been reminding me of all of this: in 2014 at this time, I left Pennsylvania to move back to the Atlanta area, a move that would prove to be, simultaneously, the best and worst decision I'd ever made. In 2012, I experienced the best month of my life, beginning one fateful July 7 and extending for more than three years. About five years ago, I went on tour with my Queering the Pitch solo recital series, playing dozens of concerts in states from Alabama to California to Massachusetts and on. The year before that, in early August, I moved from Boston to Athens, and two years prior, in 2008, I finished up at Penn State and hit the road for THE Boston Conservatory. So, July and August have consistently proved to be very exciting months.
That said, one year ago I wrote a post titled, “I Don't Like My Job, Part 1,” in which I detailed what I felt were my immense professional shortcomings, dissatisfaction, and my feelings on the matter. I had been in the midst of a rough patch when I wrote that post, something I detailed in yet another blog about my mental health. Looking back, when I wrote Part 1, I'm not sure if I was ever more unhappy with my professional or personal life.
As I post this blog, I am just emerging from the fourth anniversary of that best month of my life, and reflecting on the coming first anniversary of the worst. After re-reading Part 1, I began to examine what has happened over the past fifty-two weeks and how I’ve been changed - for better, and for worse.
The title of this post is misleading, because - as of today, right now - I DO like my job.
In fact, I LOVE MY JOB.
The reality, though, is that I love my job because I’m successful, in the most materialistic-American of ways: I make a pretty damn good living doing what I do. I’m successful, and happy, in other ways, too: I’m good, I think, at my job; I have great friends; my fridge is full of things that are not necessarily food; my dog is a BAMF.
In, "Medium Raw," the sequel to his first book, "Kitchen Confidential," Anthony Bourdain briefly discusses what must drive rich, celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay to continue to promote themselves, their brands, their TV shows, and, yes, their restaurants. Ramsay, after all, is rich and famous and probably has enough money to never work another day in his life, so why continue hosting reality cooking shows that feature mediocre chefs, or second graders, in addition to his busy life as a guy who actually cooks food for people to eat? Bourdain argues that it was Ramsay’s destitute upbringing, watching his father fail and lose it all, that keeps the chef on FOX with seventeen TV shows each week: Ramsay always feels like the end is just around the corner.
I’m not Gordon Ramsay - after all my therapy, I think I’m much nicer than him, at least! - and I didn’t watch my father lose it all, monetarily speaking. But I do feel this same drive to keep going, to keep growing my studio to ever larger numbers, whether I’m doing well, or in the ditch, whether my studio numbers 40 or 4. I think this is because of the reality of being a working musician, a life where you’re not expected to make any money, if you work as a musician in the first place. When you’re doing well, you’re just one misstep away from losing it all.
(The Boston Conservatory actually had a course called “Career Skills for Musicians” where they taught us to, among other ridiculous things, write a resume for our impending day job at Banana Republic or the local coffee shop. Talk about defeatism, before we had even graduated!)
I still have - and always will have - student loan debt. Until February, I was driving a twelve year old car that made decent gas mileage but was always one good pothole away from total destruction. I don't perform as much as I want to, and definitely not as much as I used to. I will probably never own my own McMansion in the ‘burbs (but really, why is that a dream?) nor will I retire to Boca at 65 (or 75, for that matter). There’s little chance that I will have kids, but that is the least of my worries. Life isn't always rainbows and butterflies.
I’ve experienced a lot of happiness in the past year. Since the day that Part 1 was published, I’ve quit teaching at places that did not energize me (or refused to pay me) and parted ways with students who neglected their cello practicing; I’ve started teaching at William Pu Music Academy, where (for reasons that initialy escaped me) they hired me to teach alongside the best performers and teachers in Atlanta; my studio has grown from 14 students on August 1, 2015 to 30, awesome, hard-working students on July 30, 2016; I’ve performed a bunch with Chamber Cartel, a badass Atlanta-based new music ensemble; I live in a kick ass place, in a kick ass area, and have met kick ass people as a result; I’m learning Spanish, because why not; my friends and family live close by, and I get to see them - and even teach one of them how to play cello! - quite often; and last, but not least, I’m happy, every day, to get up, practice, and go to work, because I no longer compromise myself - musically, or otherwise - to make a buck or to satisfy someone else.
I love my job, I love my life, and though this one-year anniversary makes me cry, and I might wish to go back to the happier times, all the things are better. A lot better.