100 Days of Practice, Day 54: Almost went off track.

Last week, I almost went corporate. My friends and my music may have saved me.

See, there's been some stuff: Our health insurance just went up by $200 a month, for a grand total of $1,000 a month; our 1997 Corolla with 221k miles and on it is starting to make funny noises; and, we've had a lot of guests lately, causing me to reassess our decor (i.e., does Somerville Sidewalk Chic really work in the Para-burbs?) Sometimes, no matter how hard I try to just play it with heart, I think: "Money would be nice." So the last couple of weeks, I started thinking maybe I'd look for some writing work outside of the music field. (Gasp!)

Last week, I visited my sister in her semi-palatial (she would disagree) condo in Bethesda, Maryland. Bethesda is one of the most wealthy communities in America, and friends, the only people who drive 1997 Corollas with 221k miles on them around there don't speak English—and they're only there to wash the windows... Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Sis has worked her #$#$ off all her life and deserves every good that life has brought her. Sometimes, I think I want a piece of that. I say to myself, "Hey, I'm a smart kid. I've worked hard, got a coupla degrees, published a book. I should be able to afford a half decent car, maybe a piece of art now and then, and not feel like it's going to break the bank to fly south to visit family for a couple of days."

So, I said, "Sis, hook me up." And of course, she did--because she is that kind of sister. She got me an informational interview with a friend who's the managing director of a rather large PR firm.

I spent a half hour on the phone with him Friday morning. Told him I was thinking of expanding my freelance writing back toward the corporate world. We went over my resume: experience as a writer at FEMA, at the state energy office, at the New England Aquarium... those jobs I did a lifetime ago before I got completely fed up and went back to grad school for music because I never, ever, ever wanted to do a deskjob again.

Of course, those jobs are buried on page 3 of the resume. Up front is all the music stuff. Mr. PR Man said he didn't like my resume because it looks too much like I'm a musician. (Hmmm... dark pinkish flag?) He told me what I need to do: restructure it, focus on the skills, and when looking for jobs in, say, disaster recovery or renewable energy, emphasize the experience in those particular fields. Even better, he said, keep up to date on those fields: read industry publications, monitor sites in those industries, attend conferences. (Wait, maybe that flag is red...)

Read about windmills? Follow FEMA? (No, that flag is definitely red. Red flag!!! Uh-oh... didn't anyone tell him about waving a red flag in front of a Taurus who drives a Corolla?) Houston, we've got a snag. Network with emergency management people? The HAM radio guys? Come on. I can't even keep up to speed on the Irish music scene, never mind anything else.

Then again, I do like those red leather chairs that are on sale at World Market and it would be nice to be able to afford them...

Then early this evening, Denya called. Phew. I brought the portable phone to the basement and paced around while she talked sense to me. She reminded me of why we do this music thing. "Sue, if you had a 40-hr job, and had the security of knowing that every week you'd have a check, well... It just wouldn't work. See, you and me: we need to be directly in charge of what we're doing for ourselves, and it has to feed us. That money job... it's not you." I grabbed a carpenter's pencil from the top of the drier and wrote down what she said on the back of a terra cotta tile.

So, what *is* me? More important, though: What is *you*? How do we define our passion, and how central do we allow it to be in our lives? And what are we willing to sacrifice in order to live it? Well, for me: waking up at 4:44 am and running downstairs to start this blog entry, then running down to the basement to work on Carolan's Concerto... then back to the computer to edit music things, all before 7 am on a Sunday. I guess that's a bit of passion. And about 75 bucks. Two days of health insurance!

More important, though, is that passion is indeed WORTH something, something intangible and far more important than money. I thank PBS for reminding me of that, at the end of the evening tonight. I caught the last half of Playing for Change: Peace Through Music--a program in which a team of producers traveled the world, speaking with musicians about peace. Listening to musicians from India, Congo, LA, South Africa, New Orleans, you name it, speak about why they do music, and how it is such an important instrument of peace, about how it helps people discover their own humanity--that brought all the nonsense back down to Earth. One Indian musician said that when you practice, you are meditating, and that when that meditation elevates to its highest level, you experience nothing but peace... and that, he said, is why musicians do what they do. Another musician from South Africa spoke of music as an expression of love--a way to help others to love each other.

Thank you, gentleman. Thank you Denya. Thank you music... 54 days into this to back out and start writing for money? I guess not. Not yet, anyway.

So: If you see a pathetic looking chick playing saxophone next to a broken down Corolla on route 3... do toss a cold bottle water bottle out the window as you pass. Her air conditioning doesn't work, either. But the music sure sounds nice, don't it?


Susan said…
Phew, that was close.

And the next time you chat with Denya, let her know there's a cd with her name on it in our kitchen!
Peig said…
day 55
arrived in doolin day 54. Slept until 3pm. Got up and went out for nice walk and bottle of water. no actual playing yesterday, way to dehydrated, but did see 2 sessions and tried to pick out tunes I knew. Was able to identify all time signatures of what they played and did hear one of my tunes.

Today on the side of the road ina wifi spot MBB got on line to do some big band stuff, and I played through everyting I know.

Good to be back here.

Sue you have no idea how much you contribute to the Irish music scene and how valuable you you are. I know that does not pay for the red leather chairs, but it puts a great deal of pleasure to those who really need it. Remembr when we said we are now part of something very old and feel the weight of it? You are now the one passing it on. Chin up, we love you.
Soul Mama said…
Peig you just made me cry. Thank you.

God bless you for keeping up the practicing while over there. You are the best. So glad you're here.
Kerry Dexter said…
we don't know each other (but do know some of the same people) but as someone who writes about folk and Celtic music for a living, I've walked every step of that same path with you about money and doing what you're called to do. still on the path too, despite the occasional thought of detour back to stuff buried in my resume -- and I drive an 84 VW Rabbit. thanks for the post, and the music.
Soul Mama said…
Thanks Kerry. A 1984 VW Rabbit is an accomplishment in itself! I remember mind fondly; I don't even know what year it was but I bet it was about the same. Anyway: I think we're doing the right thing.

Having said all of this, Mr. PR Man was incredibly generous and helpful and it may not be such a bad thing to venture into different fields now and again...remember I only said, "...yet." :)
B said…
Following your passion is a noble endeavor, bringing traditions and perspectives to scenes that otherwise would be slighted without your presence. And...your darn good at it.

Honestly though, anything you touch I imagine you would bring the passion of Sue to it. Whether writing historical notes of the Irish in the Civil War, Playing a flute piece most would forget if you didn't waft the notes to their ears, or writing a proposition paper to bring renewable energy resources to a place where they are applicable and could flourish. Nothing ever says that your passion needs to be diminished due to a 'job', though so often people fall into that. Your spirit seems to have a good idea of where you are to go though. :P