Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When will I fit it all in?

Is there such as thing as work-life balance? It would be really nice if some day I might figure it out. As I take a little break from a late night at the office to blog - my only motivation for writing is to capture this thought that is forever circling in my mind, but never lands into a realistic plan.

I fear my multiple degrees have given me a sensibility of constant work. I worked my way through college at all levels, practicing in the wee morning hours after closing the bar (I was a bartender, folks) and pulling all nighters to submit pitiful papers. I never had a summer "off." I was constantly working, and catching up on reed making so I'd stress a little less during semesters. There would always be an extra gig in a community orchestra that would require driving on top of rehearsal time. Looking back, I'm amazed I figured out how to get it all done. I guess I just did what needed to be done in order to "live the dream."

When I finally finished all degree requirements, I found myself still wondering if I'd made the right choices. There was still so much to be learned. I was a notorious problem student for any advisor. I would stray from the recommended curriculum. I would rather have chosen courses that interested me instead of preparing for the doctoral comps. To pass the final comprehensive exams I needed to read all the general music history textbooks, memorize of the entire Encyclopedia of Music, and spit back lectures that would prove my knowledge. Back then, there was no such thing as wikipedia. We all had to stuff the random music trivia of composer names, dates, important contributions, etc. But what was always missing then was relevance to what these artists did - their impact on the world. Sure Beethoven is great. But who did his music influence? Is his music still relevant today and why? Now that would be an interesting thing to explore...

Of course I failed the comps the first time. I mean, who the hell is Johann Jakob Froberger, and why should anyone care? (He was one of JS Bach's predecessors. And I had to Google his name to spell it correctly) He didn't write any bassoon music, so he wasn't relevant to me. The only reason I remember him is because not knowing him made me fail the exam. The second time I did it, the review committee was astounded at my results. I was in the top 5% of the scores - because I knew the game they wanted me to play, and I played it. But vowed to make any teaching or work I did in the future mean more than encyclopedic knowledge.

I moved on to a career pieced together from various adjunct teaching positions, orchestra seats, part time office jobs and pick up gigs. Not long after, I landed my first full time job as director of an arts integration program. It was an incredible start to where I am now - but there was no course that actually trained me for what I was doing. It was my intentions of relevancy in the arts that made it work.

I still performed too much, and took on too many civic volunteer committees, but that's just what I do.

When the kids came along, there was some pulling back on the performing, but it wasn't until I moved to a new position out of state when I cut all ties to an incessant performance schedule. I got my Christmas and July 4th back. No more Nutcrackers and Messiahs, or 1812 Overtures.

Yet somehow in my life now, I'm still trying to figure out how to fit all of my commitments of my life. I'm about to take a long drive to Detroit for the holiday weekend. I know I'll have some time to think through some major changes about to happen in my work, and also be reminded on how much I want to be with my family. But how valuable is time for myself? Will I ever feel comfortable in just sitting quietly without my mind going a thousand miles a second? Why am I so afraid to slow down?

I really am not doing it all. My house is a wreck. And my office is, too. Just spent 4 hours sorting through a mass of papers, trying to purge and prioritize. It's not done, but I'm on my way to trying to control the work load. Again.

My body is starting to slow me down whether I want to or not. I should embrace it. I don't need to be 30 forever. In fact, 46 is pretty cool. If being older means saying no because I just can't physically do it all - fine. Bring it. The older I get, maybe I'll figure out how to juggle less. I wish to keep my youthful spirit, my boundless enthusiasm for my work, and my irrational devotion to my kids. I know I work too hard. I have as much self doubt as I did in my 20s. I keep thinking that one day I'll figure out how to find a normal balance. Maybe when I get my AARP card.

Whatever happens, I'm really looking forward to growing, and learning. I can't wait to be 50 years old; becoming a bona fide member of the Sally O'Malley club. If I can maintain my crazy like this, I'll be happy just doing what I do - or too much of it.

#11 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe.

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