(Introducing what I hope will be a recurring partnership with a dear friend with whom I also happen to share a brain. Stay tuned for her undoubtedly phenomenal contribution on the subject of , well, discovering oneself. What you’re about to read is just one really long, meandering writing prompt.)
Most people can define their occupation (and by extension, some part of themselves) in a few words: my roommate works in human resources, another friend is a sports writer, my dad does something or other financial with the Maryland Dept. of Transportation – his job title was at one point, I kid you not, Manager of Accounting Management. Anyhow, point being, while one’s actual daily work may be multifaceted, it’s still ONE job. One paycheck, one W-2 tax form, one job title. One part of who you are.
Now let’s enter the land of ambiguous employment. When I meet new people, specifically ones not in the music field, they often ask what I do for a living. My default answer, because it’s what I do most frequently, is “music teacher.” That’s usually followed by a lengthy explanation that, no, I don’t work in a public school, yes I teach piano, and oh I’m sorry to hear that you quit piano lessons when you were 13 because guitar seemed more interesting at the time. But I don’t pay the bills by being just a music teacher. I’m also a choral pianist, a church choir director, a substitute organist, a freelance accompanist and one who takes whatever other gigs come my direction (and a swing dancer, food-loving gluten-free vegan and occasional knitter…but focused for the moment on things that bring in income rather than deplete it). Thank heavens for my aforementioned financially-minded father, who despite my being nearly 30 still wades through my labyrinthine taxes on my behalf. All of that though, and I still file as being “self-employed.”
As you may suspect, all my various vocations leave me not a lot of personal time for introspection, or at least not personal time that isn’t subsumed by the looming need to be doing something else or preparing for doing something else. However, and you might call this “personal time” of a sort, I am left with lot of time in the car, which means a lot of time to think about life and what I’d ultimately like to contribute to and get out of it, particularly life beyond work.
Most commutes don’t allow for a lot of placid contemplation (I do live in New Jersey after all, a place not renowned for its driving abilities). However, on longer drives, or routes involving less congested backroads, I like to ponder whatever’s in the forefront of my mind. And frequently those musings find their way here, or into conversations with my close friends, or if they’re really intriguing, into both.
To draw an abrupt conclusion, I think that last sentence really sums up my stance on this issue. In a society (and in my personal case, a line of work) that pushes so much to always be doing something and what’s more you better have something to show for it, I’ll echo what a million people have surely said before me: leave mental time for yourself, whether that’s in driving, running, cycling, drawing, painting, cooking, or just sitting still. But I’ve found it just as useful to allow others, whether in written, spoken, or any other form, to be a test kitchen for your human recipe, too. However simple or complicated the recipe, demand the best ingredients. And I hope you can say the outcome was made with love.