Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Should Have Gone To Law School

I followed my heart when I left high school to major in music in college.

I had a gift for all things musical; my instrument was my voice though I was also proficient in piano, flute and guitar. By the time I left college, I was headed for a major city to teach music, sing in a symphony chorus, and occasionally solo for weddings. By then though I knew I wasn’t destined for New York’s opera scene, waiting tables until I could get my name on the roster of a major company; I aimed lower and got a “real job”, one that paid the bills. Besides, I knew I had neither the nerves nor the diva personality to make it on the stage. Teaching brought lots of good memories, performances I was proud of, enrichment to young lives, and I did pay my bills.

After five years of teaching general music to 600 children each week, directing musicals, giving choral concerts, and dealing with parents, I was burned out. Looking around for other professions, I realized, much to my chagrin, that I had virtually no business knowledge, experience or training. My meager music budget was hardly worth mentioning. Not that I had any desire to work in finance. But the pay and advancement potential seemed awfully low in education with seemingly little transferable skills. I know today that that’s not true. But hearing testimonies from other teachers who confessed helpless-sounding things in the teacher’s lounge like, “If I didn’t teach I don’t know what I’d do,” I decided it was time to move on before I got so stuck I couldn’t dig myself out.

After a year of informational interviewing and interning in nonprofit arts organizations -- dabbling in fundraising and settling in marketing and public relations -- I landed a position at a botanical garden as an assistant to the PR Manager. It was a wonderful change of pace. I learned an entirely new profession, without having to return to school! Of course I lost any seniority or momentum from my previous job but it was worth it for the skills I gained. And I was working with adults which I realized was more to my liking than working with children. Writing press materials, interacting with media personnel, assisting with interview tours for special guests, attending gala fundraising events and making sure the beautiful people were photographed for society publications…was stimulating. There was even glamour in this job. The trade-off was significantly lower pay and year-round work. I’d forgotten how much I appreciated those summers off but with a paycheck coming in.

I would have stayed longer but there were complications, infertility being a big one. Long story short: I needed to chill out and have freedom to submit to those unpleasant and sometimes humiliating tests and treatments at varying hours of the day without having to make excuses to leave work early or come in late.

Three children and 17 years later, I’ve got more volunteer hours logged in organizations than I could count. Pay: zero. My skills keep increasing but the revenue keeps going down. I can say I’ve been the editor of a major nonprofit organization’s internal and public relations magazine, managed a small staff, written and edited many articles, and managed PR for my kids’ schools. All for free.

Recently, I did start some PR consulting on the side as well as freelance writing. Anyone who knows consulting and freelance work understands that work and earnings are erratic and that arrangment is not for the personality who needs income predictability.

Sometimes I wonder why all my strengths are in industries that typically are not the most lucrative ones? Back in high school I didn’t think I could really do, or at minimum be happy in, anything that didn’t allow me to explore my creativity. Now I know there are many things I can do. Take law, for instance. I do tend to be argumentative – with my husband and children at least. Hhhmm…how would that translate to the courtroom? My attorney friends can out earn me doing part-time consulting work out of their homes. It looks so easy on television. Why didn’t I go to law school when I had the chance?

For now, I guess I’ll have to argue my cases pro bono and cobble together a creative post-baby career.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Break

Yeah, great start to a blog…seriousness and angst dripping from my cyber pen. I’ll lighten up a bit on this one and perhaps eventually progress to even more banal and frivolous topics before returning to the profound.

We are back from our spring break beach trip and oh, it was so good to get away, just our family. I’m having trouble remembering the last time we actually took a real vacation – more than an overnight -- with just the five of us. Words can’t express how refreshing and relaxing it was to just be on our own schedule, no obligations to anyone else, and in our own company. Equally important was being away from daily responsibilities and reminders of unfinished work.

Our beach-front condo was just the right size and quite comfortable. And the d├ęcor had no mauve or peach and wasn’t tiresomely matchy or kitschy like so many beach rental properties. Interior design does affect me; it won’t make or ruin an experience, but my sensibilities have some kind of inner reaction to aesthetic things. Our room had a view that reminded me of the view we had from our condo on our honeymoon in Maui – many moons ago. From the window, the wonderful rhythmic sound of waves crashing in and then ebbing back could be heard. The beach is one of those places in which chaos and serenity become one.

And does this Type A personality ever need serenity! Sounds of gulls were faint and infrequent but no less relaxing. Being April, the wind blew cool breezes and the water felt chilly to our feet (the kids of course got soaked riding the waves). Husband and I did manage an evening walk on the beach sans enfants, a rite of passage! Even enjoyed lazy mornings sleeping in while kids watched TV – “video-parenting” (the loathsome parenting technique we swore we’d never do). It all ended too soon but we were glad we went.

Now that we’re back in the throes of work-school-volunteer routines, I’m ready for another spring break!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Musing and Kvetching

Welcome to my blog! I’m excited to start this new venture sharing my short-lived experience as a largely unknown intern for Charlie Sheen and my new goal of earning my 15 minutes on “American Idol”.

Just kidding – sleezy pop culture aside, I, fortunately or unfortunately, go way deeper on the philosophical and intellectual side. Not that I’m cerebral and brainy – far from it. I’m a creative artsy type who’s now obsessed with trying to be organized, though I have three active boys who continually challenge my efforts to systemize my environment. But let me just say – this is not another Mommy blog. I plan to explore much more than that, though I’m sure parenting will make its way into my musings (or kvetchings).

I’m trying to find my way through middle age (could I really be that old?) with its messy roads. In some ways, I’m much more comfortable in my own skin (though I’ve not made peace with my frizzy hair) than I was in my twenties. In other ways, I sometimes don’t know who I am anymore. I’m facing some ancient wounds from my past and healing slowly. Fracture lines once healed and mended may not be apparent on the outside but are still indelibly altered on the inside.

When we leave home and face life as a young adult, we’re faced with what seems like endless and exciting possibilities and are filled with idealism. By the time we’re in our middle age, we’ve born a few scars and view life with more realism. I’m not easing into this time of my life with the same acceptance my mother’s and grandmother’s generations seemed to. I’m asking more questions and not taking the path of least resistance. I’m ready to move beyond the damned “to do” list rut and live life more fully.