Working for the Weekend

October 23, 2013

Recently, a couple of things caught my eye.

One of these things was a commentary in “The Onion” about life and passion and time.  Read it.  It’s funny and poignant at the same time.

The guys who wrote it jokes sarcastically that we should definitely keep working at a job we don’t like and do the things we love the most after a long, exhausting day for about five minutes before going to sleep (rinse, repeat).

The second thing I saw was a commercial.  I don’t even know what it was for, but it centered on a mountain bike tour guide whose voiceover explained that he once worked at a job he didn’t like and spent most of his time making other people’s dreams come true. AND NOW?  He works as a mountain bike tour guide in an awesome place.

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Yesterday, I was cleaning up the “mess” after a large and rowdy music therapy group at a nursing home, and a new staff member asked me if I have a job “other than this.” Regardless of what this curious woman meant, what I took from her question, was “Do you have a real job?”

I’m sure many of us are asked those kinds of questions on a regular basis, and while a big part of me really really wants everyone in the world to understand that music therapy IS a “real job,” and not ask me that question anymore, I ALWAYS am happy to inform my inquirers that this is a part of my full-time job as a contracting music therapist and business owner.

It’s a hard job.  A FUN job.  A rewarding job.  A job that requires worlds of patience, optimism, knowledge, and integrity, and a job that is uniquely conducive to a full life.

I find this work ever changing.  I began working as a music therapist in 2006, and my “job” has morphed many times since then.  Every time I have found myself getting tired of the same old songs, the same old groups, something changes.  I started supervising undergrads, I got new contracts, I quit a part-time job MT job, I started blogging about work, I got some more contracts, I started a contracting agency with a friend, I did presentations, I started an internship program, I got some more contracts, and finally, I hired a subcontractor.  During the summers, and for about a month in the winter, self-imposed diminished scheduling allows me to work on things I normally wouldn’t have time for, and that. Is. Glorious. There are so many things that make my job interesting, that I AM excited about work.  I like the variety and I like the ability I have to shift things when I get antsy. It doesn’t even matter that I spend ungodly amounts of time in my car every week – it gives me a chance to catch up on world news and events on NPR, and maybe even listen to an audiobook.

Now, getting back to the Op-Ed I read this week, and that commercial I was talking about earlier in this post…

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a hairdresser for a minute.  Then a singer.  Then a movie star (this was just so I could marry Elijah Wood). In middle school, I wanted to be a surgeon (this was before I found out about the educational requirements).  Then I wanted to be a social worker.  In high school, I completely lost track of what I wanted to be.  I didn’t like school very much, and nothing except for classes in the music department kept my interest for very long.  So… I went to college for musical theatre.  I am happy to say, that if it weren’t for that very poorly reasoned decision, the two years of wasted time, and the tens of thousands of wasted dollars, I never would have discovered music therapy, I never would have transferred schools, and I would not be where I am today.

What do I want to be when I grow up?  Now that hindsight is 20/20, I’ll change that up a bit and say, what do I want to DO when I grow up?  (Ahh…if only guidance counselors had all the answers).

I want to work hard enough so that I can continue to have a good career, but not so hard that I don’t have any balance in the rest of my life.  I want to want to go to work, and have variety in my week so things don’t get stale.  I want to make my own decisions about my job, and I don’t want to have to ask someone for permission before I take a vacation.  I want to be recognized for the passion I have for my work, and I want the people I work for and with to respect and support me. I want to make music with other people on a regular basis, and I want to make others feel good. I want to be able to see my friends and family regularly, and I want to be able to do what I WANT to do the same amount of time as what I NEED to do.

I am almost there…

It’s so cool to meet other people who love their jobs, and I am virtually surrounded by those people, but not everyone is surrounded by positivity, and I think most people don’t love their jobs.  Does our culture put too much emphasis on quantity of labor, and not quality?  When I look at European culture in some areas, I wish that our culture could be more like that.   We’re so rigid here, and there are so many expectations we put on ourselves, and so many rules for life that don’t make sense. We are working for the weekend, and that’s a shame. A friend of mine from high school once told me when her older brother got a job out of college, he said, “I’ll work there for 40 or 50 years and by the time I retire, I’ll have a good amount of money in my 401K, and I’ll have a lot of fun in retirement.” She was horrified, and so was I.

Let’s save all the fun for retirement?  Puhleease.  A wise person once said, “Life happens when you’re making other plans.” Or, more spiritually, “When you make plans, God laughs.” What happens if when you retire you have a terrible accident which leaves you paralyzed?  What happens if you develop early-onset Alzheimer’s?  What happens if that money gets squandered by an irresponsible family member?  Saving fun (and more importantly LIFE) for when you retire is just a bad idea.  End of story.

If you are able to work at a job where you are still able to have a fulfilling life on the side, OR…shhhh even LIKE the work you do, you can have fun RIGHT NOW!  You can live your dreams at this very moment!  Despite the fact that money is certainly an object for most of us, there are ways to make at least some of your dreams come true, even if it wasn’t just how you had imagined it in fourth grade.

It all starts with a direction.  And some courage.  And some patience. And a positive attitude. And maybe at some point, you will find yourself working, playing, and living the dream all at the same time.

L’chaim! To Life!