Living… for fun and profit?

Long story short, I wasn’t able to enroll in composition lessons this semester after all. I was upset for a while, but then I started thinking about what I could do. Maybe I could find a private instructor elsewhere, for example. Someone not tied to an academic schedule. Who might be willing to do, say, 6 lessons over the next month and a half, ending by Yule, for a fair price. So I could make some progress between now and next semester. I sent the composition program coordinator an email updating him on the situation and requesting a referral – 5 days ago. Nada.

So I decided to go all-in.

I’ve brainstormed a business plan for being an independent composer / content creator – drawing on what I’ve learned from the EP, actually (I’ve been enjoying my role in that, by the way). What platforms do I want to be on? What do I want and need for a professional website? How do I copyright my music? Do I want to let people use my music in their works, and with what stipulations? (Generally speaking I have no problem with individuals as long as they credit me – tbh I’ll be honored! – though I do need to make money somehow. I just don’t want corporations profiting off my work without my consent.) What should my Patreon reward levels be? Etc. There’s still a lot that needs to be worked out, a ton that I need to learn, but it feels good to be moving in that direction. People have been super supportive. And Fox even agreed to be my webmaster!

Which so far has been good for our relationship, as we get to talk about and plan something that’s meaningful to both of us. I’m a bit torn between relying on his skills as a web developer to create something custom but without the bells and whistles of, say WordPress… and going with a platform that will let me post and edit all my own content directly with fancy widgets and SEO tools and all that, but with limits on how much I can customize the precise look and feel. (None of the themes I’ve seen quite fit.) The thought occurs that if Fox is managing the website for me I will have more time to focus on composing. He’s willing to learn new skills to accommodate my needs. And I think WordPress costs money, whereas Fox is willing to do this for… well, we share whatever money we make. Plus he’ll be able to include my site in his portfolio. Win-win!

So far I have the possibility of composing for the EP, though I need to meet with my friend (the CEO) to work out details. Ron’s running for public office, so ze asked me to compose the music for zir campaign video(s). And another friend (jokingly?) said he might need me to help him come up with a song. So I already have multiple potential projects that I’ll be able to point to as examples of people using my work. But none of them are in progress yet.

After a while brainstorming – and struggling to focus on, you know, actually composing – I now have a specific project in progress. It’s an arrangement or orchestration of a traditional Christmas song, but I’m writing my own… I’ve been calling it a ‘countermelody,’ not sure if that’s the correct term… to weave with it. My goal is to have it ready by December. Ideally I’ll be able to post it and a couple other songs, so folks looking for holiday music will find my channel. Maybe they’ll share and subscribe, possibly even support me on Patreon? I dunno, right now it feels like a bit much to ask, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Right? Everyone’s gotta start somewhere.

And where I am feels absolutely amazing! I’ve been brainstorming like crazy. found a piano score online. orchestrated it for strings. experimented with different sounds. put all the instruments I like the timbre of in one score omg I hope I can narrow that down! scribbled all over the front and back of a page in my giant sketchpad, sorting out the feel I want. figured out what steps I need to take. came up with what I want the structure and story to be. suddenly sang a gorgeous 2 minute countermelody! which I interrupted notating to write this post. Because I want to shout it from the rooftops: I feel fantastic!

It’s kinda like being in love, only better, because it’s not focused or dependent on someone else. I feel fully alive, in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. Alive and whole and powerful and happy. This deep wonderful contentment. Like everything’s right – in my personal bubble at least. I don’t mean to discount what’s been going on in the world, but right now I’m writing about me. My internal state of being is one of joy and creativity!

About 7 weeks ago I wrote about putting my portfolio together for that initial application to the composition program:

It felt so good starting with something I was already proud of, seeing how I could make it better, carefully patiently meticulously caressing it like a sculptor working with wet clay, and then the magic when it sounds right… oh, by the gods, to do that for a living…

That would be living…

and I ended the post with:

If composing is my idea of living then I should live, and have fun with it.

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing! and I love it!

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Choices

I got to spend several hours with Ron today, mostly just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. We went for a brief walk on a nature trail and got a late lunch. Ze told me ze has been super busy and very stressed, not getting enough personal time and rest, and everything feels “raw.” I could see the pain in zir eyes and wanted to do something, anything, to help … if I couldn’t take away the pain, to at least be there with zir in it.

“You’re not zir therapist,” a committee member reminded me. I’m having trouble naming ‘her’ – I think it’s a ‘her’ – but she’s kind of motherly, kind of authoritarian, the one who ‘encourages’ me to do the stuff on my to-do list and wants me to get my act together professionally. The one who’s willing to go along with the whole entrepreneurship thing for now, but won’t call it a career until we start making money. In addition to being an important personal boundary, it’s also unethical to provide therapy to loved ones. She was getting at both of those concerns with her comment. “And I thought you didn’t want to do this kind of thing, anyway…”

“I don’t want to do it professionally,” I thought back curtly, “but I have learned these skills. I want to use them to help people I care about. How can I do this without crossing that boundary?”

I basically told Ron I could relate, asked if there’s anything ze can do to create a(n emotional) space for zirself, and listened.  I tried to be as supportive as I could. I chose my words carefully, and it took some effort, but it wasn’t draining or anything. It actually felt good. And I hope it helped… but whether it did (in the way I’d intended) or not, it was a moment of connection that we were able to share. It was real.

If the work I did in graduate school enables me to love the people I care about better, in ways that support my mental health as well, then it’s worth every penny.

I listened and sang along to the Moana soundtrack on my way home, getting into character and dancing and reveling in all the sensations. I thought about how awesome it must have been creating that music, and I can do that too, and even if I don’t do it professionally I can do it for the sheer joy. “My music is for me,” I thought, “I want and need it to be for me.” I felt myself connecting again to the passion I felt for music in undergrad, playing in the orchestra, studying theory, composing – back when I was focusing on the music for the music itself, not so I could ‘use it’ to ‘help’ others. And I felt grounded in who I was a decade ago, who I am now, who I’ve always been… maybe even who I will be. I felt whole.

“You should share your gift. You would make a great therapist.”

Maybe you’re right. But I don’t want to – not now at least. You can call me selfish, but it’s my choice to make.

It feels good to make that choice. I’m grateful that I can, and for the journey, and to everyone who supported me in getting here.

“Life takes you to unexpected places. Love brings you home.”

Right after I’d recommitted to finding an internship and completing my music therapy degree… a friend called and asked me to partner with him in a new business he had been laying the groundwork for for several months, and felt ready to launch. It’s a great opportunity to make a living writing about things I’m passionate about, and he seems to think it has the potential to be quite lucrative. I’ve already enjoyed writing a couple articles for it, and everyone I tell encourages me to go for it (well, except my mom, but she’s skeptical about pretty much everything). I’ll be honest, I’m a bit wary regarding the whole entrepreneurship thing myself – and I’ve made it clear I don’t have the funds to invest in this endeavor financially – but I’m also hopeful: it’s a chance to make more money than I probably would as a (beginning) music therapist, doing something I enjoy, without performing emotional labor. Well, at least it would involve considerably less emotional labor.

Around the same time this happened: my godmother was (still is) slowly recovering from complications from bariatric surgery (there’s a reason spell check wants to change that to “barbaric”); Banji’s dad was (still is) dealing with health issues brought on or exacerbated by treatment for yet another type of cancer (he’s had a few); Fox’s dad fell and had bleeding on the brain; and my mom was diagnosed with stage 1 uterine cancer. I could have maybe dealt with all the other bullshit, but my mother having cancer, after everything else, was the last straw. Since being diagnosed she’s had a hysterectomy and they’re confident they got everything and she’s recovering well enough… but we’re both still scared – or at least I am. My mother had (we’re gonna keep this past tense) my mother had cancer, WTF!!!

I just… can’t. I emailed my academic advisor, thanked him for the work he’d started trying to help me find an internship, and told him I need to put it on hold again because I’m dealing with family health issues. I feel like every time I’m starting to make progress on this, something happens to fuck with my head, I’m on an emotional roller coaster, I’m not ready to start this career that’s all about supporting people emotionally… and finally – FINALLY – I realized that maybe I’ll NEVER be ready. There’s no reason for me to believe things won’t keep happening to rock my boat, and I’ve found the best thing I can do is hang on until the storm passes… I can’t support people through shit like that on a professional level while I’m struggling with it myself. I mean I guess I could, but what would it do to me?

Maybe… and it’s still new enough that part of me doesn’t want to let go, but I think it’ll come around, eventually… maybe I don’t want to become a music therapist, or work in any “helping profession.” The idea of working in a field where I can just perform intellectual labor (maybe some physical labor, but minimal emotional labor) has never been more appealing. There have been signs, like when I flat out didn’t do an assignment for one of my graduate psychology classes because I realized it wouldn’t hurt my grade too much, and I didn’t feel like dealing with the personal/emotional shit it was bringing up. Or when I stopped working on my degree for 2 years to dabble in third-party politics. Or when people started telling me I come alive when I talk about this entrepreneurship opportunity (but not when I talk about finding a music therapy internship). When I think about it I’m like “but damn, I want to finish this degree, have the M.A. after my name that I went tens of thousands of dollars into debt for.” But, I dunno… maybe once we get this thing off the ground I’ll be able to pay off the debt in a couple years and then, well, I can probably still finish the degree, or get a different one, or just say “hey I’m successful in a career I enjoy, who needs a degree?”

(I had a dream in which I switched to music composition… and if I’m not mistaken they’re both “M.A. in Music with a concentration in __________” – so yeah, that might not be entirely unrealistic. But I don’t really feel enough motivation to focus on composition right now to make that work… Right? I mean, yeah, Banji’s moving back home and will be taking classes on the same campus and it would be awesome if we had classes at the same time: we could get dinner and study in the library together wearing matching [school name] sweatshirts and it’ll be almost kinda like being in undergrad together again instead this time we’ll both be commuters and… nah. Being a professional composer is a pipe dream. I haven’t even dabbled in it for years. Yes I know I majored in music because I fell in love with music theory, and I’d absolutely love to take another course in it… I’ve joked if someone’s complaining about having to take it I’ll offer to take it for them… but I just… It’s more debt, okay! I can’t ask that of my mom. Really… Yes I know there are scholarships I could apply for but… well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to see if it’s remotely feasible, and what the process would entail… I do miss composing, and it could help with branding for my new business…)

Omg what have I gotten myself into? The point is yeah, this is the second time it’s happened. I went into college majoring in psychology and minoring in music, then had a “mid-college crisis” in which I decided to major in music (but finish the psych major as well, I was so fucking close). Then I went into grad school for music therapy (I wanted to be a music therapist, really, it wasn’t that “trying to become a professional composer is unrealistic” – honestly!) and interestingly managed to satisfy all the requirements except the one that involves actually working full time as a music therapist. (Because of the application process, honest!) And I can’t help thinking I could just finish the degree this coming fall semester! if I didn’t have to get a fucking internship and work in the field WHAT AM I DOING? This is ridiculous.

If it’s even possible to switch to composition, I could probably satisfy the requirements in a heartbeat, and love it.

Loving Shadow – Part 3

This is Part 3 of a rather long journal entry I wrote recently and decided to break into 3 parts. Part 1 provides some background information that may be helpful for understanding this and the previous part. Part 2 introduces 2 characters who seem to represent aspects of my psyche that need to learn to work together: the Healer and the Wounded One. In this post I describe how I would like to see their relationship progress, particularly in terms of my character’s (the healer’s) role and development.

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Loving Shadow – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a rather long journal entry I wrote recently and decided to break into 3 parts. Part 1 provides some background information that may be helpful for understanding this and the next part. In this post I introduce 2 characters who seem to represent aspects of my psyche that need to learn to work together. I describe the current attitude my character, a healer, has toward another player’s character, a … well, severely wounded individual.

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It’s been 2 weeks. Ron is still in the hospital; ze hopes to be released on Tuesday.

We’ve spoken on the phone several times; I’ve generally done my best to be supportive and our conversations have been mostly good.

I also visited zir once during the week. It felt a lot like how things had been around May Day, before the … crisis. I was happy to see zir and ze seemed calm, reasonable. We walked part of the grounds and sat on a somewhat secluded bench. Ze asked me to play a song on guitar, so I did, carefully focusing on the music. Then ze handed me a composition book and put zir arm around me, leaning in as I reviewed its contents. It felt good to be close, but at the same time there were alarms going off in my head. This was not what Fox and I had agreed would be appropriate for our first rendezvous, and I was allowing Ron to overstep the boundaries I’d promised to myself.

We talked and ze stroked my arm and hair and kissed me and it was wonderful. But then ze had both arms around me, essentially, and was leaning in …

“We shouldn’t get too into this right now,” I said, gently but firmly.

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Compassion / Pay It Forward

TW: mention of suicidal ideation

Ron had two really bad days in a row, and didn’t sleep in between. Ze told me ze was suicidal. On the first day I took time from my visit with Banji to have an extended phone conversation with Ron, anything to keep zir connected. On the second day I drove for five hours, successfully chaired a 90-minute meeting, reconnected with Fox after 5 days apart, then welcomed Ron into our home at 10:30pm. We decided to hang out in the back yard.

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