Some strange and unexpected things happened to me today. I’m not quite sure what to make of them, but I’m optimistic.
During my music therapy session, Wakana asked whether I thought Fox and I could live on just his salary. I thought about it for a short while, then gave my answer: “I think, in order to maintain the comfort level we’re used to, we’ll need to have two incomes.”
This might not seem that extraordinary – these days, what couple/family doesn’t need 2 incomes? – but from my perspective it’s a huge change in my self-perception. I’ve always seen myself as a career person, there was never any question about it. I couldn’t imagine myself not working outside the home. I would feel as though something were missing in my life if I didn’t pursue a career, like I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. I’ve worked my butt off in school so I could have a meaningful, satisfying, (preferably decent-paying) career. Part of why I entered my field of choice – why I started my Master’s degree – is because I see it as one with a lot of room for growth, where I could become well-known and make a serious impact.
I never thought I could have tolerated someone implying that I could or might consider not pursuing a career. To suggest such a possibility would be an affront to who I am, and all I’ve worked for. How dare anyone suggest that I stay home while my spouse works to support our family financially?
Yet, at the time, these thoughts didn’t even cross my mind. I didn’t even get mildly angry. I just thought about it from a purely practical perspective: Fox isn’t entering his field for the money. He’s entering it because it’s his calling, what he wants to dedicate his life to. We might be able to get by on what he’s likely to make, but we wouldn’t be able to afford much more than basic necessities. To live the lifestyle I’ve always taken for granted and that I want to be able to provide our children – never mind to be able to afford their education – we’re going to need more income. My income.
Even that may not be enough, because I refuse to enter a career simply because it pays well. I need something I’m passionate about, something I find fulfilling in its own right.
I thought I’d found that in music therapy – a field with plenty of decent-paying jobs, but not one to enter if your goal is to become wealthy. It’s all about developing a genuine (therapeutic) relationship with clients; connecting and communicating and building on their existing strengths through and in music; being and experiencing human creativity not as an art form or as entertainment, but as a means of healing and growth. I couldn’t imagine anything I’d rather do and yet, sometimes, I question my decision. Whether it’s my calling or not I have a choice: Is it really what I want to do?
Or did I choose to enter a helping profession because helping other people is the only thing I know how to do?
Since I’ve been so focused on my own healing, I’ve felt like I want – and need – my music to be for me. Something I do because I find it fun and fulfilling, a way to express my emotions and channel my creativity. I would love for it to be a source of income, as long as I’m always making music because I love to do so and not just for the money. All the better if my music does some good in the world, whether by brightening someone’s day, helping them overcome mental illness, or changing how millions of people think about relationships. There’s so much power in a handful of notes, a simple melody. But if I’m going to make those notes sound, I need them to do something for me.
I’m not sure that works with music therapy. The therapeutic relationship requires that every action the therapist does is primarily for the benefit of the client. That doesn’t mean the therapist can’t benefit from it, too – mostly, it means the therapist should never do anything to help zirself at the expense of the client. But if I want and need my music to be for me, I think there’s too much risk that I’ll neglect the client’s needs in my efforts to meet my own. Or, alternatively, that I’ll fall back on my old habit of ignoring my needs while trying to help the client. That might lead to me resenting the client, my employer, the field, myself.
A huge part of why I’m feeling better is because I’m freed from most if not all of that resentment. I don’t need to feel resentful because I’m able to assert myself and meet my needs (well, at least somewhat). That frees so much energy for interacting with my loved ones as equals, growing as a person, and feeling joy. It’s wonderful.
It’s also wonderful to know that I don’t have to make my decision right now. I have to wait until 2015 to re-take the classes I still need to complete my degree, anyway. A lot can change between now and then, and if it doesn’t I can pursue other options. Whatever I decide in the near future, I might – and can – choose to change my course later on. It’s easy to freak out because I’m almost 30 and apparently there’s lots of things we’re supposed to do my then. But then I hear our parents talking about the new directions they want to take their lives, and I realize that there’s plenty of time for growth and change. I’ve barely begun my journey.
We stopped in a tea shop on the way home. The customer service was as excellent as the tea was delicious. I saw something about careers, so I checked online and sure enough there was an open position that required less than a year of experience.
So I applied.
I don’t know if I’ll get the job and to be honest I don’t really care that much about this specific job. But that enabled me to “put myself out there,” to create the possibility of becoming employed. And it gave me an opportunity to look at some of my credentials, to see past accomplishments and responsibilities I was trusted with in the past and things I know I’m capable of doing. That felt really good.
And now I’m wondering: What other jobs are out there? What do I want to do?