I did my usual trip to Toronto yesterday. Just for a day at the office. I was listening to CBC Radio 1 on both legs of the trip. The show “The Current” was featuring a call-in about the “10%” – Living Poor in Canada. Most of the callers told stories of how they were doing perfectly fine one day, then circumstances started to happen (illness; partner loses their job; more kids; etc) and they found themselves living from paycheck to paycheck, trying to make ends meet and providing for their kids. I could help but draw parallels to the choices I’m about to make…
I live in Haliburton county – in cottage country northeast of Toronto. My partner and I have no kids. We recently built a house on lake-front property that his grandmother gifted to him. Here’s our place this morning after a beautiful snowfall —
I’ve got a well-paying full-time job that I love – and my employer loves me, which is awesome. Collin has a good job at the Pinestone resort, right nearby. Management can be stressful, but when it’s busy at the resort, the money is good. We’re financially comfortable, paying various bills, enjoying some entertainment, good times with friends and we’re doing just fine.
New reality: I’m going to school — good bye life as we know it: computer job, financial comfort, full-time living in Haliburton; etc… Am I crazy to consider such a huge [and risky?] shift in my life?
What Things Could Look Like
I’ve got a double vision of what’s to come. The bliss of immersing myself in music: classes, lessons, ensembles, learning with fellow musicians. And the new reality of penny pinching to get through the school years: tuition, books, rent, food. I’m trying to keep a positive view on this though. Out of optimism, the ‘bliss’ view is usually the winner. But I need to be realistic.
Once I graduate, then what? Freelancing? Giving private lessons? Hooking up with some private schools? Getting onto the audition circuit? Finding an orchestra position *anywhere* in the world? Conduct a community ensemble? Returning to or continuing part-time work in computer programming? All of the above?
What’s to happen to our house in Haliburton? Would and could Collin relocate with me? Could I expect to land an orchestra job in Ontario, continue to live in Haliburton and get a room or apartment in the city? That seems all too wrapped-up and convenient. It’s not like I play violin where there are 20 to 40 in most orchestras. As an orchestral tubist, I think I’m going to have to be flexible for job location – at least for a while – which could impact both Collin and me.
I’m always thinking — too much sometimes. But here are the possibilities I’m considering
- Status Quo – stay with my job and my life as-is, for the most part; continue practicing, playing and occasional lessons; continue conducting the Haliburton Wind Symphony; continue my radio show
- Music Philanthropy – with this option, I’d keep my job, no fulltime school, but actively pursue more musical opportunities, lessons, aggressively revive and fund the Highlands Brass Academy and donate money to musical causes (new or fledgling ensembles, scholarships, etc)
- More Music, Less Computers – I’d adjust my career direction; do contract computer work or perhaps leave computer programming altogether. I’d fill more time with money-making music activities, including private lessons and coaching at private and public schools from here to Toronto. I’d also participate in music camps and workshops throughout the calendar year – little tuba vacations – and keep an eye out for tuba auditions
- School and Music Career – go to school. Study. Practice. Play.
No. 1 is just not an option. I’m a very goal-oriented kind of person. I want to feel like I’m progressing to a better state. I also want the sense of accomplishment there is when I provide something for others. There’s also a little spotlight love in me too. Playing in an orchestra fulfills so many of those needs. I’d be bringing a lot of people joy in performances. I do now in Orchestra Toronto.
No. 2 is already much more appealing than no. 1. My job pays good and I would enjoy giving to others through the brass academy and in sponsoring ensembles and individual musicians. To give other people the chance to reach their full potential.
Number 3 is like number 4 “light”. Skip the fulltime school step and get right into a music career. Or, if you see it a little differently, maybe it’s the slow and steady approach to number 4: regular lessons, music camps, etc. But I’d be lacking the networking of being in school. If there are training orchestras out there looking for tubists, then perhaps I may miss out because they will be looking at graduates at university. Realistically too, I’d probably need to get a room or small apartment in Toronto in order to make it easier to be in the city for gigs or lessons.
But if I don’t go for number 4, then would I be settling for something second best, or just not “doing it right” and wasting my time and resources without being able to forge a solid career or permanent gig in music.
The word I’m fearing here is “settling”. I’ve been told all my life by TV, Disney, inspirational pop songs, my parents, etc that you should follow your dreams and be all that you can be. As I said before, my job is awesome – I love working in computers and I’m good at it. Can I still feel fulfilled while keeping my computer job? What about a comfortable retirement? I know I take this job for granted. It pays for a lot of things.
And what kind of legacy will I be leaving behind? I’m gay – so I won’t be having biological children and I’m not interested in adopting (raising kids would be a huge distraction from my goals). When I’m old, I want to be able to look back and think that I made a big impact on people’s lives.
There’s lots to consider and I’m still working it out. I hear over and over again though that big gains are made through big risks.