Like teachers, classical musicians tend to have summers off, and it's a time to relax and spend time with people or in places you don't get the opportunity to see during the year. I was always hounded for not doing a summer music festival, but for my sanity (and pocket book) I need to spend as much of my summer with Andy, and preferably making a little money at the same time. Last summer I was able to do both of those things in the Bahamas teaching at a music school. This summer, however, was a tad different.
Let me start by saying the job market is tough. We're constantly reminded how hard it is to break into a professional orchestra, but I think musicians tend to forget that it's a challenge for anyone seeking a job. I'm sure it goes without saying that I looked into other summer jobs before accepting a position as a pizza driver, and with this being the only job I could manage to snatch, I was led to my first lesson of the summer: DON'T TAKE YOUR EMPLOYMENT FOR GRANTED!
I went into the job with the attitude of being too good for it. I mean, I'm an accomplished musician with a Master's from one of the most coveted schools in the nation. On top of that, I'm great to be around, a snazzy dresser, and an all around bad bitch! This attitude quickly disappeared, though, upon meeting my co-workers, who included teachers, actors, graphic artists, and various other "professionals" looking for a few extra coins. When you're in the arts, a survival job is necessary from time to time, and it was oddly reassuring to know that I was not the only one taking an at-work vacation from my career. This gave me my second lesson of the summer: DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO - YOU'RE NOT TOO GOOD!
No matter how much I tricked myself into a care-free, "this doesn't really matter" state of mind, I found myself stressed from time to time worried about the transition back into the season and time away from Memphis. Over the past 4 years I've been trying to ind my way back home full-time, and it just doesn't seem to be in the horizon yet. Sometimes I even thought, "I could just continue this no brainer of a job so that I'm home year round, right?" WRONG!!!!!!! Being home for the summer is something I wanted no matter what, and the professional (and mental) sacrifice of this job was a part of that package. There's no way, though, that I could be derailed from what I believe is my destiny. Yes, I miss Andy and home everyday I'm away, but there's no way I could forsake the gifts I've been given. Lesson #3 is: NOTHING GOOD COMES WITHOUT SACRIFICE!
This wasn't the most fabulous summer of my life by any means, but I'm thankful for the life experience despite it all. I have to say, though, that I'm even more thankful to be done with it. When the KSO welcomed us back with a pizza party, I enjoyed it as if I hadn't been starring at pizza for 2 months straight. You'd think I'd be done with that stuff after this summer, but some vices can't be erased. Music keeps my life crazy and unexpected, but I wouldn't have it any other way, leading me to my last summer realization: NOTHING CAN TAKE AWAY MY LOVE FOR MUSIC (OR PIZZA).
One of my best friends (and Memphis roommate), Jefferic, is a Special Education teacher at an elementary school. Everyday he comes home and tells us about his triumphs (and sometimes, defeats) as someone who not only has to enrich young minds, but minds that need an extra leg up to match and compete with kids of their own age. He uses different activities and strategies to help the kids think critically, and to express their thoughts in a way that others can understand. A couple weeks ago, Jefferic came home and told us about a prompt he gave his students, in which he asked them to draw and describe what they would consider a perfect day. The answers included (but were not limited to) cartoons, bicycle rides, video games, and other things that 7 year olds enjoy, of course, but this is a question that struck a chord with me when I heard it. As adults we're always stressing about our day to day struggles and challenges, and I think laying out what we would consider a perfect day might help us focus our energy toward that better situation, instead of pulling our hair out over other things.
What would a perfect day for Garrett McQueen look like? First of all, I have a Grammy and I'm best friends with Nicki Minaj. I'd wake up each morning refreshed from a wonderful night's sleep to the smell of an earl grey waiting for me in the kitchen (thanks, Andy). After a shower, light breakfast, and quick skim of the newspaper, I'd put on my double-zero sized pants and drive my MINI Cooper (with the top down, of course) to rehearsal, where I'm paid a livable wage and we never rehearse or perform "medleys" or anything by Strauss. After work, I'd head home to my personal studio/office and work on the next story I'm writing for whatever magazine has picked me up as a freelancer, as well as practicing for the next chamber music recital on my calendar. When Andy gets home we go out for a drink with a friend or two, then come home for dinner and whatever else couples do at night ;-). There's the occasional trip or visit from a guest from out of town, but for the most part, just a simple life.
As I imagine my perfect day, I have to consider (and recognize) what components are already there, and the ones that I'm still working on. I do wake up refreshed most mornings, but unfortunately Andy isn't there to pour my tea much of the time, as I am out of town. I'm not a double zero RIGHT NOW (thanks YOLO), but I'm working on it! I already have my MINI, and even have a side gig writing for a digital magazine, both of which I'm terribly thankful for, but there are other things that aren't quite there yet. Bassoon doesn't pay ALL of my bills in my current position, and Nicki doesn't even know my name (not yet, anyway)! The older I get the more I realize that life has not gone the way I would have imagined (both for the good and not so good), so my perfect day depiction may never happen as I see it, but it's still important. Goals, both personal and professional, serve as a vehicle and give you the direction needed to live life, no matter how difficult or unideal the current situation is. Some goals are easier attained than others, but I believe that the higher you shoot, the higher your possibilities will be. As they say, even if you don't hit the moon, you'll be amongst the stars. I came into a pretty rough patch this summer (as we all do from time to time), and it's funny how an assignment for kids with special needs is helping to pick me up again. What does your perfect day look like?