Balance

I have a job interview tomorrow.  Hurray for me.  The job pays significantly more than my current one, and unlike my current job has medical benefits.  I’m using italics both because they are fun, and because they apply to two topics that have loomed large lately in my mind. I finished grad school last spring.  I was tired, grumpy, but also incredibly full of hope.  Some might call it piss and wind, because hope doesn’t really sum up the combination of optimistic conviction, will, and devil-may-care recklessness with which I stomped out of Greensboro into God-knows-where.  But suffice to say, I knew something good was going to happen, and Asheville is it, apparently. But now that I’m here, I can’t stop being the semi-workaholic that I’ve been.  Am I a workaholic?  I don’t think so.  But given the fact that I so rarely stop moving, stop working on projects, and just sit… At some point I’m going to have to stop being a grad student and be a human again.  I think I’m on my way though.  Part of the process is gaining some sort of regularity, some sort of trust.  Trust that I’ll get a paycheck, that I’ll be able to pay the rent.  Trust that I’ll be going to work again next week.  Trust that all my hard work in grad school wasn’t wasted, it’s just taking me in a direction I didn’t plan.  Oh yeah, and trust that I’ve made the right...

Downers

I tend to be a pretty upbeat person.  But after hurting my back a few weeks ago I got to see exactly what chronic and debilitating pain did to my sunshine.  Bah humbug. “Chronic pain” is a term often associated with the elderly, with arthritis and trick knees and changing weather.  And I am not elderly.  In fact, I am spry and active, healthy and energetic, and all the sorts of things you expect from someone who eats vegetarian and runs up mountains. But a few weeks ago my company moved to the upstairs portion of our building, and the next day my back started hurting. Then the next day it hurt worse.  I thought to myself about what might have happened: did I strain it moving furniture up stairs?  Did I put it out of alignment on my run?  Was I just being a wuss?  The latter option is likely, but not helpful. Wednesday night I was in constant pain.  Not discomfort, but pain.  I had a gig that night and had a hard time sitting with my tuba in my lap. By Thursday I was walking with a pronounced limp, and had to stand up from my chair slowly or risk falling, as my left leg no longer supported my weight.  Getting out of bed in the morning was the worst part of it because I went from jumping out of bed to go for a run one day to falling on my face when my left leg gave out a few days later. I mentioned the situation to my coworkers who replied “How old are you? ...

Uppers

Some people use drugs to perk themselves up.  I use motorcycles and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Oh, and that whole “Autumn” thing didn’t hurt either. My motorcycle; now that it runs well, I’m thinking of naming it.  Her, actually.  Now that she runs well, and not just well but soothingly well, purringly well, roaringly well, I feel like I am ready for a commitment.  And for that, she needs a name.  Whatever Mark Dillon tells me to call her is definitely off the list. Before I get too gooey though, I need to confess one last problem.  I have a leaky petcock.  Actually, she has a leaky petcock, which in one way makes a lot more sense.  The mid-80s Honda motorcycles all had these vacuum-operated fuel shut-off valves (aka petcocks) that were and still are prone to problems.  It’s that whole Occam’s Razor thing: simplicity is usually more reliable.  Anyway, vacuum-operated is more complicated and less reliable.  Therefore it leaks.  Whenever I sit at idle there is a fairly generous stream of premium gasoline pissing out the side of my bike onto the cuff of my jeans. The “peeing gas” thing is a relatively new addition to my bike’s list of maladies, and is oddly enough, far less dire than some of the previous concerns.  I fixed the signals so people can tell when I’m braking, and the engine runs continuously until I tell it otherwise (that’s a neat trick- to be going 65 and have the engine die for no good reason and start up just like nothing happened… and you can’t duplicate it to figure out why). ...

Adventures in Solitude

I wonder exactly how different my days would be if I had a roommate, a girlfriend, a circle of friends.  I wonder that because for the last 6 weeks or so of work, I wake up, practice tuba, go to work, then come home and play guitar or banjo, then make some sort of meal plus leftovers, then write.  Somewhere in there I also spend time in the pottery studio and I’ve joined a brassband.  And there are other things too.  I just wonder how motivated I would be to do those things if I had people to hang around with rather than hobbies. The net result of these hobbies though is improvement: I’m significantly better at guitar than a couple months ago, and I’ve picked up a few new tricks in the kitchen just from brute trial and error.  Also, at the pottery studio I’ve made more plates and dishes for myself since some of my earlier ones didn’t survive the dogs at my last place.  I keep a physical journal, and the freeness of my writing has improved dramatically.  Oh, not to mention all the repairs I’ve made on stuff: house, motorcycle, car (yes, there was a car story that I didn’t write about, mostly because I fixed it right away before it turned into a $300 epic poem).  But I fixed it.  I’m getting better at this life thing. The contrast to this is what I see happen to so many people: stagnancy.  They reach a point and stop.  Stop learning, growing, screwing up and getting something out of it.  That’s not to say they don’t...

Beginner Mind

I overheard somewhere this last week a martial arts instructor commenting about keeping the “beginner mind,” or as musicians might know it, “practice your fundamentals.”  It made me think about some of the things I’m doing right now, and puts a little perspective on life as a professional.  Professional anything, really. I’ve long said that we in the Western world need to reevaluate our interpretation of the word amateur.  To say someone is an amateur musician is to imply the quality of their playing, but not the reason or inspiration for playing in the first place.  The word “amateur” says something else entirely.  The root of it is Latin for love, implying that an amateur is someone who does whatever it is because they love it. As a professional musician, I remind myself constantly to enjoy what I do, even if the gig is rough or doesn’t pay well.  I’ve certainly been on gigs and played with people who clearly do not love what they do anymore, and seem hell-bent on sharing that lack of love with anyone and everyone who will listen.  But I choose to remain positive, and it’s not just sunshine and rainbows: it’s a matter of practicality too.  I play better, feel better, and get more gigs when I enjoy what I do.  It just comes through. One of the things that struck me about the term “beginner mind” though was the idea of mistakes.  As a professional I’m not supposed to make them.  Even though my very new day job is in software development, I’m a professional there too, and I’m supposed to operate...