What would you do for free?

There it is.  It’s like waiting for your period.  (Sorry, men.  Don’t let the picture of Rob Thomas fool you.  I speak girl.  If you only speak boy, you might need to go read someone else’s blog who speaks your language.)  You know it’s coming, sooner or later.  You don’t particularly look forward to it, but it’s coming, whether you do or don’t.  You’re tired of expecting it so you start to think let’s just get this over with, already!  So here it goes.  Let’s get this over with.


You don’t want to what? the adult gently and patiently asks the tantruming child screaming inside me.  Though she knows the answer.  I don’t want to go back to work!  I don’t want to fill my classroom with three and four year olds who need me.  I don’t even want a classroom!  I don’t want to be around people who assume this is exactly where I’m supposed to be, who compliment what a great job I’m doing and therefore trap me into doing it some more.  Who assume I want to go farther on this path.  I do not want to go to a place where the absolute highlight of my day is singing Five Green and Speckled Frogs.  I don’t want to go to a place where the anti-bacterial soap will make my hands so dry and cracked within two weeks that it hurts to play piano.  I don’t want to dress professionally, or model good behavior, or follow the rules.  I don’t want to!

Okay, done.  That’s over now.  One paragraph of whining.  Explanation time?  Yes, I think so.

I long ago discovered youtube, where I can watch my favorite musicians’ live performances.  I can take my favorite song of the day, and find it played in five different venues, with different back-up musicians, and the song performed differently each time.  I can look up a show I wish I could have gone to and watch song after song from that show.  I can watch interviews, behind the scenes footage, performances on late night talk shows, etc….  

I am never going to hear my voice come out of the sound system at an arena packed with thousands of fans.  I hope that’s as obvious to you as it is to me!  🙂  I shouldn’t even have to say it.  I’m a music lover, but not necessarily a music performer.  Unfortunately, I know what it’s like to “give of yourself” in that way.  I promise you, whatever you get out of seeing a musical performance, the performers get more!  And you don’t love it every second.  You’re not supposed to.  But there are moments.  We did the exact same pregame show five or more times in a season for marching band, every season.  And yet, the moment when we turn around during Westward Yo…  Chills, every time, for four years.  For me.  For you, sitting in the stands?  Of course not!  I wouldn’t expect it.  How could you experience that?  It’s like watching someone eat a warm, gooey brownie.  If you don’t know what a brownie tastes like, you might feel a reflection of their pleasure, but you don’t truly understand what that pleasure is.  If you do know what a brownie tastes like, you might feel a reflection of their pleasure, you might even feel a pang of envy, but you can’t taste the brownie from across the table.

Okay, it’s not a perfect metaphor!

But that chill I felt during Westward Yo?  And when I heard my voice come out of the sound system at church?  And when I played clarinet in ensembles at countless venues around the state?  And during my State Fair Jazz Band audition?  And during my music major audition at USD?  (Yeah, I could just let you keep thinking that…but no, it’s South Dakota, not San Diego…but I rocked it!!!)  And whenever I sit down to my piano?  Or anyone elses, for that matter?  Nobody gets that feeling every time they do something.  But some people get to chase that feeling for a living.  And I am so jealous.

But here’s the thing for me to remember…  Just because I can’t chase it for my rent money doesn’t mean I can’t chase it at all!  A woman’s heart…at least, this woman’s heart…is not all about the career path.  If my career were music, I don’t think I’d want arenas packed with fans.  I’d just want to get to do what they do, not necessarily where or how they do it.  I think a result of the feminist movement is that somehow we think all of our fulfillment and joy needs to come from our career.  God forbid the most important things in our lives be things that don’t make us money!  (This may require its own discussion someday.)  But the truth is, I can find fulfillment and joy, and I can contribute to the world, in the many things that don’t actually bring in a paycheck.  So when I get caught up in the “I don’t want to’s” of my job, I can just remind myself that I don’t have to make it the most important part of my life.  It’s rent money.  It allows me to do all the things that I truly love.

If the biggest part of your work, like the hardest part of your job, is actually something you would do for free and for fun, that’s a good place to be.

–Rob Thomas

…Yeah, that would be a good place to be…  For now, I’ll just have to settle for doing it for free and for fun.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Aug 02, 2008 @ 18:48:24

    Do you remember the 2 years I actually got paid for working at Holy Spitit?
    One day when I came home one of you asked me what I had done. I said I had colored a poster for a teacher and had playground duty. The kid was amazed. “You mean they pay you to color and play outside!” That’s still the way I feel about teaching. I’m glad you have something that could create that feeling in you. Also you have the right idea about career not the be-all and end-all of someone’s life.


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