I feel extremely blessed in my life to be following my chosen path, doing what I feel destined to do, and creating a life and “job” for myself by doing what I love. I am also extremely lucky to have a partner who supports my endeavours 100%, and to have my family and close friends (both musicians and non-musicians), who love me unconditionally and constantly cheer me on.
Despite the support that comes from both my own willpower and those around me, I have still had a version of the following conversation, which I have transcribed below, many times. I’m sure many of you can relate to what follows.
This is dedicated to those who have endured a conversation similar to this.
This is for those who pursue what they love, no matter the consequences or judgement from others.
THEM: So, what do you do? (The Dreaded Question)
ME: I’m a jazz singer.
THEM: (Puzzled Look) Oh! That’s cool (Still Confused). Where did you study?
ME: (Oh, Great, The Education Question). The University of Waterloo. There is a small but mighty music program there at Conrad Grebel University College.
THEM: (Really Confused) Oh, you didn’t go to Laurier?
ME: (In My Head… “Sigh”). No, I made the decision to attend UW based on the great professors there, the welcoming atmosphere, the excellent vocal training provided, etc.
THEM: Oh! So, is there enough work ‘out there’ to be a singer full time, then?
ME: Well, I perform on average 2 or 3 times a month. But, I also have a voice studio, and prepare curriculum resources for TIFF and the Reel Canada Film Festival. I supply teach as well.
THEM: (Somewhat Relieved) Oh, so you want to become a teacher?
ME: Well, no, I went to teacher’s college. I enjoy teaching in the school system, but I don’t want that to be my full-time work. I care too much about performing to make teaching my career, and feel like I would be doing students a disservice if I made a career in teaching just for the financial stability.
THEM: Oh, but supply teaching is a really good step to getting something more ‘permanent.’ That’s really smart that you’re taking the step to becoming a full time teacher. (Translation: “I’m really glad that eventually you’ll get a ‘real job.”’)
ME: But, I’m REALLY happy right now with where my life is. I get to be my own boss, make my own schedule, do a day or two of supply teaching when I want to, but not be tied to that every day. It gives me the freedom that I need and want in my life. I also can’t risk straining my voice standing in front of a classroom of students every day. I can’t take that chance as a singer. I need to protect my voice. Teaching in the school system is great for a few days a week, but it’s not my chosen career.
THEM: So, you don’t ever worry about not having something more ‘permanent,’ then?
ME: No, I do what I love, and I really love being autonomous, and being self-employed. I like that I can decide when I want to teach, but also have the ability to take time “off” to prepare for an important concert, seek additional training out of town, rehearse out of town, or have freedom to go out of the country for a week or so to travel and/or perform.
THEM: Well, you’re lucky to be in a position where you’re able to do that! (Translation: “Good thing you’re in a relationship with someone with a real job.”)
ME: Yes, I’m lucky to have such a supportive partner who believes in me and 100% understands that following my passion matters to me. But, even if I didn’t have that, I would make it work. I would follow my heart regardless of circumstances.
Here are my thoughts:
I totally get that my not having a typical 9-5 job may be difficult for somebody to comprehend. Still, I believe that we should applaud EVERYONE who pursues a vocation they love, regardless of hours worked per week, how stable a person’s job is (or how stable their job may APPEAR to other people), or how “official” one’s job may look to other people.
Are there days I wish I made more money? Of course! But who doesn’t have those moments, regardless of their career choice and stature? Are there days I wish I could have the stability of a “real” job? Sure. But I know I wouldn’t be happy. I’d just be mad at myself for not following what my heart is telling me.
I feel most alive making music for people. I love telling a story through beautiful lyrics. I feel honoured to interpret the art of insanely talented composers. I was born with a voice (I have no idea where it came from), but I feel I was put on this earth to use it.
We all contribute to each other’s lives, and to our world, in different ways. Some keep our country safe. Some keep the economy afloat. Some protect the earth from the detrimental effects of humans. Some devote their lives to research (medical, environmental) to protect future generations.
And some make their mark by attempting to make the world more beautiful through their art, through whichever form they express themselves.
I dedicate this post to whoever believes in (and practices) what they do.
Whether you’re a multimillionaire, or fighting every day to make a go of it, I salute you.
Let’s all love each other and appreciate each other’s contributions to this crazy life that we only have one shot at.
Let’s make our one shot worth it.