Thursday, December 23, 2010

The other side of "if only"

Today is a monumental day: my last day as someone else's employee.  I have been an executive assistant at this little consulting firm for the last 5 and a half years -- longer than I have been at any other job.  As far as office jobs go, it was the best I have had and the best I could ask for.  Nonetheless, it was still a "job" and not a career.  I realized after my divorce that I didn't want to just be working "jobs" anymore -- things to pay the bills while I was biding my time to get famous and "make it" as a artist.  I wanted to make my money doing something I was trained to do, something I loved and that brought me fulfillment.  The thing I love most - and am best at -- other than performing and writing is teaching.  As of 1:30pm this afternoon, I am proud to say that I am now entirely self-employed as a voice teacher. 

I am about to finally, finally see the other side of if only.  I have spent so many years of my life waiting, hoping, longing, telling myself if only I were hired at the Met; if only I were famous, if only I could make my living solely as an artist, then my life would truly really begin.  In the last two years, the narrative changed a little: if only I didn't have to work my office job, if only I could have more time to write, if only I could just teach to make my money, then I could live the kind of life I want, no longer ruled by my time trifecta where I must sacrifice either my writing, exercise or sleep on any given day.  Suddenly, after today, I will be living that life.  I will actually have 2-day weekends again, for the first time in 2 years.  I will be able to get more than 6 hours sleep a night.  I will be able to exercise and write.  I'll have time to go grocery shopping and do my laundry.  I can hardly believe it is really happening.

It is also more than a little bit scary -- the freedom of being completely self-employed is accompanied by the vagaries of students canceling, going on vacation, or quitting, plus my own needs for time off (as I felt keenly last week when I had to cancel a day of students because I was so sick).  Taking a sick day or a vacation takes on a whole new meaning when you know exactly how much it costs you.  I'm learning to set aside money, to plan, to create my own vacation/sick day/retirement fund, but it isn't easy.  And there is no safety net.  I have no one to rely on but me.

As scared as I am sometimes, I am immensely proud of myself for taking this step.  At the beginning of this year, I set out two goals for myself:  to write a play in 9 months, and to build my studio to the point where I could quit my office job.  Amazingly, I accomplished both of these goals.  After years of feeling like my fate was always in someone else's hands (those who might hire me as a singer), I finally, finally feel like the author of my own story.  Having embraced creating my own art for the first time in my life, it feels eerily appropriate that I am now also creating my own life.
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