My long-term contract finally ended at the university where I’d been doing administrative support since March 2012. I’d been informed of this about two weeks prior and started sending out résumés right away in the midst of completing the project work I was doing there. I let two temp agencies I’ve worked with in the past know that I’d be available starting July 1st.
Then June 28th came around, and there was not a bite on any of the applications I submitted. Granted, that was the week of the 4th of July so a lot of hiring managers may have been out on vacation. So I kept filling out and submitting applications. The temp agencies started calling with job opportunities that sounded like a “great fit” for my skill set that they wanted to submit my resume for, only to call back a week later to say that the client had selected another candidate.
I started getting email responses like this:
After screening your application materials, you are not among the candidates who will proceed to the next step in the process. However, you may be considered for future vacancies as additional positions become available.
A couple of the places I submitted résumés to that actually responded wanted me to come in for interviews, only to call shortly after to say that I hadn’t been selected. Meanwhile, the bills kept coming in, rent was due, and I had to buy groceries to avoid starvation. A haircut still seems like a luxury, even though I do need to look presentable (read = hireable).
This has been a demoralizing month, not to put too fine a point on it. My thirtieth half-birthday just passed, meaning I’ve passed the half-way point to thirty-one, and I’m without a job and steady income. My application to receive unemployment benefits finally went through a few days ago, meaning that I have a little cushion room while looking for permanent work.
Just another first.
I did experience some relief in my contract ending with the university. While I liked the people, I wasn’t really happy with the kind of work I was doing there, or the work that I’ve been doing the past few years. It’s tough to find anything else with my skill set, however. I trained for a career in music academia, and at the $11-12/hr pay rate my degree and experience have garnered, it’s been virtually impossible to pursue additional training and, you know, pay the bills and live.
The truth is, I’ve been rather down on my experience and education since graduating with what I’ve often referred to as a “useless” degree in music composition. From a conservative Christian liberal arts college, no less. It wasn’t until talking with a friend who is a career counselor several years ago that I even saw the marketable value in such a credential. A music education is not the fluffy walk in the park that many high school seniors seem to think it is. It’s actually one of the most rigorous fields of study there is, aside from medicine or law. It requires a high degree of analytical and creative thinking, learning to work and think collaboratively, and retaining a great deal of information that you’re required to apply and synthesize into performance.
The amount of rejection I faced both in college and after led me to believe that what I had to offer was something that nobody wanted—that I’d wasted almost a decade of my life pursuing something that was only going to be decorative. Like most people, I can’t make a living doing what it is that makes me feel most alive. Yet being stuck in an office, at a desk, staring at a computer screen at spreadsheets, and formatting and filing documents is suffocating and deadening, like the gnomes of Bism in The Silver Chair, held in captivity too near the surface.
The other day I was finally able to see my therapist after over a month of not being able to afford to go. It didn’t feel like a very productive session as I was pretty low that day and felt like I was just babbling most of the time. What I did manage to get out of the visit was the reality that I’m in the midst of a crucible of renewal, both personally and artistically, and that I often fail to see the actual value in the wealth of experience that I do have.
Though I’ve flirted with pursuing other professions and fields of study, the one that has most consistently held my interest is music. Over the past couple of months, after beginning to connect again with musical friends, I’ve started composing again, and the feeling of satisfaction in putting notes to paper is palpable and intoxicating.
Another realization that came after seeing my therapist was hearing that I’m finally approaching my career, creativity and life purpose as me, as my authentic self. While I wasn’t necessarily an empty shell before, I was living my life by what I believed other people wanted for (and by their expectations of) me. It felt like being a shadow, and I had very little idea of who I actually was.
Once I started getting free of the anger and resentment that followed my deconversion from religion, I could begin to piece together who I really am and what I truly value, and live by that. I’m not entirely sure yet what that means for a career, but it does involve making this world a better and more beautiful place. For creativity, it means pursuing what deeply resonates with me (instead of what will glorify God), promoting a Humanistic worldview, and using music and art to highlight issues that matter to me and to bring people and communities together.
Life is too wonderful and short to keep my head down and work for retirement. Because there’s more to my passion than a pile a stuff.