Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Am I responsible for public transit?

The Chicago Transportation Authority, which provides bus, subway and elevated train service to the city of Chicago, has been having no end of difficulties in the recent past. Between the federal government, state government, city government and fare revenue, they just don't have adequate funding to operate at acceptable levels. As a result, in the past several months, CTA riders have been experiencing slower trains, fewer buses, increasing commute times and generally shittier service. November 4th is the date for more bus routes to be eliminated at the same time that fare prices will increase. Chicago public transportation sucks and is we're going to be paying even more for it to suck even worse if the government can't prioritize the only transportation that thousands of Chicagoans use to get to work and live their lives.

I now live with a man who has a car and I've been driving way more than I ever expected. Especially after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, I'm very uncomfortable with how much my driving has increased as the CTA has become worse. I've become so frustrated with getting off work at 1:00 a.m. and having my commute time go from 45 minutes, to 60 minutes, to 80 minutes, that I've become a consistent weekend driver. I'm realizing that because I now drive to work so much, plus I'm cutting back on my shifts, plus I now walk to the gym (I used to ride to the gym as much as I rode to work), I really don't use my monthly CTA pass enough to justify the $75 (soon to be $84 or whatever) a month price I'm paying.

I'm ready to cancel it and just pay out of pocket for the four or five times I make a round-trip each week. And I'm wondering: is it possible that if enough people like me stop supporting the CTA (I've been overpaying for how often I ride), it could just go out of business? I'm thinking that those of us with alternate means of transportation might mostly quit using the CTA, resulting in more financial difficulties, resulting in reduced service and more expensive fare prices, causing more of us to quit using the CTA, etc.

Could the CTA eventually find itself dependent on the poorest of the working poor who have no choice at all but to use buses and trains, at which point the CTA will be unable to sustain service and just go out of business? Should that motivate people like me to keep paying $75 or more a month for service we're not getting since it's important to have good public transportation? Or shall I be Republican about this?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Occupation: Changing Occupations

After three years of waitressing, which started when I was 38, I can no longer deny that my body can't take it. My feet are developing problems, I'm tired of the late hours and the restaurant industry itself is getting a bit stale for me. All signs indicate that the waitressing experiment is over and it's time to move on again.

Since leaving grad school in 1992, I've worked in five industries (academia, non-profit, childcare, music, corporate) and held about nineteen jobs. In the past, this inconsistent work history has made me feel like a failure who is unable to commit to a career or stick with a job for more than a couple of years. Most people change jobs regularly, but at least have a running theme in their resumes. For instance, my boyfriend has been a dishwasher, busboy, server, bartender, manager, general manager and district partner, but all those jobs have been in the restaurant industry. Another friend has worked in several industries, but she's always in human resources. See? It's usually like that.

My resume has little consistency. I have various useful abilities and lots of valuable skills and am, for the most part, an appealing employee. But five industries (now six) and nineteen jobs in fifteen years? This has been a great source of my feeling of failure in life.

But not any more because -- so what if I rarely stay anywhere for long? Yeah, I'm one of those jack-of-all-trades types, but I've got an impressive amount of life and job experience under my belt. I can talk about the challenges of teaching, the hardship of childcare, the difficulties of recording live music, the politics of academia, the pettiness of the office, the nightmare of waiting tables, the highs of musical performance and the loneliness of working for the guy at the top. I can give you my opinion -- from personal, in-the-trenches experience -- of the most stressful industries, the most physically or psychologically or intellectually demanding jobs, and the difference between situations in which people act like it's life-and-death and the situations in which it really is.

I'm more flexible than most people. With a little training, I can work just about anywhere. I accept change in my workplace with enthusiasm, while most people dread new procedures or the new computer program or the new boss. I don't fear being laid off or fired because I've bounced back so many times. Yeah, I've been laid off. And I've been fired. I've been on unemployment more than once and I'm not afraid of it. That's kind of rare and it's a powerful position to take with respect to one's job.

Because I've done so much and know I can do so much more, I'm just not afraid of job loss or job change. I will always be able to find work. I have to admit that's not just because of my job history, but partly because I have a masters degree from Cornell University. But having changed jobs and industries many times, I don't limit myself as people do who believe they are strictly support people or tech people or white collar or academic. It's really quite freeing.

So here I go, launching another job search (which industry shall I choose this time?). So it goes.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Myth of "The One"

One of the strongest beliefs that keeps single people looking for love and helps couples stay together is the idea that we all have a soul mate, a life partner, a person we were destined to meet and be with. As a single woman searching for her life partner, I wanted to believe this also. As I went from my 20's to my 30's still looking for "The One," I had a changing idea of who and what I was looking for, but I had to have faith that there was someone out there for me, who was most likely searching for his partner, too.

At the age of 33, I had a conversation with the mother of one of my friends, who gave me a new way to look at this. She said there wasn't necessarily a Mr. Right out there waiting for me. She said it really depended on whether I was truly ready for a relationship. She presented me with the idea that rather than it being a matter of random chance or "God" bringing me my man, it was up to me to be prepared for love: "It's not that when The One appears, then it'll happen. It's that when you're really ready, the next guy will be The One."

I considered this very seriously and it eventually replaced my former hope that I had an ideal soul mate. Frustrated by continued failure to find a relationship, by my late 30's I had given up the idea of a destined partner. I just wanted to not be alone anymore. I took the practical view that there was no Mr. Right to whom fate was leading me. There were only a bunch of men out there, any of whom could work for me as a life partner, if I were truly open to falling in love. So I focused on being truly open to fall in love.

In January 2006 (at the age of 39) I had an epiphanic realization about how hard I had been holding onto my single status and I made a conscious decision to give up the single life and Fall In Love. After that I finally did it: the next guy I dated after that realization, turned out to be the man with whom I fell in love and stayed. I am living with him now. He's an amazingly loving, generous and optimistic person who treats me like gold. I never expected to be worthy of such an experience of being cherished. We are very happy together and this could be the guy I stay with for a very long time (I don't believe in "forever").

But I remain troubled by the question of whether my search is over. Maybe it's just the momentum of man-hunting for so long that makes me reluctant to give it up. But I think the problem is that I don't have the myth of Mr. Right to reassure me that this is they guy I belong with. If any guy could be my ideal man, depending on whether I'm truly open to loving him, then how can I ever know I've found the absolute best guy for me? If there's no Hand of God guiding me to the man I was always meant to be with, how can I trust myself to pick someone who is really good for me?

After decades of dating, after dozens of partners, after hundreds of dates, you'd think I could be assured that I've looked over ALL the goods and this man is really the best fit for me. But I don't trust my judgement and I don't believe the past 20 years have really yielded my best view of all the men, of all the types of personalities, of all the sexual dynamics and all the possible shared values. Am I really done? Is this really the best relationship for me? Without a god or religion or belief system about how the universe works, how can I ever know? I envy people who have the belief that their husband/partner was the one they were always meant to be with. I envy people with faith that their god led them to their Mr./Ms. Right. Without that myth of The One, how can I ever be certain the man-hunt is over?

Monday, October 15, 2007

On the run

1. Working six shifts a week at the restaurant.
2. Still trying to finish up the eight original songs I recorded last month.
3. My man is gone until November.
4. Trying to head off a depression.
5. Feeling like I can't keep working six shifts a week for much longer. Hate the late nights, but more importantly, my feet really hurt and that makes me unhappy, even though I like the job. I just don't do well with ongoing physical pain with no end in sight. New job? Fewer shifts? How would I earn enough if I did fewer shifts?
6. Wish music project would pay off, but it will undoubtedly be a while.
7. Trying not to give in to discouragement and depression.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Phase One

My current project, as a recording musician, is almost finished: I'm down to the final mixing of the eight original songs I recorded last month with Neal Alger. I recorded the instrumental tracks on September 6th, recorded the vocals on September 10th, re-recorded parts of some vocal tracks ("punch-ins") on September 24th, mixed the songs on October 3rd and this week will be receiving a CD in the mail that I can listen to and decide if there's anything else I want to change. I think at this point I don't want to change a thing! I'm new to this process and I've had enough of it for a while.

I also need to rally my spirits. This is just the beginning of months/years of recording and submitting songs before I achieve any success selling them for film/tv placement (or as songs to be recorded by another artist). I already feel discouraged and that's no good. I'm realizing that if I keep recording my songs with just guitar and bass accompaniment, they're going to sound like folk songs and few people want folk songs. I need a poppier sound, or at least a more country/western sound because country music is much more marketable than folk. I never thought I'd long to sound like a country singer, but right now I do. Sounding folk just feels like the kiss of death since record companies aren't looking for folk songs (folk singers tend to write their own songs). I need to change my sound when I can't really afford to hire more musicians to record my songs. So how do I change my sound? If it's just me and a guitar, am I doomed?

Also, the man I love and live with has been sent to work in Florida for the next month or so. I'm facing the Halloween month alone, when we had made all these great Halloween plans. We're cold weather people and had been looking forward so much to the fall. We were so excited when September finally arrived. Now he's stuck in a stupid, sunny place, where he doesn't want to be and I don't want to visit. He left at 3:45 a.m. this morning and I'm realizing this apartment is too big for just me. My boyfriend's company SUCKS!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Discouraged

TAXI report:

I have submitted six songs to TAXI.com for consideration as background music for tv shows/film/commercials or as a song that could be recorded by another artist. They have been returned with the note that these songs were not what they were looking for. One of TAXI's many benefits to the musicians it serves is that most submissions receive constructive criticism, whether or not they are forwarded to music directors or record companies for consideration. TAXI's critics, with years of experience in the music industry as A & R executives, musicians and directors, generously give feedback on what is good about our songs and what can use improvement. This is an invaluable service and critical to process of making our songs better and more usable.

Most of the criticism I've received has been pretty positive as far as the songwriting and arrangement go, but the biggest weaknesses right now seem to be that my songs sound like children's songs or folk songs and the other weakness is the vocals. I'm beginning to suspect that most of my recordings sound more like folk music than anything else because I love Neal Alger's acoustic guitar so much. There's not a lot of call for folk music because most folk singers write their own songs.

Also, I've been told that I do not have a strong voice. One comment said that a strong voice can make a song work that doesn't have the best lyrics, but the reverse is also true: a weak voice can sink even a great song. Thanks a lot. But one thing to keep in mind is that the songs these reviewers were listening to were recorded a few years ago. I hope the singing on the songs I've recorded in the past month are better. I hope.

I know it's important not to get discouraged, especially since I'm at the very beginning of this process. In July, I paid TAXI.com $300 for a one-year membership, so I'd better use every day of it! I have to give myself a chance. I guess we'll see.