Damn the Man,  The Sacred Arts

A Grown-Up Job

$13/hr. One week vacation the first year. Overtime expected. Looking for a go-getter with a can-do attitude, 5+ years of experience. Send us resume and cover letter explaining what makes you stand out from the crowd.

What is it with employers these days? I think to myself as I scroll through the 5th job board of the day. I spend most days jumping through elaborate hoops, with a folder of 12 different resumes, 12 cover letters, 2 portfolios, 5 salary histories and 1 list of references, only to not hear back from 99.99% of places I contact. I keep a spreadsheet of every place and position for which I apply, so I know my math is accurate.

It’s hard not to break down and cry around mid-morning, but there are days I manage not to.

– – –

When I walk by the large, sober instrument in my living room, it feels like a relic from another life. Sometimes I open the cover and blast off a few songs, and it renews my faith that there are still things worth living for in this world.

Every so often I’ll hear a familiar melody, and the sound will take me back to my swivel office chair, pulled up next to the piano on the left-hand side. Listening. Watching. Sometimes correcting. Sometimes demonstrating.

The folks at my very first office job kept wanting me to work more hours with them, but I resisted. I earned twice as much teaching piano lessons, and I didn’t have to deal with paperwork or my eyes glazing over from boredom doing it. Eventually, wooed by the idea of stability, possible benefits and the fear of losing a great portion of my income if I didn’t make myself more available, I dropped a few students, certain I was making the “grown-up” decision.

When the company let me go a month later (“budget cuts” I believe was the line fed to me), I seethed: at them, at myself. Building clientele for piano lessons wasn’t easy, and this was the first of many business decisions I later regretted.

Sure, some days the students frustrated me to the brink of wanting to stab myself in the eye with my black pen. Why couldn’t they just get that there wasn’t supposed to be a rest on the third beat of that measure? or the ever pertinent Shit, they didn’t practice again! There were days when I’d go home humming a fandango, or worse, a student would squeeze in a few bars of Heart and Soul and that earworm would chip away at my brian for the better part of an hour.

But then there were moments when a student would play a Viennese waltz with as much precision as I could. When they would look up at me with a 100-Watt grin and a missing front tooth. The hundreds of thousands of times they respectfully called me “Miss Natalie.” The immense swelling of my heart after a recital, when I reflected – totally baffled – that every single one of those students got up and played a song on the piano in front of an audience because of me.

“Are you studying music?” some parents would ask me, when I mentioned a change in class schedule.

“No,” I said, aware of how strange it must have sounded. What music teacher doesn’t study music in college? But I wasn’t really a music teacher. This was merely a stopover on the way to my “grown-up” career.

– – –

I close the cover, silencing the echo that my piano makes after I play. Then I go back to my computer, my resumes, my methodical hunt for a grown-up job.



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