Category Archives: Work

Classes I Wish I Could Have Taken in Grad School

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It’s been awhile, I know. Rather than going through all the tired excuses and apologies, lets just all pretend I’ve been diligently posting for the last 8 months and leave it at that, shall we? Join me in a shared delusion that my posts have been interesting, informative, and inspiring. Ahhh.

I took a lot of wonderful classes in Graduate School, and many of them have proven to be useful in my professional life. But there  areas of knowledge and understanding that I feel grad school failed to address. Here’s a short list of classes I wish I’d been able to take during my Masters study:

 

MUS 522 Networking for the Socially Awkward: “But what exactly do you say to people?!”

For those who understand that they should be networking, but who have honestly not the foggiest clue how to go about doing it.

 

MUS 561 Taxes for Musicians: Can I deduct this?

An exhaustive course in filling out a schedule C and other tax forms so you don’t get audited for guessing.

 

MUS 547 Contract Negotiation: How much am I worth?

Suggested fees for every gig and lesson you might ever get asked to do given directly and in simple dollar amounts.

 

MUS 631 Getting Hired I: Get your foot in the door of academia

CV writing for every job that you think you might want in the future, and several you haven’t even considered yet. Includes frequent cover letter coachings.  (Prerequisite: MUS 522.)

 

MUS 632 Getting Hired II: Defeating the Experience Spiral

How to get college teaching experience without already having college teaching experience. (Course not open to TA’s, the lucky bastards.)

I expect to see these fabulous courses showing up on college campuses all over the country. What about you, faithful readers? What classes do you wish had been offered at your school?

 

Riding the Wave

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Riding the Wave

Oh hello! I have a blog!

Why is it always

Sometimes life

See this is exactly what happens every time I pull up this stupid window to try and write a blog entry. What moments ago seemed to be clear, easily verbalized thoughts suddenly turn to absolute crap on the page, I glare at this blinking cursor in disgust for a minute or two, then blow out an exasperated sound like “ughhrhhrghhg,” close the window and go back to reading endless blog archives or watching Poirot on Netflix. But if I stay away much longer, I’m going to have to just erase this blog and give up, or leave it to atrophy like thousands of other little broken threads hanging from the Interwebs.

No! Since the whole theme of this thought I’ve been struggling to get on the page is to pull up one’s big kid undies and carry on, it seems appropriate for me to suck it up and start here.

You might have noticed this too: 2012 turned out to be largely total shit right up to the end. Or maybe you didn’t! Maybe 2012 was a great year for you (you lucky jerk). It’s not that nothing good happened all year long. Lots of great things happened–they were just so hilariously, ridiculously outweighed by the crap that they barely budged the scale. I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but I have to at least explain where I’ve been for the last few months, and why I find myself in need of this internal pep talk to begin with.

We spent the last year living in Pennsylvania for my husband’s internship, part of the requirement for finishing his doctorate. And he met that requirement! He loved the work he did in his internship and he grew a lot over the last year. But, as internships are wont to do, his ended at the end of July, and he found himself jobless and hung up indefinitely in his career path by that other big requirement of graduation: his dissertation. He hoped to be done before his job ended, but that didn’t happen. In fact, he was only able to finally finish his first draft on December 29th and send it to his chair to begin the long (oh for craps sake) process of edits that will last until…who knows. You might notice the significant gap between the beginning of August and now. It’s awhile. And he’s been unemployed and writing furiously that whole time.

While in Pennsylvania I worked a few jobs including teaching, singing and retail. These were not enough to keep us afloat there for any significant amount of time. Right around Mid-October, as it was becoming suddenly clear that he would not be done with his dissertation (and therefore employable) by Christmas, we decided to take drastic action. So we made arrangements to move back to Louisville, where Husband’s family were, very generously, offering us housing in a property that was currently up for sale. It’d been on the market for two years with no movement at all. We’d pay a small amount of rent there, I’d be able to find work, and he’d have time to finish his dissertation so we could MOVE ON already.

So we packed all our stuff up to move it into a storage unit until such time that we could afford to rent a truck and move it down. We were ready to cram all our essentials into our cars and drive to Louisville when we learned that the property we were moving into the next day had sold. The new owners would want us out by the 15th of December. Whee! Lacking any better option, we took out a good amount of the stuff we’d planned to create a little mini household with, threw it into the storage unit too, and took off for Kentucky.

We’ve been pretty much scrambling to figure out our next move ever since then. We stayed in the property as long as we could, then with generous and wonderful relatives in Indiana. Then to North Carolina for the holidays, where a friend had an empty apartment and I had family to crash with when needed. It was great to be with family, and we had a wonderful Christmas, but a pal of uncertainty hung over us the whole time we were there. We rang in the new year with friends on the beach, which I think was a good way to reset our brains for a new start. Then we drove back up to Louisville, and are currently living in the guest room of some extremely awesome people. I’m still job hunting, Husband is working on his first round of dissertation edits and looking for temp work. Our only income since mid-November has been from my Etsy business, which is not exactly booming, but has helped us to keep gas in the car.

It’s been very hard for me to think about young artists programs, applications, auditions, or really singing in general for the last couple of months.

But for the first time since we left our apartment in PA, I’m finally feeling like we’ve come rest somewhere, even if it’s just for a moment. I feel like I can catch my breath and start planning, rather than just having to react to circumstances that are changing too rapidly for us to get ahead of them. It’s 2013, a truly New Year, and I hope it will be a good one. I can do my part to see that it will be.

So I’m heading out on the town tomorrow a bit to follow up some job leads, sing for a local choir director in hopes of finding work, and PRACTICE. I can find a temp job for now, and something that will further by career goals after that. We WILL be back in our own place soon. I will be able to pay for applications again soon. I will sing for people, I will find gigs and auditions. I will find students and start teaching again. This will all be fine. Life rolls right along, and I can either be swept along by it, or get on top of the wave of craziness and ride it.

How to Shop: A Remedial Lesson in Etiquette

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Tis the season for shopping! The store I work at is getting busy, gearing up for the holiday season, and the now 24-hour madness that is Black Friday is almost upon us! So I thought perhaps it’s time to talk shopping etiquette.

Before I started working in retail a year ago, I would have thought most of the things I am about to write about went without saying. Surely everyone knows these things, right? WRONG. Working in retail has taught me that People (the corporate version of the word) are unrepentant jerks, slobs and thieves. Thusly, the following remedial shopping guide:

  1. Pay for merchandize you leave the store with. In other words, don’t steal. This might sound familiar, from the 10 commandments, the warnings on the insides of fitting rooms that this store prosecutes shoplifters, and your mother, but apparently some of you missed it, so here it is again: Don’t. Steal. You are not being that sneaky, putting your ripped off tags under the little round stool in the fitting room, stuffing them behind the edges of the mirror, or putting them on top of the wall. You are also not fooling anyone by leaving your old shoes in the box and wearing out the new ones. This is a store, not a take a penny leave a penny situation. Just don’t do it
  2. If you are going to try on clothes that you have to remove other articles of clothing to put on, do so in the fitting room. And close the door when you’re in there. Please don’t stand in the isle in front of the mirror and strip. And don’t do the same thing with your child.
  3. If you are going to try on clothes that you DON’T have to remove other articles of clothing to put on, don’t then leave the things you’ve tried on in piles on the floor, inside out, or draped over nearby racks in heaps. Don’t stuff them in between racks, under other items, or behind the mirror. Just put them back. Or at least put them on the hanger and leave them on the front of a rack so I can easily find them and put them back for you. You want to know why we don’t have more mirrors? Because y’all can’t use them responsibly.
  4. If you knock things off of a rack, pick them up. If your child knocks things off a rack, either have them pick them up, or do so yourself. This teaches your child to be responsible for his/her own mess, and can only do him/her good in life. This request includes that ridiculously overstuffed clearance rack. I know it’s a pain to shop over there, and that things fall off hangers if you look at them. You know now I know? Because 400 of you went through there today, and I’ve picked up that same shirt 15 times already, as well as the 30 shirts right around it. If we could, we’d give you more space, believe me.
  5. If you (or your child!) knock over an ENTIRE RACK, or an arm off a rack, or a peg off the wall, thereby strewing merchandize all over the floor, pick that up too. I am not your mom. It is my job to clean up after you, but since there are 400 of you, and one of me, it’d be great if you could at least make a small effort to keep this place neat. This all goes double for the shoe section.
  6. If you are one of those people who need to pick up one of every item and unfold it, hold it up and examine it, that is fine! But please, then, learn to fold things a little neatly, and do so. One of you folks can cut a swath through a section of my store in 10 minutes that will take me an hour to put right.
  7. If you pick something up, carry it around for awhile, then decide you don’t want it anymore, please don’t then HIDE that item behind the bath towels or boxes of diapers, or inside plastic tubs, or in the yogurt case, or under the bikes. Either continue carrying it and give it to the check-out person, or at least put it neatly on the end of a rack or table for us to quickly find and re-home.
  8. Be nice. Much like the stealing thing, this seems like it should have been covered way back in like, Kindergarten. But given the bad attitudes I get every day, I think some folks could use a refresher in good manners. If you are nice to me, I will be nice to you. I will be more likely to go out of my way to help you, which seems like exactly what you would want out of your interaction with me. If you treat me like a person and with kindness, even if I’ve had a crappy day, I will be nice to you. I will take you right to the item you want, offer to help you find it in a different size, let you know other places in the store where we carry something similar, clue you into that same thing in another color that just went clearance and is super cheap. If you treat me like an idiot, or are rude and hateful, I will politely point you in the right direction and leave you to it. Good service is a two-way interaction.

If any of these requests seem unreasonable to you, or like too much work, I regret (not much) to inform you that you might be a dick.

Happy Holiday Shopping, folks.

General Malaise

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Since it’s been about a million years since I last updated, I though I’d start out with a few lists, inspired by ModernDayQueen:

Things I Have Done Since My Last Post:

  1. Sang a couple of recitals in Louisville. It went really well, and gave me a shot of confidence about singing bigger rep. It was also great to see folks back home. It was a good visit.
  2. Started teaching voice and piano to a couple of kids in the area. It’s been slow going so far picking up students, especially since I’ve started working in retail again to help make ends meet (or at least get our ends a bit closer to each other).
  3. I spent a lot of time researching young artist programs and summer programs, and have sent out several applications. I still have about 15 on my list to send out, but at $15-45 a pop, its sorta slow going. I have gotten two auditions so far, but had to cancel one because of a family emergency. The other is for Kentucky Opera’s young artist program. This would be an AWESOME placement for me, since I’d be so close to family. *fingers crossed*  FYI: This is where the productive part of my list ends.
  4. Watched all 7 seasons of Star Trek: Next Generation on Netflix, and meanwhile knitted a baby blanket and started two pairs of socks. All of Law and Order has shown up on instant view, which is going to get me through all my Christmas knitting. 🙂
  5. Started running. Stopped running. Hoping to start again.

Things I Have Not Done Since My Last Post:

  1. Post the photos of the rest of my Austria trip…We’ll have to do some time traveling posts and remedy that.
  2. Find a teacher or coach in the area.
  3. Learn any new arias.
  4. Practice much.
  5. Finished moving into my house.

Things I Plan to Get Done ASAP:

  1. Follow up on recommendations for coaches from a friend of mine.
  2. Schedule a lesson with my Greensboro teacher before I head down there for Thanksgiving.
  3. Come up with a real practice schedule, and stick to it. Related: Figure out if I can use the practice rooms at West Chester U without a card to swipe in the doors.
  4. Finish learning Una voce poco fa. It’s going well so far.
  5. Pick out some new arias to learn, with an emphasis on something UPBEAT for God’s sake. It’s hard for me to pick out contrasting arias when they are basically all the same mood.
  6. Continue losing weight. I had plateaued, but hearing all the compliments from family when we saw them a week ago has really reminded me how far I’ve come. Gotta keep that number falling!
  7. Figure out how to make my house look good, despite still not being able to afford to buy things like a couch.

Onward! Upward! Forward on the Foe!

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When I started college in 2000, it was understood that the debts we incurred as students should be considered “investments in our future.” We would never make it out there in the real world without this college degree, and though most of us were borrowing heavily to get that degree, we were basically guaranteed to get a good job and pay it all off after graduation. The economy was growing! Nowhere to go but up! Tens of thousands in debt before you have a single day of job experience? Don’t sweat it! This is what you’re supposed to be doing!

PSYCH!

This “downturn,” or “recession,” or “crisis,” or “economic apocalypse/collapse/zombie attack” or whatever we’re calling it these days happened. And here we are, a whole generation standing here holding our college degrees (some of us, more than one!) all ready to walk confidently out into the working world, knowing that we have followed the path to success as we were supposed to do. But instead of being the well-qualified, educated elite, we are just more faces lost in the growing multitude of job applicants, with education that outstrips our skills. Instead of highlighting our degrees, we have to disguise them, downplay them a bit and make ourselves looks a little less educated expensive to perspective employers.

I’m still looking for a job here in PA, and so is EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WHOLE WORLD. I went to an interview for a low-level clerical job at an educational institution yesterday that started out with a “congratulations.” There were 150 applicants for this job, the interviewer told me, 3 times as many as they’d had the last time this position was vacant. But congratulations! I had made it through to an interview! I’m thrilled that the interview went well, and will be unbelievably grateful if I am hired… but I have to wonder. The ad specified that applicants just had to have a high school diploma and work experience, or equivalent education. It’s an hourly position that will likely pay less than $19k a year. It’s 9 month position. No benefits. I wonder how many other recent grads, with multiple degrees and years of work experience and student loan debts out the wazoo applied for this same job that might be worlds away from our chosen careers? But I bet every one of us would be thrilled to get it.

It’s hard for this job hunt not to overwhelm me most days. Every time I turn on the radio, they’re talking about jobs. Unemployment. How hard it is to get a job right now. And I can’t help but feel like someone sold me the Brooklyn Bridge back there somewhere. My little sister-in-law is starting to look at colleges, and I have to think hard about what advice I’m going to give her. Should I tell her to do what she loves, or major in something profitable? Should she hold out for a full ride somewhere, or be willing to pay some tuition with loans? This is a very different question than it was 10 years ago.

The Incredibly Gullible Generation

Hello from the Keystone State!

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“Hi There. Remember me? I’m your blog! I know that some of the fun went out of updating when you lost the ability to upload photos, and believe me, I understand! But really, isn’t that kind of shallow? I’m more than pretty pictures, you know. I’m a way for your to record and process things as they happen in your life! And gosh, I can’t help but notice that some pretty big things have been happening in your life here lately! Maybe you should come on back in here and tell us all about it…”

Right you are, Blog. I’ve been neglecting my updating like it’s my job. Which, come to think of it, it might as well be, since I’m unemployed at the moment. Can I put that on a business card and hand it to people in professional situations to assuage this feeling of social uselessness? “Hello! Yes, I’m a Semi-Professional Blog-Neglector; here’s my card.”

Ok! So what’s been up with me since I last wrote? Well, the rest of my Austria trip happened, which I think I’ll have to break into parts and finish writing about soon. Promise! But for now I’ll just have to skip it. *Spoiler alert!*: I came home safely from Austria and dove right into an interstate move from Kentucky/Southern Indiana to Pennsylvania via North Carolina.

It was…a long couple of weeks. We have, as it turns out, a whole heck of a lot of stuff, and though we’ve been methodically getting rid of junk by the trash bag and Goodwill-donation-run-load, we still have plenty of stuff left over to make moving less than pleasant.

Also, it turns out that cats don’t really like long car rides. Now, I basically could have guessed that on my own, but our cats wanted to make sure that there was absolutely no question left in our minds. They accomplished this in different ways. Zoie yowled and cried and writhed dramatically in her carrier, flinging herself at the mesh sides and scratching the crap out of them for hours at a time. Jasper went for a more passive aggressive approach: he peed and pooped his container in a fairly spectacular way the first day, leaving all three of us with no choice but to endure 8 hours in the car with the smell of cat poo heavy in the air. Because of some rental truck shenanigans, we ended up driving overnight to North Carolina, arriving not at 10:00pm, as we originally planned, but rather at 5:30am. Whee!

But we all arrived safely in Pennsylvania a couple of days later, and Jason and I moved us into our new home for the year. It’s been sorta fun to move into our little townhouse, and also challenging in its own way. Though we moved in on our 5th wedding anniversary, we’ve been living apart for the last two years while we finished Grad school. In a lot of ways, its like pushing the reset button on our whole marriage, so we’re RE-combining our households. It’s like a bonus honeymoon phase! We’re also dead broke until Jason’s job starts in September, so we haven’t really been able to settle in yet. It never ceases to amaze me how much money it takes to move into a new place. But we’ve been working hard to create a home here, and it feels more comfortable and put-together every day.

I’ve been job hunting, and coming to terms with the weird no-mans-land between getting a fine arts degree and getting work. I’m overqualified for a lot of jobs that are flexible enough to let me perform as I need–it’s hard to get hired at the Fro Yo place or Panera  with a masters degree, people. It’s also hard to get a job in my field, since I lack teaching experience. I’m sending out applications on a regular basis, and investigating my options for teaching as part of some local music studio. Though this extended vacation has been lovely, I’m sort of anxious to have an income again, especially since my 6 month grace period on student loans is ticking down fast!

I’m also preparing for a couple of recitals back in the Louisville area at the beginning of September, which is really exciting, and have also been continuing the work I started this summer at LAI to find my voice. More on that later–for now, my dear husband and I are going to explore a local park!