Well, I finally got around to updating my sidebar to include links to some of the lovely and talented bloggers I've been reading lately. Now I'm fighting that nagging feeling that there's someone I've missed...well, if so I can add it later. Next I need to alphabetize them, and then there's always the "About" section to be improved. One thing at a time.
I've been thinking about self-identity. How do you identify yourself? Does what you "are" have any direct correlation to what you "do"? It doesn't, for me, currently. I consider myself a singer and an actress. That's what I've studied and trained for--but it's never been my primary source of income. The reasons for that are varied--it can be a hard way to eke out a living, if you don't want to teach (which I don't), and don't want to live with half a dozen other people in a shoebox of an apartment (which I don't), and aren't particularly lucky when it comes to being in the right place at the right time with the right look, etc. (which I've never been). It makes it a little complicated to answer the standard opening conversational gambit "What do you do?" I usually end up stammering out something about how I'm an singer/actress but to pay the bills I (insert day job here). It's not a very satisfactory answer, but it serves, I suppose. I'm finding myself sort of...irritated lately when people hear me sing or see me onstage and ask why I'm not doing that professionally. Maybe it's not so much irritation as frustration. Why AREN'T I doing what I love for a living? Of course, I know all my reasons and they're valid (umm...because I like to eat?), but still it's frustrating, you know? When I was young enough to have the energy to pursue that sort of dream, I really didn't think I had the talent. And in retrospect, I think I was right. I didn't. Now I know I do have the talent, but I for damn sure don't have the energy. Catch-22. Maybe the answer for young wannabes is to blind them with your youth and energy (no I did NOT say vagina, Miss Lohan!) until your talents have a chance to mature. At any rate, I've made a sort of compromise with myself. I no longer take jobs that will get in the way of doing what I love. I won't work nights or weekends. I want to be free to do a play or take a singing gig without worrying about losing my rent money. And maybe eventually I'll stop getting those little twinges in my heart when well-meaning people say "You're as good as anyone I've ever heard," or "Why aren't you doing this for a living?" 'Cause truthfully, I hope I NEVER stop hearing those things. They gratify me as much as they frustrate me.
I know I'm not alone in struggling with these feelings. My brother has for years played trumpet in one of the military bands. It's really the only job he's had as an adult. He's planning to take retirement next year and he's freaking out a little bit. Good orchestral jobs are increasingly hard to come by, and he's never done anything else. "What the hell am I gonna do now?" he asks. I'll tell you what you're gonna do, big brother. You're gonna keep playing the trumpet, 'cause that's who you ARE, and you're gonna do whatever else you need to do to keep a roof over your head and food on your table and kibble in your dog bowls! And you (hopefully) are going to be damned thankful you were able to do what you loved for so long without having to ask those questions, and thankful for your military pension, 'cause that's SOOO going to help! (And no, I don't really get to be jealous about that, because years ago when he suggested I try out for one of the military bands as a vocalist I laughed long and hard, because me in the military? So not going to happen.)
Okay, this has been long and rambling and no doubt boring as hell, but I really am curious. How do YOU identify yourselves? Many of you are such wonderful writers and photographers, etc., but don't necessarily make your living that way. Do you think of yourselves as writers, at your core? At the most basic level, how do you finish the sentence "I am a _______"? Certainly I do know a few people who can finish that sentence with their actual occupation. "I am a veterinarian." "I am a doctor." "I am an engineer." But I also seem to know an awful lot of people like me. Musicians, writers, actors, artists at their core, doing whatever it takes to get by. Maybe we should just all stop asking each other "So, what do you do?" and start asking "What do you love to do?" or "What are you compelled to do?" I can't help but think the answers would be more interesting.