missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
Hello, book friends! As I posted on Facebook, coming back from vacation is almost as much work as getting ready to go. Since returning on Sunday I've dyed my hair blue, bought groceries, made a playlist, taught two classes (with two more upcoming), run numerous errands, sent a nastygram to Hertz over being charged half again what Expedia promised, hosted two private massage clients, had Dominika and her husband over for dinner, and (according to Strava) biked nearly 20 miles all over Chicago. Still to do: mail presents to my mum, finish unpacking, clean out the fridge and microwave (seriously, it's been like two years and they're getting disgusting), create a Facebook page/website to connect with more potential massage/yoga clients, prepare for teaching my first yin yoga class on Sunday, winnow out my clothing/shoes/movies/general possessions, catch up on spring cleaning that I missed because my massage bookings went through the roof in May...and that's not even half of it. Augh! One step at a time.

Still, I've managed to carve out some time for reading, albeit less than I'd like since returning from vacation...

What I've just finished reading

Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin. I finally gave up on finding the time to read the paper copy of this I'd bought, and listened to the rest of the audiobook. It's good stuff, and thought-provoking, but I really don't think the format was right for me for this work; I've always been a faster and more thorough reader than listener (much to the frustration of my schoolteachers, heh), and audiobooks are frustratingly ephemeral when it comes to volumes that traffic in ideas - it's hard to consider and write about related experiences when the person just keeps talking. I do hope to reread on paper and consider more thoroughly, but as an overview of the ideas discussed it was definitely a good introduction.

What I'm currently reading

Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. This continues to be one of the most fascinating and (to borrow a term from the tech sector) disruptive books I've read on the subject of sexuality. The framework Nagoski presents is far more sexuality-positive, and particularly female-sexuality-positive, than the overall cultural narrative we all grew up with; I've noticed that Nagoski shares my fascination with personal and cultural storytelling, how it assigns meaning to our world, and how that meaning can be either beneficial or harmful to our sense of well-being. For instance, the hymen, possibly one of the most frequently misunderstood parts of feminine physiology, came to that point of misunderstanding largely due to patriarchal concerns over paternity, which led to a cultural narrative of female "purity" being perceived as desirable - despite the fact that the organ itself has little to do with a woman's sexual state.

I also particularly enjoyed the chapter on arousal nonconcordance, describing exactly what's going on when someone's genital behavior demonstrates arousal even when their brain is not sexually aroused. I was particularly interested in the correlation statistics; unsurprisingly, it's higher for men than for women. But even in men, it's only a 50% correlation; contrary to our cultural narrative, it's perfectly normal and in fact common for men to sport an erection without actually desiring sex. (This seems particularly significant given how often female-on-male rape is culturally dismissed, and likely hugely underreported, due to the supposed impossibility of it.) In women, nonconcordance is even higher - only about 10% of the time does increased bloodflow and lubrication correlate with actual sexual desire. Newsflash: our genitals are excellent at indicating sexually relevant scenarios (those where we perceive or expect to perceive sexual stimuli), but our brains are much, much pickier in terms of what actually turn us on.

As with the best sociological research, all of this seems fairly obvious in retrospect; the fact that few of us could have articulated it speaks to the power of cultural narrative (and the power of research to create better, more accurate narratives to displace them).

The Wicked and the Divine vol. 5: Imperial Phase Part I, by Kieron Gillen. The initial conspiracy arc having been (bloodily) resolved, the question for our various god-teenagers appears to now be, "What's next?" And, in the tradition of humans realizing sudden apparently-limitless power, the answer appears to be disturbingly close to, "Anything we want." For those of us familiar with the way such arcs usually go, the shape of the rest of the story is starting to be indicated; the hard limits may have been removed, but that seems most likely to have sealed our characters' fate. It's not difficult to imagine a bunch of teenagers given godlike powers self-destructing spectacularly, and well within the dictated two years' deadline; Baal in specific seems determined to avert that outcome, but it remains to be seen how successful he is. (The title indicates a couple of possibilities, neither of which bode well for regular humans.)

This collection begins with an award-winning issue, written in the style of a gossip magazine, where the authors had real-world writers "interview" the various gods (via chat roleplay) and write articles on them. It's a neat trick, adding surprising verisimilitude; the illustrations are spot-on for a fashion/gossip rag, and the writers add their own voices and reactions in a truly impressive way. For all that Satan remains the best character, and her interview is entertaining to say the least, my favorite is almost certainly feminist writer Laurie Penny going up against racist sexist man-child and self-proclaimed "shithead god" Woden. "And here the self-pity. It all comes out in a slosh of self-justifying red-pill logic that you really don't need me to describe. The biggest issue of all is Woden's specific limitation: unlike the other gods, he can only make magic for other people, which must be a bummer for a misanthrope." Reader, I about died laughing.

What I plan to read next

Still working on the currently-reading pile, heh. Seven books is a bit much, even for someone with my voracious appetites...
missroserose: (Default)
Not that I figure anyone really had any doubt; I've been plenty active on Facebook and even a bit on Twitter. But for a while I feel like I've had long-form writer's block; I have several blog posts full of Big Thoughts and Theories percolating in my head, but nothing's coming out. So instead of trying to write about Big Thoughts and Theories, I'm going to fall back on my usual blogging habits and relate some small things that are happening in my life right now.

--Things continue to go well in my work life. I've settled into the spa job, and found it to be both interesting and fairly lucrative. There's little opportunity to build repeat clientele, but I'm gaining all kinds of experience working with different body types, and the tips have been quite good on the whole. My private bookings have seen a real boost too, thanks to some good word of mouth, and I've acquired several regulars. For the past couple of months I've been averaging two to three bookings a week, which doesn't seem bad at all given that I'm working out of my home and don't advertise other than in person. And I've had a few of the yoga teachers at the studio specifically ask for feedback on their assists, which is gratifying.

--I'm gearing up for another Big Summer of Travel; upcoming is a trip to Alaska to help my mother move into her (giant, gorgeous) new house. (Related: if anyone's interested in traveling to Alaska in the future, hit me up - I know a great place we can stay.) Shortly thereafter is a trip to Washington, DC to visit [personal profile] peacefulleigh's family. Also, my fellow Arizona-dwelling PNW expatriate friend Niki is finally escaping the desert, moving not fifteen minutes away from Leigh's clan. (I may or may not catch her this trip - her tentative schedule has her arriving a couple of days after I leave - but still. Hurrah for good friends living close to each other! It's the next best thing to having them both live close to me.) Then in September, I have plans to take my friend Elyse to Anchorage to do touristy things, then hop down to Juneau to visit friends I haven't seen there in far too long. I'm looking forward to it.

--My Goodreads friends may have noticed, I've been on a real comics kick lately. After a good friend did a killer cosplay of Gwendolyn from Saga, I figured I should read the source material, and am enjoying it greatly - I love the contrast of the crazypants fever-dream worldbuilding with the so-shopworn-as-to-almost-be-mundane (but lovingly told) story. Also, courtesy of my local comics shop's Memorial Day sale, I picked up the first volume of Sunstone (already read on DeviantArt, but worth revisiting and supporting the author both) and a new-to-me series called Paper Girls. Hopefully that'll tide me over until the new Wicked and the Divine comes out.

--One of the long-form posts I've intended to write and never gotten around to has been a product review of Soylent, featuring some of the goofy labels Brian's written on the bottles as illustrations. Having built something of a backlog at this point, I've started a Twitter account to share them with non-Facebook-using friends. Feel free to follow or retweet!

--I feel like I'm barely skimming the surface here, but for whatever reason this is what my brain's coming up with at the moment. So I'll post this now, and maybe it'll help rekindle my more (semi-)regular writing habits. I can hope!
missroserose: (Default)
My life looks very different now as compared to a year ago.

On the whole, it's a set of changes I'm pleased with. I've made a number of friends; found a career path; found a clinic job, a couple of fill-in gigs, and a number of private clients; I've enthused about my new career to lots of people and handed out lots of business cards, and generally made a start at establishing myself as a therapist, especially in the local yoga community. I'm in the process of making my first major job change, from the clinic to a spa in a swanky hotel, working for a woman I like and respect very much, with possible future management opportunities if I want to pursue them. I'm making an effort to continue learning in my field. I'm bringing in some income again, with a lot of potential ahead for more. My social calendar is filling up and my work calendar is as well, and so far I've been pretty successful at juggling the two.

The tradeoff, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been a corresponding increase in anxiety, despite regular yoga-going. Of course, being me, I didn't realize it at first; I'm excellent at sublimating anxiety and turning it into fuel. I merely attributed the stiffness in my shoulders to unaccustomed workload and figured I was just focusing extra hard and therefore not particularly talkative, until Brian finally sat me down and said "So...you've been really moody and hard to live with lately, what's going on?" and I put two and two together, took a deep breath, and almost broke down crying.

I've been trying hard not to berate myself over it; it's perfectly reasonable that the measures I took to keep my mood issues in check for the past couple of years aren't going to be sufficient for such a dramatic lifestyle change. It's hard, though; some part of me feels like this is a failing on my part, that I should have at least seen this coming and accounted for it. Then there's the ever-present fear that it was the even-keeled-ness that was the exception, that the stress => anxiety => moodiness => depression cycle is my natural state that I'll always return to. And it certainly didn't help when, roundabout the middle of the month when things hit a nadir, I sabotaged myself by subsisting almost entirely on junk food for a week, until I put myself in the blood sugar loop-de-loops and nearly passed out at work. (Brownies. Not breakfast food. Also, my Achilles' heel.)

So I'm working on climbing up out of that trench...again. Awareness is turning out to be a big part of the equation - noticing when my focus starts to narrow, when my stride starts to get that extra spring in it, when I start having difficulty keeping the flow of a conversation going because my brain keeps circling around one particular topic. Self-care comes next; massage is helpful, as are meditative exercises (and keeping focused on the meditative aspects when at my yoga classes). Eating well, of course, which means planning out time for grocery shopping and food prep rather than letting all of that slide so that the only thing available for breakfast is a brownie. I've also invested in some bottles of Soylent, despite my dislike of the "high-tech disruptive food of the future!" cult that's sprung up around it; the fact is, it does a good job keeping my blood sugar steady on days when I don't have the time to make/eat a full breakfast, so I'm going to keep some around regularly, Brian's aesthetic objections notwithstanding. ("It tastes like watery oats and sadness!")

I may also try reiki in the future. I'd tried a couple of sessions as part of a massage trade, and they were pleasant and produced some interesting effects, but nothing I would have called "therapeutic", exactly. But yesterday I had an interesting experience. I took a yoga class taught by the woman I'd done trades with; it was an excellent class in its own right, but towards the end when we were all in savasana, she was going around doing a bit of reiki on people. Busy floating along on endorphins, I wasn't even aware of where she was; then at one point I felt a discrete tingle all through my lower torso, and I had just enough time to wonder what had caused it before her hands came down on my hips. And...well, I'm not quite sure how to describe the sensation; y'all know I'm a little distrustful of experiences that can't be quantified. But physically, I could feel myself relaxing, and emotionally...I felt like a dried-out sponge that someone had just put into a pan of water. After class, she commented, "You were seriously ready for that reiki!" and I couldn't disagree. So perhaps I'll see if she wants to do another trade or two in the future.

And then there's needing to take time for myself. I think this might be the biggest piece of the puzzle; I was looking at my schedule recently and realizing that, while I've had some downtime between shifts/appointments/social engagements, it's been a few weeks since I had a solid day or two with no commitments. Some people can function just fine being "always on"; unfortunately, I need to face the fact that I'm not one of them, and I need downtime. It's frustrating, because there's always something that needs doing, or someone I haven't seen in a while whom I'd like to hang out with, which makes it easy to feel guilty; I think letting go of that guilt over prioritizing myself is going to be key to sustaining this pace.
missroserose: (Default)
Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, where "fall" is basically a two-week period between "all the trees turn colors overnight" and "the first big windstorm comes along and sweeps all the leaves away", it's interesting to me how comparatively elongated the Midwest version is. Some trees are eager to be the first to show off their bright foliage; but even once they've shed their leaves and begun their winter rest, others are more demurely turning, a few leaves at a time. Even when the wind kicks up a few weeks later, only some of the trees are ready to undress, while others stubbornly cling to their coverage. "Fall" seems an inappropriately staccato word for the season; I think I've started to understand why some people prefer the term "autumn".

Getting home from Washington was a little odd, emotionally. I've been traveling so much of late - I think, of the past four months, I've spent five weeks out of town - that it didn't quite feel real, coming home to my bedroom and my bed and my home, and realizing I didn't have to have plans in place for my next trip. Frankly, my bed almost felt a little alien, like it wasn't really mine; that seems like a good indicator that it's time to let the rest of the world take care of itself, and not rush to fill my calendar with more trips, even though I have so many friends (and places!) I'd like to see.

Besides, now is when I need to be focusing on my career, on building clientele and finding continuing education and generally figuring out how to be the best massage therapist I can be. Immediate plans include getting training in pregnancy massage and finding a good opportunity to learn more in-depth myofascial work; future ideas include looking into that trauma-therapy class [livejournal.com profile] gows recommended, and keeping my eyes open for future opportunities to study physical therapy. (It seems an unlikely path at the moment, as I'd have to finish my bachelor's and then take a two-year course on top of that, none of which comes cheap time- or money-wise. But at one point I thought the same thing about massage school, and I found a way to make it work. So we'll see where my experiences take me.) Additionally, the school director has been talking to me about possibly taking over some of the science classes she's been teaching, which would be awesome experience and a nice way to earn extra money without wearing myself out physically. I can't wait to teach an anatomy class that consists entirely of having the students write a version of "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General" about the origins, insertions, and actions of muscles.

And frankly, I'm glad to have the time to enjoy my city; there's so much going on at any given time that I can't possibly make all of it (especially now that I have a schedule to work around), but I've managed to have some awesome experiences nonetheless. Last weekend [livejournal.com profile] gracewanderer and [livejournal.com profile] cyranocyrano came to stay, and we all went to see the closing weekend of the Chicago Shakespeare Company's The Tempest. Brian and I had already seen it at opening and were blown away, as much by the quality of the acting as by the costumes and sets (featuring a delightfully run-down Depression-era circus theme) and the music (which you could tell from basically the first chord was written by Tom Waits, and was sung and played amazingly well by a small band onstage). Plus the onstage magic sequences were just stunning (hardly surprising, as Teller co-directed). But the actors really carried the day; it was one of the few big-budget Shakespeare renditions I'd seen where you didn't awe at the big setpiece sequences...and then settle back to wait for the wordsy parts to be done so you could see the next big impressive thing. I've noticed folks are much pickier about standing ovations in Chicago than they are in the PNW, but these folks got one both times I saw them, and they well deserved it.

I think I'm going to make more of an effort to take in Chicago's amazing theatre and concert scene this winter. It can get tricky, what with working three evenings a week - I had to pass on Vanessa Carlton earlier this month, which made me sad. But I think it'll be good for me to get out of the house more as the months get colder. I'm already working on getting back to my three-plus-times-a-week yoga schedule (as my sore quadriceps attest) and the improvement in sleep quality and focus at work is pretty clear. So here's to being a little more settled -- but not sedentary! -- for the next year or so.
missroserose: (Default)
Today I start my new job! I'm slightly apprehensive about it, more so than is really justified. I mean, I've worked there before (student clinic is basically an internship), so I know the procedures; I know where everything is, I know the place is well-run by high-functioning and ethical people that I like. I've even heard through the grapevine that clients have been asking after me (although we'll see if they book with me now that I'm a professional and command twice the hourly rate, heh). And I genuinely like and am good at the work. So there's no reason to be concerned.

And yet I can't help feeling just a bit anxious, more so even than the usual "starting a new venture" nerves. Now that I think about it, I wonder if it's the very perfect-seeming-ness of the position that's contributing. I mean, if this were just another office job, it'd be...well, just another office job. I've never really self-identified as "secretary" even when I was doing it full-time; it was always a stepping-stone. (I was rarely certain what it was a stepping-stone to, but I knew I wasn't going to be a secretary my whole life.) "Massage therapist" maybe wasn't my first choice on the list ten years ago, but it's been a bit of a revelation; I don't have the mental blocks about it that I do about music and writing and acting, so I can do it wholeheartedly and with clear intentions; a particular joy I've rarely experienced before and never in a career-type context.

So starting to do it as a career is a little scary. Not because I'm worried I'll fail, really, but because I'm concerned I'll lose that joy. (The phenomenon of people losing former enjoyment in an activity they're being paid to do is a well-documented bit of human nature - something in how our brains are wired seems to think we only need one reason to engage in any particular activity, and "money" replaces "genuine enjoyment" dispiritingly easily.) And because I identify so strongly with this work, if I stop enjoying it, or if some other aspect of it doesn't work out, it's a much bigger part of my identity that I'm having to reshape.

I think my challenge is going to be twofold: more immediately, figuring out how to stay focused on doing my best work in the moment; and more overarchingly, figuring out how to stay engaged and fulfilled in the field, even during the inevitable plateaus. I strongly suspect "continuing to learn new tricks and techniques" is going to be a big part of that second one; despite it being a little premature as yet, I've been eyeing local physical therapy education programs. But I don't have to worry about that now; I can take this one day at a time. So...onward!
missroserose: (Default)
Work-study arrangements made, scholarships accepted, paperwork signed, tuition paid.

I'm going to massage school!

I feel ridiculously excited about this.
missroserose: (Warrior III)
Just got back from the massage school. My initial impression is pretty positive - it's a small private institution, but their space is well-kept and it feels like the people who run it take real pride in it. I especially liked the student clinic, where they offer inexpensive appointments so students can get experience; it's quiet and soothing without being either too spa-like (as my guide explained to me, a lot of their clients are men who get weirded out if the atmosphere's 'too girly') or too clinical. Plus, they have actual rooms rather than curtained-off cubicles, "so you can talk to your client if you're comfortable doing so." The classroom spaces were functional but well-kept, and as it happens, their curriculum has large portions devoted both to Thai massage and the fundamentals of running your own business, both of which I'm very interested in learning.

The slightly odd (not bad, just odd) part was in my interactions with my guide, who's also the school director: she seemed to react extremely well to me, despite our relatively brief interview. Admittedly, this isn't unusual, but it felt a little beyond the "well groomed + good looking = social positive" effect. She explained that I fit perfectly into the profile of people they want, i.e. smart and driven folks with past work experience who're excited to get into this field because they want to help people, not kids out of high school who're going because their mom told them they had to do something. (I'm somewhat entertained, as I think that's the first time anyone's described me as 'driven', but maybe it's not untrue; I feel like I'm ready to learn something new, and I do think I'll enjoy learning and practicing this trade.) She also recognized me from CorePower; she goes to the Uptown studio too, so I guess that was another social bonus. (Score another point for my power-yoga addiction?) In any case, she was super-warm and welcoming and enthusiastic about my attending their school; when I told her tuition was the biggest hangup and offered her my resume for their work-study program, she seemed completely thrilled and said the person in charge had just been asking about hiring someone new, so she'd get my resume over to them, and proceeded to basically offer me an extra pay-in-advance discount and partial scholarship on the spot. o.O Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining! And I'll do my best to be worthy of such instant faith in my abilities. But I hadn't realized that being an enthusiastic yoga attendee could net me perks with someone I'd probably not interacted with more than smiling at in passing. I feel a little bit like I stumbled into a sorority membership by accident. ("You know a Delta Gamma would never sleep with a man who wears a thong!")

Anyway, she said she'll talk to the other folks in charge and have a decision on the work-study and a financial breakdown headed my way in the next couple of days, so I'm crossing my fingers that this wasn't a statistical anomaly. The school feels like a good fit, and as it happens, their next full-time set of classes fits right in between my Thanksgiving trip to see my mum and my planned summer trip to Sweden. Hey Petra, would you mind if I practiced on you?
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Got an email from the Neo-Futurists tonight - I haven't been selected for a callback. It was one of the better artistic rejections I've had, though; for one thing, it was prompt, and for another, someone took the time to write a personalized response with (gasp) actual feedback. I know not all organizations have the time or motivation to offer that, but it meant a lot to me nonetheless; thoughtful and honest feedback is both vital and incredibly hard to come by for any aspiring artist.

In the meantime, I have an appointment tomorrow to check out a massage school! There are several options in town, including the Cortiva and Soma Institutes, which appear to be two of the bigger names. But most of the descriptions I've found of the places (admittedly, mostly Yelp reviews from people trying the student clinic) make them sound a bit large and impersonal. Plus, they're not cheap: over $12K and $15K, respectively. But a little more Googling found me the New School for Massage, Bodywork and Healing, a local place with significantly less expensive tuition ($8700 including materials and licensure exam fees, with work-study options available and a pay-in-advance discount), much smaller class sizes, and strong statistics on certification pass rates and job placement. (The fact that the Yelp reviews for the student clinic were much more uniformly positive also seemed like a good sign; they're probably doing something right.) Plus it's convenient to get to on the train or the bus. I RSVP'd to their open house (on the 20th) and shortly after sent an email inquiring about scholarship/work-study options; their response was quick and asked if I could come in to have a personal tour of the school and discuss financial options. So I'm tentatively impressed with their customer service. We'll see how it feels in person tomorrow.

I've been ruminating a bit on why it is I'm so attracted to the profession, especially given the hits to my pride it's likely to involve. Some of it's what I mentioned earlier, about wanting to make people's lives a little bit better. Some of it's genuine interest in learning how bodies work; one of the things I've been surprised to enjoy as much about yoga as I have is the ongoing lessons in anatomy and alignment. I suspect a good chunk of it is the relatively low level of investment; even if I don't get a work-study position and have to take out a loan for the full amount, thanks to my rather privileged living situation, it'll only take me six months or so of steady work to pay it off, at which point I have the luxury of deciding whether to continue and perhaps save to start my own business, or go do something else and simply have a handy skill-set available so long as I stay in practice. (Given the high-stress nature of both my husband's and my mother's jobs, I doubt I'll have trouble finding someone to practice on.) Some of it's that I've always had a strong empathetic sense and good intuition about what to say and what might feel good to someone; on a mental level this makes me a great agony aunt, but I've noticed it crosses over to physical stuff as well*, and it helps that I have no trouble with nonsexual nudity/touch**, which makes me more than a little unusual in our culture. And a lot of it, I suspect, is the prospect of being able to run my own business if I want to; my mother's prediction when I was a teenager of "I suspect you're going to have trouble in a traditional career because you won't want to work for people you're smarter than" has, sadly, turned out to be true a lot of the time.

In any case, it's an opportunity I feel good about pursuing, even if it isn't artistic per se. And unlike artistic careers, it's something you can make a decent wage doing without it eating your whole life. So we'll see how this opportunity looks.

*A friend of mine confessed to me while visiting last Friday that she loved having her hair brushed; I spent a good twenty minutes brushing her hair for her, which helped keep from freaking out about my upcoming audition, and helped her feel relaxed and happy. I love it when people's needs dovetail so nicely like that. Plus then I got to introduce her to the wonders of a scalp tingler for vagus nerve stimulation. Her response: "This is better than drugs!"

**One of my best friends is someone often in dire need of nonsexual physical contact. Sadly, we live far enough apart that it's not often an option, but when we're together, I love cuddling with her. One of my favorite memories was when we woke up to a decently-strong earthquake; I curled up around her and held her protectively, checking to make sure there wasn't anything likely to fall on us, and just each others' physical presence was enough to be a strong comfort. I miss her.
missroserose: (Show Your Magic)
For all that he's a bit of an odd duck, one of the things I like most about my friend Justin is that his perspective is complementary to mine. We're similar enough that our worldviews resonate at that frequency crucial to close relationships, but his tends to be just a few steps to the left; enough so that he often inspires me to see myself and my decisions in a different light. (I sometimes feel a little ridiculous when I realize that what I'm seeing through his eyes is something glaringly obvious if I'd just considered it earlier, but then, that's also what makes friends valuable.)

In this instance, we were talking about our respective plans for the future, and he asked if I'd considered going into massage therapy. I said that I had, as well as hairdressing or possibly yoga teaching, as it wouldn't hurt to have some extra income (and might be wise to have something to fall back upon in case something happens to Brian, or he decides he wants to leave the computer-security field). Justin asked (not in so many words, but effectively) why I hadn't pursued any of them. And I stopped and gave it some real thought.

Aside from the artistic arena, where we've already pretty much established that I currently lack the motivation to make a workable career, the careers I've been most attracted to are in the personal-service industry; I like to help people feel better about themselves, as I find it to be one of the most immediately-rewarding ways to improve the world. (Admittedly, it's a more ephemeral effect than, say, lobbying for better school funding or running a school in the African slums, but my desire for relatively instant gratification is one of the reasons I'm not super likely to make it as an artist. And giving someone a killer massage, or a really great haircut, still has a measurable positive effect - it can really improve someone's whole outlook, which makes everyone they interact with that little bit happier.) And really, there's nothing that should be holding me back - tuition for training is a little pricey, but not bad compared to a standard four-year program.

So I finally admitted something to myself that I'd been mentally dodging for a while but had never articulated aloud: "I've considered it. But, ultimately, there's more social status in being the financially-supported maybe-aspiring-artist wife of a high-earning man than there is in pursuing my own career."

Yeah, it's not the most flattering realization I've ever come to.

But it's true; I do value social currency. When I was a waitress out of high school, I was good at the job and often enjoyed it but couldn't help but look forward to the days when I would be the one paying for the meal, not the one serving it. I think I mentioned awhile back that I feel a little embarrassed when people ask me what I do right now; but when I tell them that I'm an aspiring writer/musician whose husband supports her, the reaction is almost universally positive - "That's so cool!" or "I'm so envious of you!"

The fact that, were our genders reversed, the reaction would likely be a little more smug and/or patronizing doesn't help my slight sense of social guilt over the matter. And while I'm a strong believer in the "feminism means you should be able to choose whatever path you want, whether or not it fits socially with your ascribed gender" philosophy, there are definitely times when I feel like a bad feminist for being financially dependent on my husband. (Which is more than a little ironic, as my mother and both my grandmothers had to be financially independent due to the quality of their relationships.)

Answering "I'm a hairdresser" or "I'm a massage therapist", by contrast, is hardly shameful, but they aren't really fields that generate respect and/or envy. (It probably doesn't help that I grew up seeing people accord my mother significant respect for her job in the legal field; I feel a little bit like a toddler throwing a tantrum. "If I can't have a highly-respected career I don't want any career!") But honestly, none of the highly-respected fields particularly appeal to me; I know I'm smart enough to go into law or medicine or science, but none of them thrill me enough to want to invest the time and money.

I'm not sure, ultimately, where my thoughts are going to settle on this issue. But this particular epiphany has given my self-perception a much-needed shakeup, and for that, at least, I'm grateful.
missroserose: (Warrior III)
I had a very thought-provoking conversation with my mother the other night, talking about all the career and motivation and identity stuff that I've been struggling with. I have a lot of thoughts on that, but they're still a bit muddled, so I think I'm going to hold off on writing about them for now. Instead, I want to relate this one bit in particular, which makes me giggle in retrospect:

Mum: "So let's see if we can't find something for you to do where your liabilities are a positive! Don't you remember that old Star Trek episode--"

Me: "--where the deaf-mute diplomat has his telepathic chorus blaster-fried, and decides to mediate the planet's dispute by teaching both sides the sign language he uses, which would give them something in common, thus turning a disadvantage into an advantage. Yes, you've quoted that bit to me roughly 40,000 times over the course of my growing up."

Mum: *laughing* "Well, it's a great episode!"

The good news is, I've been feeling a lot better since then. Talking to my mother always cheers me up. It also didn't hurt that she bought me another month of yoga. (I swear, my insurance plan should cover at least part of it. It's preventative maintenance, and way way cheaper than antidepressants.) And there's a new teacher doing the Sunday-morning 1.5-level class whom I really dig. I might start going to her classes regularly; that works out nicely since I usually go to Erika's Monday-night class and take Tuesday off.

On the subject of CorePower, I'm thinking seriously about doing their teacher-training program sometime in the next year. It's not a small investment: $2750 and eight weeks of time, though if I'm a member at the time I get 20% off the price (and it says right on the website that they're committed to working with individual financial situations to ensure your presence in the class, so maybe if I can get a couple of the teachers to vouch for my candidacy I can get further discounts - I know a lot of them have seemed really happy to have me back). But yoga is one of the things I've managed to stick with long-term and still really enjoy, possibly because it's so personal and low-stakes (if there's competitive yoga, I've never heard of it). And teaching it is something I think I'd be good at and could do anywhere. And it would help with that lack-of-a-sense-of-identity issue I've been struggling with; yoga teaching isn't precisely high-social-status, but it does help people, which is something I feel like I don't do enough of. Plus, if I could get hired by CorePower, I'd have my membership fees covered, so it feels like a win all around.
missroserose: (Warrior III)
Well, "Anchorage, ho!" three days ago, anyway. First class on Alaska Airlines, too - thanks, Mum! Eight-plus hours of flying is so much less stressful when you have enough room to move about in your seat. And proper food. And free drinks. (Though I cut myself off after two, and was glad I did - when I hit my layover after the first four-hour flight, I felt slightly nauseous and hungover, likely due to the combination of alcohol with drastic altitude/pressure changes.) I even, for the first time since I was a kid, managed to doze a little on the second flight - normally I can never sleep without being properly curled up on my side, but the seat was just big enough for me to make an approximation of it. And wi-fi on planes, ridiculously overpriced as it is ($21 for a day pass? Seriously, Gogo?) still may be one of the world's greatest inventions. As studies have repeatedly shown (usually in the context of trying to multitask whilst texting or talking on the phone), electronic communications are nearly as good as narcotics (and far more predictable/healthy/legal) for removing our minds from our surroundings. Which, when you're talking about cramped confines and recycled air and enforced sedentariness for hours at a time, is precisely what you need to make it bearable.

I came up to help my mother while she underwent a minor surgical procedure, and I'm glad to say that that part of it has gone very well - she's recovered quickly and is mostly off even the low-grade Vicodin they prescribed her. Really, the hardest part was sitting with her in the recovery room, which was just a little bit emotional. At one point I was singing to her, and she was helping me remember the words to "Feed The Birds" (from Mary Poppins, which she used to sing to me when I was young), but she kept drifting in and out from the drugs, and what with the resemblance to a death scene in a movie, I ended up a bit verklempt with the weepies. Still, she came out of it fine, and so did I.

On a happier note, my mother's yoga studio has been kind enough to let me use her subscription while she's recovering. They practice a lot of core-strengthening vinyasa yoga, which I'd never tried before, but holy crap - during the first session I went to, I could practically hear my body howling "YES! THIS! THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU I NEED!" I'm not even exaggerating. It was challenging, but not overwhelming, and felt goddamn good - I've been to two sessions now and have regained almost all the lung capacity I've lost from not having the staircase at the end of our street to climb every day. And I feel like I'm two inches taller. I've known for a while that I need to improve my core muscle strength, both to help posture and to keep my back from tweaking, but (as with so many other things) I don't do so great when I'm solely self-directed. I'll do a bit here and there, but if I have a class to go to or someone expecting me, I'm much much more likely to keep with it. So having someone direct a whole series of exercises for precisely what my body needed was a fantastic experience. Even if I'm sore in places I didn't know I had muscles.

The downside is that, if I want to keep doing classes, I'm basically going to need to join a studio, which is expensive in Chicago. CorePower Yoga (which has a studio right in Uptown, about a mile from my house - easy to get to via walking or transit) is running a Groupon for a month's subscription for slightly less than half-price; it's still $70, but Mum bought me one, and offered to help with the cost if I like the place and want to keep going there. I hope I do like it, because I think it might be good for me psychologically, too; if I have a class to go to, I'm much less likely to plop down on the couch with my coffee early in the morning and not move again until mid-afternoon. Which I've been known to do. Occasionally.

Meanwhile, after hearing rave reviews from both press and friends, I've been playing with Duolingo. I do like the "gamification of learning" concept (achievements and in-game currency that unlocks silly extras works just as well for reinforcing good habits!), and when I read about how the inventor funds the program (rather than selling ad space or people's personal information, he sells the individual translations people do in aggregate as a translation service for websites with multilingual branches. How ingenious is that?) I decided I'd give it a go. From both an app and a game standpoint, it's remarkably well designed; the interface is clean and easy to use, and the rewards come often enough to be an encouragement but not so often that they lose any sense of intrinsic worth. As to language-learning, I can't really speak to its efficacy vs. other methods (since I've always been too intimidated by the work involved to try learning another language - which, I guess, makes this method infinitely more efficacious than any other!), but I really like that it's geared toward encouraging consistency rather than intensity of study. It never scolds you for failing a lesson, or for failing to progress quickly enough - in fact, it has a feature where, when you finish a particular section, it encourages you to review it regularly to strengthen your knowledge. Rather than reward you solely for progressing along the tree, it also gives you XP for successfully-completed lessons, and when you do a lesson over (which you'll almost certainly have to do unless you're crazy-good at picking up terms and syntax), it doesn't give you a reduced XP award - and, in fact, if you manage to get through a lesson with a perfect score, it gives you a significant bonus. My favorite moment so far, however, was when it got to be 3:30 in the afternoon today and I hadn't logged any time, and I got a cheerful email going "Hey, check out this five-day streak you've got going! Want to see it get to six?" Seriously, it does a great job exploiting all the same triggers that MMORPGs and advertisers do while encouraging people to do something useful.

My goal is modest - I just want to get to where I can read books in a given language, since most of my multilingual friends say reading in a different language regularly is the next best thing to constantly speaking it around you. Though, since I picked Italian, I may have to settle for listening to opera. Or maybe I can read The Name of the Rose in the original? I suppose Umberto Eco might seem slightly less pompous that way...

I miss Brian a lot. I've been reading to him via Skype or Facetime or just the phone (whichever we can get to work at the time), and he's been showing/telling me all about the delicious things he's been cooking. I'd almost think he was doing it to spite me, since he's cooking more now than he has in the past couple weeks combined, but I know it's more that it fills his time and he finds it soothing. Maybe if he eats enough I'll be able to convince him to come to one of the beginning vinyasa yoga classes with me. One hour burns 238 calories, according to my tracker!
missroserose: (Hippie Musician)
Good morning, Chicago! Happy dark, grey, depressing-looking Monday morning! The winter birds are singing, the L is rattling along on its once-every-three-minutes morning-rush schedule, and the temperature is that in that perfect zone right around 30 degrees where the puddles are still frozen over but your flesh isn't actively trying to crawl off of your face. What a lovely day to be here!

...In all seriousness, I am feeling ridiculously chipper this morning. Due to what may have been a Poor Life Decision, I had some coffee last night around 7:30. Normally the caffeine rush wears off after four hours or so, so I figured I'd be okay to go to bed around midnight as per usual, but as it happened it wasn't until an hour later that I finally stopped feeling jittery. And a half hour after that that I finally gave up and went to bed, despite still feeling wide awake. And now it's 8 AM, and I suspect I didn't sleep very deeply at all last night, and yet I feel awake-bordering-on-manic. Obviously the smart thing to do is have some more coffee. *nodnod*

Honestly, I don't even have all that much to say this morning (HI, INTERNET! IT'S MONDAY! I'M MANIC! HOW ARE YOU?). The weekend was quiet but pleasant; we finally took down the Christmas decorations. (And the whole time we were going "Gosh, isn't it great to have had Christmas in Chicago rather than to be going 'please let this be the last Christmas in Arizona' like we have the past couple years?") I've been halfheartedly poking at my story all weekend, but if I'm going to rewrite it, now's the time. So that's on the list, along with sending some cards to people. I owe some thank-you notes, and I got a couple boxes of pretty cards on clearance at Papyrus last month; I figure a cheerful note on an elegant card is just the thing to cheer up some folks' grey Januarys.

Now that the holidays are over, it should be quiet for a couple of months. I may or may not be going up to Anchorage to visit my mother and help out while she has a medical procedure - I was originally slated to be there right now, in fact, but she's going around in circles with the insurance folks on it, so the trip has been postsponed. February is Brian's birthday (and Valentine's, of course). And in late March a couple of my folk-musician friends will be visiting and giving a house concert, which I'm very much looking forward to. We don't really know that many people in town to invite yet, but that's probably good, as our condo is not large. I am hoping to at least have a few folks show, though; aside from the "I want to share live music with you!" aspect, I miss hosting parties, even if it's only once or twice a year. (Really, without a staff to help out, "once or twice a year" is about our limit - we love hosting but it's a lot of work.) I'm thinking the featured drink of the evening will be Pink Victrolas; I've had nothing but rave reviews about them in the past, the name goes nicely with the retro-ish music theme, and they're a favorite of a particular gentleman who is sponsoring the musician's visit. Plus Costco has liter-size bottles of Hendrick's, and I've been looking for an excuse to pick one up. Score.

Okay, enough procrastinating. Time to get to work. (And Fallen London is down, so I might even actually get some work done. Gasp. Shock.)
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
It's been a nice holiday. What with not having many social contacts in the area, along with post-Christmas brokitude and some pretty severe cold/snow, we decided that a quiet observation at home was in order. But it was lovely nonetheless. Last night, I made one of my favorite incredibly rich meals, so Brian got a holiday off from cooking. When midnight rolled around, we had champagne cocktails and lay down on the hardwood floor by the fire (Brian: "I think 2014 might have to be the Year of Rugs") and recounted our many blessings for the past year. Today, we slept in before braving the (continuing) snow and taking the bus down to a nifty little Jewish deli in Lakeview for lunch, and after getting back I cleaned the bathroom and had a nice bath with one of the fancy bath bombs from my Christmas stocking. Now there's lemon pudding cakes in the oven, and when they come out we'll have the rest of the bubbly with them and watch Sherlock. {That part was written a few hours ago. The lemon pudding cakes were amazing, and so was the show. For a story about a protagonist who's completely clueless about human relationships, it's so incredibly smart about interactions and the power dynamics inherent therein.}

I don't have a lot of resolutions per se. I did tweet my wish for 2014: "Wishing us all new and better opportunities, and new and better guts to stand up and say 'I'll do it.'" I admit it's a bit of a selfish wish, given my plans for the upcoming month/year, but it's nonetheless true - I don't want to be the only one making scary plans and doing scary things!

About those plans...one of the biggest changes that's going to be happening is that I'll be making a concerted effort to raise my public profile somewhat. I don't know by how much, since popularity is a difficult thing to predict, but I'm hoping to make inroads in author communities and the like - I've met a lot of cool author-y people online, but even aside from that, name recognition is a good thing, and can often translate into sales. I've already re-Twitterpated myself (and even attracted a few followers, thanks to a few interactions with the ever-hilarious Chuck Wendig), and I'll be starting a writing blog this week, probably on Wordpress.

All of which is to say that I'm trying to decide what to do with my Dreamwidth/LiveJournal accounts. So far I've been fine with keeping them 99.9% public, as I tend to curate my friends carefully, pick low-drama folks to hang out with, and generally be obscure enough that even when I weigh in on a hot-button topic, it doesn't attract a lot of attention. But that may not be the case in the future. And there's a lot of history here - more than a decade, now, including many bits of myself and my growth process that I'm...not ashamed of, precisely, but that could easily be taken out of context. It doesn't help that I'm planning on writing in a controversial genre/about some controversial topics, and while I'll do my best (as always) to be fair and diplomatic on the subjects, that doesn't mean I won't piss some people off.

I've been thinking for a while about exercising LiveJournal's (and, I assume, Dreamwidth's) "change all your past posts to friends-only" feature, but resisted it so far largely because I know at least a few of my friends read this because they see the links through Facebook or an RSS reader, and if I were to only make posts under friends-lock the only people who would see it would be the ones who check LJ/DW regularly. Which - let's face it - is an increasingly small number.

I'm still deciding what the writing blog should focus on. If I make it a personal blog like this one, chances are that I'll stop posting here almost entirely. If I decide to focus on a few specific subjects (feminism, sexuality, the role of porn in Western society, and the cultural experience of sexually proactive women all seem likely topics, given my interests and the subject matter of my writing), I may keep this blog up separately for more personal journal-style posts. But either way, chances are I'll be going exclusively friends-only, here. So if you'd like to keep up here, and aren't already signed on my friends list on either site, let me know.
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
Changing coasts is an odd experience. In some ways, it's almost like stepping into an alternate universe - one very close to your native one, but where there are all these small differences that keep you on your toes. Mostly it's quirks of product branding: instead of Best Foods, your mayonnaise says Hellman's. Instead of Oroweat, you have Brownberry bread. Dreyer's is now Edy's. Butter sticks are long and skinny instead of short and fat. That kind of thing. Nothing obtrusive, but just enough that you wonder if there are larger differences that you haven't noticed yet.

Tangentially related, I've been thinking a lot lately about this article on the "eleven nations" that this author asserts make up the United States - defining "nations" as "large regions that share similar core values and attitudes, often stemming from the cultural outlook of the original settlers". My knee-jerk reaction is to say it's an oversimplification, and it may well be, but having lived in five of the different regions that he defines (four of them for four years or longer), I must admit my anecdata does match with his observations. Anchorage and Fairbanks (Far West) do have a very strong streak of resentment towards corporate interests and outside colonization (somewhat entertainingly, since the majority of the caucasian population has been there less than a century). Juneau (Left Coast) is far more like the rest of the West Coast, which is absolutely an interesting mixture of "Go west young man" self-determinism and hippy-dippy "let's all take care of each other" socialism. The First Nations are proud of their growing cultural and financial independence from mainstream America (and rightly so, given how thoroughly we tried to extinguish their culture through forced assimilation). Southern Arizona (El Norte) has a very strongly independent/self-reliant attitude - in conservative areas, this manifests as Tea Party-style anti-government sentiment, whereas in the liberal areas, you see it in the chafing at the Phoenix-run government/attitudes (culminating for a while in the "secede and form a separate state" movement). And one of the first things Brian and I observed upon moving to Chicago (Yankeedom) was how awesome it was that people here understand the economic concept of "a rising tide lifts all boats" - specifically, how investment in top-down infrastructure projects like public transit improve the economic prospects of people across the board. So maybe there's more to the guy's theories than I originally thought.

Settling in: the end is in sight! Down to the last few boxes of books/curios. Not 100% sure where it's all going to go, and we still need to hang art/hook up the home theater/finalize furniture arrangements, but we're nearly done. More than a month after arrival. Hurrah.

Been researching the options for learning aerial gymnastics. There are two groups in town with training facilities, it appears; one's ten minutes away by transit, the other nearly an hour. Judging by their respective websites, one also appears to have a much more comprehensive curriculum, including conditioning and flexibility/contortion (suitable for someone who likes to learn ALL the things!), and an actual course schedule, whereas the other appears to be a much more casual/drop-in setup. Two guesses which one's the closer. And which I'm more interested in. :P Still, the nearby one also has on staff a Juneau native with whom I share some mutual acquaintances, so I might check them out to start. I can always start going to the farther-away one later.

This weekend Brian and I went out to Graceland Cemetery (another must-visit for Dresden Files fans) and had a walk. We got there only an hour before closing, so we definitely weren't seeing the whole place (it's HUGE), but we had heard from a couple of places that fall was the best time to see it. It's a beautiful space, with all sorts of lovely statuary and gently winding roads that encourage contemplation. For which autumn weather, with that slight crisp in the air, is pretty much the perfect atmosphere, even aside from the beauty of the changing trees. And then we came home and had a fire and I made French onion soup - including, for the first time in my life, taking the time to properly caramelize onions. They were delicious.
missroserose: (Partnership)
The paid gig is officially set. They've even paid me already - more than a month in advance! - which surprised the heck out of me. (If my writer friends' experiences are anything to go by, getting paid for one's art is generally a much tougher thing, sometimes even when it's offered. Not that I'm complaining, mind.) If you're in town on the 7th of September, come take the garden tour; I'll be hanging out at 123 Clawson Avenue and singing my heart out.

Speaking of my heart (as in something I've set it on), I've decided on my dream guitar. When I was at Rainbow Guitars last, I played a rosewood-and-spruce Taylor Grand Orchestra, their biggest body size. I'm not sure I even have words for the richness and complexity of the sound; rosewood is notorious for its full deep bass, but the size and shape (and Sitka spruce top) helped bring out the midrange and trebles beautifully. I almost want to say I was intimidated by its volume and sound quality, but that's actually completely the opposite of what happened; from the first strum, I knew I had to sing with it. And I did, and it was the most magnificent experience.

I don't want that exact model; the abalone purfling around the outside ("purfling", the term for the decorative trim around the edges of an instrument, is my new favorite word) is a little too blingy for my taste, and the vintage-style brass tuners don't really do it for me either. But like all guitar manufacturers, Taylor will happily do custom orders, with any or all the options you might want. If I can find a design that I like, I'd love to get a rose-vine inlay on the neck and perhaps a matching rose on the bridge. Obviously I don't have a specific price point, but (based on the cost of the 918e) I'm going to guess it'll be in the $6000 range. So that's what I'm saving my music-making money for. It makes for a nice goal - unnecessary enough that there's no rush (at my current average of about $6 a week it'll take me, oh, twenty-odd years to save up that much) but something I'm passionate enough about that it's a motivation to improve. Not to mention that, by the time I can afford it, I should be able to play well enough to deserve such a beautiful instrument.

Meantime, I'm enjoying tooling around with my other two lovely guitars. The last couple of Fridays busking have been a bit cash-poor, but I've amassed a few 'fans' - Bisbee around-town regulars who always come by and listen when I'm playing, despite probably having my entire repertoire memorized by now. Oddly gratifying, that. I also went out and played for an hour by the library in Sierra Vista while I was waiting for an oil change on my car; not exactly the most appreciative audience, but none of the sour-faced retirees who wandered by chewed me out like I was half-expecting, and a couple of kids dropped some change in my hat. (One kid was all "I don't have a dollar, but here, I've got a bottle of water" - in the desert and while you're singing, arguably an even better tip.) And today, since I needed to go downtown for work anyway, I brought my travel guitar and played for a couple of hours afterward. For the first hour, I thought it was going to be a complete bust - I had nothing other than the seed money in my hat and almost nobody was listening. But then a couple of my regulars showed up (one of them even went "Oh hey, I was actually working today, so here" and gave me a couple dollars - awww!), and there was a bit of afternoon traffic, and by the time my fingers gave out I had $10, a bag of mint, and only one mosquito bite (hurrah for remembering bug spray this time). So I came home and had a shower and made myself a mojito. Not a bad day, all told.
missroserose: (Life = Creation)
Is it weird that I find myself wanting to write a blog post about a day where nothing much happened?

Normally I would have been working yesterday, but things have been so slow at the gallery lately (thanks, most likely, to the weird-ass weather - seriously, we woke up to another couple inches of snow on the ground this morning. Pretty, but not exactly a big draw for the tourists) that C decided to just have me in on Thursday this week. So, upon finding out that Brian was going to be driving out to do some work on a tower just over the border in New Mexico, I asked if I could come along.

I was in a very strange headspace all that day. I'd been dreaming all night about being in airports - not going anywhere, exactly (I only remember actually getting on a plane once), but just sort of wandering through them with my guitar, sometimes playing, sometimes just watching people. And that in-limbo feeling seemed to carry over into the day; I spent much of it sort of half-there, half-zoned-out. But hey, if you're going to be zoned out, there are worse things to stare at than the landscape around the Arizona/Mexico/New Mexico border. We even drove up into the Chiricahua Mountains by Portal, intending to go over them and get back to Bisbee through Willcox and Benson, but the pass ended up being closed (probably due to ice and/or snow - see above re: weird weather). Still, we got to see how things are coming back after the Horseshoe Two fire a year and a half ago, which was reassuring. The sky island forests are so unusual for Arizona climate and weather, and so beautiful.

And really...that was it. We came home, I had a nap, I finished the book I was reading and wrote up a review for it on GoodReads, I played my guitar a bit. Not a very interesting or accomplished day, but an oddly pleasant one nonetheless.

I don't think I've mentioned it more than tangentially here, but I've been keeping a sort of unofficial list of daily goals in a spreadsheet on Google Docs. Things like doing yoga, exercising in some manner that raises my heart rate, practicing guitar, stuff like that. There's no real reward associated with doing well at them over a particular day/week/month (other than a nice line of Os in the associated line or column), but it's a nice way to keep track of how I've been doing on the whole.

I'm thinking about adding a goal for writing in there, too. I've been encouraged by the success of my approach to guitar - one of the ideas that really encouraged me was that getting good at something didn't require hours and hours of time on a given day so much as consistency in giving it a little bit of time, every day (or nearly so). I've given guitar, on average, fifteen minutes a day over the past eight or nine months, and while I'm certainly not as good as I would be if I'd practiced an hour on each of those days, I've made pretty significant progress. So maybe I should try something similar for writing. Given the amount of improvement between my NNWM 2010 and 2011 output, despite almost no practice between the two (and even if the latter is still nothing resembling publishable), it seems likely that daily practice would have a pretty good effect.

I found a sticker recently, that I had initially intended to send to a friend, but it sort of made its way onto my guitar case last night - I'm not sure exactly why; it just felt right there. It certainly feels apropos, given recent events in my music career:

So I think I'm going to sign off here and place my feet somewhere useful. Like on my yoga mat in extended-side-angle pose. Or on the floor, sorting out laundry. Or in the kitchen to make a pie.

And maybe I'll write something today, too.
missroserose: (Partnership)
Just a quick "thank you" for all the supportive comments. I'm feeling a lot better than I did this morning. (For the non-Facebookers/bad guessers, I got a letter from Berklee saying I hadn't been accepted. I didn't even get to the point where scholarships/financing/loans were an issue.)

I don't know what it is, exactly, but this failure feels a lot less end-of-the-world than the few similar ones I've had in the past did. Maybe it's that the whole thing was a spur-of-the-moment decision to begin with. Or the way I've managed to improve noticeably even since my audition, so I'm more hopeful about the future. Or just the fact that I'm getting older and have more life experience. (Also, as Julie pointed out when I stopped at Blissbee with the news, "You were going up against kids who've been playing piano since they were 8, been to music camp every year, and been performing in recitals most of their life." It did sort of put things in perspective.)

The rejection letter did include an invitation to apply next year (of course it did - that's another $150 for them!). I'm not sure yet if I will - a lot will depend on where we end up over the next year. If we're in Boston, I might just, especially if I can get a good chunk of lessons and performing experience and get more comfortable with myself and my voice in the interim. But if we end up landing on the West Coast, I'm sure there are good music schools there, too. And probably cheaper as well.

I don't feel like it was wasted effort. It was a good experience, and it did highlight some significant areas I need to work on. Plus it motivated me to get up off my butt and take lessons (weekly) and practice (some, not as much as I should have). And...I admit I feel a little liberated, now. I tried, I failed. It's not the end of the world. I can get better. And in the meantime, at least I did something.

And that's actually kind of a nice feeling.
missroserose: (House Impression)
To follow up on the earlier post (sorry, LJ-only friends, all two of you...I tend to keep to Facebook for more day-to-day things that I don't feel like writing multiple paragraphs on), my audition went all right. Not disastrous, but also not earth-shatteringly great - or at least, it didn't feel earth-shatteringly great; it's kind of hard to tell when your "audience" consists of a single person typing furiously on a laptop who won't even look at you. (I understand the reason they do things that way; you don't want to skew the results by offering different body language to different applicants, or judging unconsciously based on looks rather than musical aptitude. But it's sort of hard to make an emotional connection with an audience that won't acknowledge that you exist.) In all fairness, the accompanist was a cool dude, and while my prepared piece ended up going more along the lines of "feeling our way through it" than anything polished (it was written for piano, he was on guitar, so), it was interesting to try something different. (He also had me sing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", so I at least got to do something slightly show-offy and more polished feeling.) The improv section actually went really well; I didn't feel it was particularly brilliant, but it was definitely better than my usual hesitant attempts. I give credit for that partially to the accompanist (who was very good at making you feel at ease) and partially to the fact that I'd already kind of decided at that point that I wasn't earth-shattering, so it sort of took the pressure off. Ear training and rhythm were also both good-but-not-great. The interview section felt like it went pretty well, even though I keep thinking of things I wish I'd said in retrospect. Still, on the whole, I'd give myself a B-.

The problem being, of course, that I know my own judgment is about the least reliable gauge out there (short of people who weren't there to see it, and possibly not even that). Performers can't see their own performances the way others do; even if we see a recording we're usually just cringing at what we should have done differently instead of enjoying what we did well. So we have to rely on audience reaction to tell us how we did; that's why it's so gratifying when (say) you turn your attention-getting swan dive off a bar table into a roaring round of applause from a formerly-disinterested audience by totally nailing the song in the middle. Without any real audience, it's hard to judge, so maybe all my friends who weren't there but are telling me "Oh, I'm sure you did wonderfully" are actually right. I won't know until I hear back from Berklee come January.

All that said, I'm not sorry I did it. I just don't expect it was the earth-shatteringly amazing audition that I'd need to get the full scholarship I was hoping for.

The trip to LA was enjoyable enough, though, even with the ten hours of driving each way; I finally broke down and subscribed to Audible, so we had the audiobook of the newest Harry Dresden novel to keep us company. We wandered along Hollywood Boulevard like you do when you're a tourist. We found an excellent pho place and an even more excellent brand-new coffee bar (if you're in the neighborhood, try Javista on Sunset - amazingly tasty baked goods, great coffee and tea, super-friendly people). We went to Sam Ash and I found a smaller-size Martin guitar that felt wonderful in my hands; it was also one of their less-expensive models, so I might save up for it as a travel instrument. And when I went to the gigantic DSW to replace my worn-through tennis shoes, I got a gorgeous pair of brown leather boots with buckles - vaguely steampunky, vaguely motorcycle, vaguely Western - off the clearance rack as an "I did something hard today" prize. (I love boots but it's been ages since I had a pair I could wear for day-to-day things; stilettos don't really lend themselves to "running around doing errands". These have a sensible heel and are very comfortable but manage to be flattering as well, which is all I could ask for.)

When we got back, I immediately threw myself into getting ready for our Christmas party, which last year was a huge deal with probably around thirty people showing up throughout the evening. I knew this year would likely be a little smaller (especially as we were out of town for the mid-month weekend we had it on before and had to have it three days before Christmas, an iffy time for a lot of folks what with family obligations and all), but I still was expecting a good twenty folks or so. Unfortunately, I had a number of last-minute cancellations and no-shows, so it ended up being more like eleven. Not a bad group, but far from the house-full-of-cheerful-people it was last year. I don't mean to make out like it was a failure - everyone seemed to have a good time, and we used up a good half the eggnog supply, regardless - but after the expectation set by last year it was hard not to feel like I'd failed somehow. "This is it? But...but...the entire house is supposed to be full! Where is everybody?"

So...yeah. December's two big events so far have both ended up feeling a little anticlimactic. It's still got...*checks watch*...a little over a week if it wants to impress me, but I can't say as I'm really expecting a whole lot from it at this point.

In all honesty? I feel like a huge grumpypants complaining about all of this. "My audition went well, but wasn't spectacular enough to convince Berklee I'm a prodigy who deserves a free ride." "My party was fun and everyone had a good time, but it wasn't the spectacular display of my popularity that I was hoping for." You'd think I could just be grateful neither was a disaster. Instead I find myself wanting to curl up in front of Moulin Rouge and drink absinthe and feel sorry for myself.

Maybe I'll get a copy of "The Great Gatsby" to read instead. That seems appropriate, somehow...
missroserose: (Partnership)
I have a date set for my audition for Berklee. December 15, in Los Angeles - apparently applying early got me a spot on their audition tour. I'm a little surprised, as I'd put down Boston as my preferred audition spot and Los Angeles as second - they said on their website they prefer as many folks as possible to audition at the actual school, and I figured hey, it'd be an excuse to go back. But I'm not complaining; LA is a bit easier to get to from here. About the same travel time, but no TSA hassles, and better food options.

After only a moderate amount of freaking out, I got the number of a woman who does voice lessons here in town, called her up and explained what was up. She seemed interested, and said she'd be happy to help me prepare. Hopefully her instruction style will be something I mesh well with; if not, though, I'll just do my best to get anything I can out of it. It's only for seven weeks. (Ulp. Seven weeks.)

The surprising part, however, came this evening. I'd emailed the admissions office with a question about transcripts, and hadn't heard back in a few days. I had meant to give them a call tomorrow with my question, but late this afternoon I got a call from a young man (probably a student employee) who introduced himself as a student at Berklee who was calling because I'd applied and wanted to see if I had any questions. And (surprisingly, at least from my experiences with college administration) he actually knew the answers, including whom I should send my transcripts to and in what format, and some specifics on the audition process. I was impressed - that level of organization, proactivity and student-friendliness is completely at odds with my previous experiences with institutions of higher learning, which had been much more along the lines of Kevin Pease's eternal "You are the inventory" quote. Maybe that's the difference between going to a $5,000/semester school and a $25,000/semester school? Fingers crossed it's a representative sample, anyway. It's certainly bumped my opinion of them up a few notches.

And good news - one of the things my Friendly Student Employee was able to clarify was that there are additional tuition scholarships available aside from the Presidential, ranging from a few thousand dollars to a full-ride; better yet, those are completely merit-based, whereas the Presidentials are both merit-and need-based. So my chances are at least a little bit better than 7 in 4,000.

Onward and upward...
missroserose: (Partnership)
I have a date set for my audition for Berklee. December 15, in Los Angeles - apparently applying early got me a spot on their audition tour. I'm a little surprised, as I'd put down Boston as my preferred audition spot and Los Angeles as second - they said on their website they prefer as many folks as possible to audition at the actual school, and I figured hey, it'd be an excuse to go back. But I'm not complaining; LA is a bit easier to get to from here. About the same travel time, but no TSA hassles, and better food options.

After only a moderate amount of freaking out, I got the number of a woman who does voice lessons here in town, called her up and explained what was up. She seemed interested, and said she'd be happy to help me prepare. Hopefully her instruction style will be something I mesh well with; if not, though, I'll just do my best to get anything I can out of it. It's only for seven weeks. (Ulp. Seven weeks.)

The surprising part, however, came this evening. I'd emailed the admissions office with a question about transcripts, and hadn't heard back in a few days. I had meant to give them a call tomorrow with my question, but late this afternoon I got a call from a young man (probably a student employee) who introduced himself as a student at Berklee who was calling because I'd applied and wanted to see if I had any questions. And (surprisingly, at least from my experiences with college administration) he actually knew the answers, including whom I should send my transcripts to and in what format, and some specifics on the audition process. I was impressed - that level of organization, proactivity and student-friendliness is completely at odds with my previous experiences with institutions of higher learning, which had been much more along the lines of Kevin Pease's eternal "You are the inventory" quote. Maybe that's the difference between going to a $5,000/semester school and a $25,000/semester school? Fingers crossed it's a representative sample, anyway. It's certainly bumped my opinion of them up a few notches.

And good news - one of the things my Friendly Student Employee was able to clarify was that there are additional tuition scholarships available aside from the Presidential, ranging from a few thousand dollars to a full-ride; better yet, those are completely merit-based, whereas the Presidentials are both merit-and need-based. So my chances are at least a little bit better than 7 in 4,000.

Onward and upward...


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