I need to do something, anything, to move my life forward in a direction I feel content with. Not that I haven’t been content with my existence over the past however long, but I need to do something for my career in particular. Last night, I was thinking about what job titles I’m qualified for based on my educational background. I have a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, and I studied music and activism, so umm, yeah, what career path did college help prepare me for? There are lots of possibilities, but I’ve had a hard time figuring out exactly what to do with that piece of paper I worked so hard to earn. Not to mention I’m in a serious amount of debt because I decided to attend college.
I graduated at the beginning of 2005, and at that point, I was very much disabled by the chronic physical conditions I live with. My goal was to become a professional singer, and working musician. I had already been a solo singer for years, performing heartfelt renditions of romantic tunes for weddings, or pouring every ounce of my soul into hymns like “Amazing Grace” at funerals and memorials.
I started recording demos and got some session work. I sang the jingle for a commercial that was played on the radio for years. It was good enough that my mentor got some kind of award for writing and producing it. That same year, I applied for a grant through the Vermont Arts Council, but I definitely did a half-assed job, and in retrospect, I don’t think I articulated exactly what it was I had hoped to create with the grant money. I have yet to put together a more concrete, detailed project, and never applied for a grant again from that point forward.
Some of my solo music was featured on a few compilation CD’s, and I was recruited for a project my late friend AJ Confessore put together called “Whole Lotta Love: An All-Star Salute to Fat Chicks”. I proudly sang the “Whole Lotta Love” title track, putting my own spin on it. My interpretation gave it an entirely different feel, but I honestly wasn’t satisfied with the outcome, though as a lot of people know, that’s a pretty common feeling among artists and musicians. Still, I was proud of the reviews I got, save but one very nasty blog post wherein the author called me a “heffer” (sic) singer.
The first time I made good money doing music, I jumped for joy. I was hired for session singing on a gospel CD, and I got compensated very well. The songs were recorded during several 3 – 4 hour sessions. For about 12 hours of work, I got $750, and I was THRILLED. It was the best feeling in the world, and I had all kinds of hope that I’d continue to get good paying gigs, but I still couldn’t get my shit together.
I’ve been in a band before, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had playing music. Unfortunately, due to transportation issues and finances, I had to quit, which broke my heart into pieces. And I really really need to be in a band. I’ve got to buy some recording equipment and start creating my own “beats” and tracks at home. I write songs all of the time, yet I have no way to record them, therefore, I never have an opportunity to share them. I can’t continue like this; it’s eating away at me and killing me little by slow, with each passing second.
I’m frustrated, and motivated to change things. I need to start setting small goals and aiming to get to a place in my life where I’m able to accept gigs, be in a band, and perform frequently. That’s going to take a lot, honestly, because I need to save to get my license back. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that said license was suspended due to lack of ability to pay for a couple of expensive traffic tickets I got slapped with while visiting New York. I’ve managed to come up with the nearly $300 to pay off one of the fines. The second one is going to cost me at least $400, so yay. I get $800 a month on social security, and I’ve got rent and bills to pay. Saving money is impossible, unless I want to go without something that is a necessity.
Where in the hell do I go from here? I loathe having to be supported by the government, but I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I genuinely need disability, and when I initially applied over 12 years ago, I put together a very solid application that elaborated on all of the conditions that rendered me disabled. Most people are denied their first time applying for disability, but I was not. I’ve had a sort of chip on my shoulder about it ever since, because it is confirmation that I am, in fact, unable to work. It means that I’m not looking for a government handout. It means that I want to figure out how to work and have a career while being disabled. That career doesn’t have to be full-time, and in fact, it probably never will be. Working with the body I’ve got is tough stuff, and pain is a constant, aggravating reminder that there are parts of me that are dysfunctional.
Getting a job is not feasible right now because I am not in the best physical shape, and I need to start more aggressive rheumatoid arthritis treatments. I’ve got to get my body “tuned up” because it gives me an insane amount of grief, and I’m utterly exhausted. I didn’t choose to be disabled, but I can choose to not let my illnesses and conditions bring me to my knees. I can choose to do something each day to move my career forward. By writing, I’m doing just that. It’s a start, and one I’m content with for now.
Onward and upward!