Two days ago marked the 1-year anniversary of writing my "living my dream" blog, where I professed to the world (or at least, the world of people who read my blog) my grand plan of making my living singing and writing songs.
Exactly one year later, I spent the day at a health clinic that serves people with no health insurance. I was there from 1pm-6pm, waiting to get examined for some symptoms that were troubling me: a few swollen lymph nodes under my right arm, some abdominal fullness on my right side.
The Nurse Practitioner who examined me didn't find anything concerning, but my family history--mother breast cancer, maternal grandmother ovarian cancer, maternal great aunts breast cancer--makes everything concerning. Try not to worry, she said, but come back in a few weeks and we'll re-asses. It might be a good idea to get some further testing--ultrasounds and examination by a specialist--but in this moment, getting a bunch of expensive tests with no health insurance is probably not worth it.
Part of the reason I chose to get a "real job" rather than pursue my dream earlier in life was that the idea of having no health insurance was too insanely frightening to me. My mom was still going through treatment for breast cancer when I graduated college, and I saw that her excellent care--and ability to pay for it--was a enormous asset during an unbelievably difficult experience.
Here in New York, since my temporary job ended, I have been living without health insurance for the past eight months.
While it never left the back of my mind, I'd gotten used to the idea. Also, I realized I am in the same boat with a whole bunch of other folks. Employed, unemployed, there are tons of people out there who have no health insurance. Or have not very good health insurance. I'd deal.
Then I felt some swollen lymph nodes, and I freaked out. Berated myself for being so irresponsible to not have coverage, and what was going to happen to me financially if I had a serious illness, and realizing that I can't live my dream if I don't...live.
My mom insisted I go to the doctor to get checked out. "But what if that makes me have a pre-existing condition and then I can't get health coverage at all?" I said. (The law that will make the whole pre-existing condition nonsense go away doesn't go into effect until 2014. And it's not even 2013 yet.)
"Don't be an idiot," she said. "Go to the doctor." She promised her support.
So I went, and while it's wonderful that preliminary examinations found nothing, I am still not off the hook. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
I was happy, though, because I had lined up a new gig for the next evening, a standing Thursday night gig at a restaurant in Murray Hill. A talented singer/songwriter/guitarist from Greece had been doing the gig for a little over a month and needed a new singer. We had a lot of musical common ground and cover repertoire in common. We had four rehearsals in the past few weeks, and both spent time learning new material. I was excited to have a regular paid gig, which I hoped would set the stage for more of these. If I could get a few paid gigs a week, that could translate into some version of "making a living playing music."
After a final rehearsal, we packed up our gear and headed to the restaurant at 8:30pm. We arrived and began setting up. After about five minutes, the manager came over to us apologetically and said, "The owner changed his mind about having music."
We were sent home.
Over the past year, I've come to remember all of the things I hated about the music business. This kind of nonsense is par for the course. And what can you do? Unfortunately, as an unknown musician, you are prone to being treated with very little respect.
All you can do is, pack up your stuff and say, well, I guess we'll have to find a gig somewhere else.
But it's hard not to feel an overwhelming disappointment and sadness, when something you were so excited about falls through in the final stretch.
One year, later, you know what the funny part is?
All things considered, when I really take a step back and examine my life, I have to say that everything is going as well as I could have hoped for. Better, even.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, I'm recording an album. Thanks to my deliciously talented producer, said album is going to be better than I ever imagined. I have met some great people here in NYC, many talented musicians whose music and spirits I love. I have learned a whole bunch. I have reconnected with some old friends down here, friendships that I am very excited about. I have written a bunch of new songs. I have improved my guitar and singing. I have eaten some great food, particularly pizza.
Oh, and I have also found love. That's always nice.
My life is not perfect, and it's not exactly how I thought it would be. I expected to be making a living playing music and teaching yoga by now; instead I am applying for non-music jobs and telling myself that just because something takes longer than you hoped it would, doesn't mean it won't ever happen.
No matter what, I can keep working toward the pursuit of my dream. It might not look exactly like I dream it will in time, but that's part of the fun, right?
The only thing I know for sure is, one year later, I am still at it, I'm closer than I was a year ago, and I'm not giving up.