What's a Dream Anyway? Here's a Song About My Day Job

I've wanted to be a professional musician since I was seven years old. This dream was fueled and expanded by my incredibly supportive artist parents... and television. At that time in the late 1980's, my TV viewing taste was almost exclusively honed to PBS and MTV (at a time when they were as green as I was and played exclusively music videos. Can you imagine?!). These two channels, like my two parents, worked in harmony to transmit an un-ignorable and unknowingly cooperative message; not only should I have dreams and work hard to reach them (thank you, Mr. Rogers) but that those dreams could be glittery, bright, glamorous, powerful, and on a stage with a jacked sound system accompanied by thunderous crowds chanting along to my music (thank you, Ms. Lauper). Yes, please. 

And so, as is true for so many of us born into the golden age of the "follow your dream" message, I never, ever, ever thought I would have a day job. I didn't want one and I didn't think I would need one. My dream would support me. Fred and Cyndi promised. 

I'm grateful to report that in the decades later, many of the dreams I had when I was a budding rock star have come true. By surrounding myself with great people who were willing to help me grow, by trusting the universe, by saying yes, and by just not stopping, I have tackled my music career's bucket list with reckless abandon since that dream blossomed. I wanted to tour. Check. I wanted to play for thousands of people at a time. Check. I wanted my songs to be in movies. Triple check. I wanted to collaborate with legends. Mega check. But mostly, I wanted my music to matter to someone. Check check check check check. It's been an awe-inspiring and humbling journey, and yes, there has been lots of glitter.

And now, I am a receptionist.

"Wait, what HAPPENED?" asks the American Capitalist Dream Making Machine. "You had it all, and now you're on the 9-5? Impossible!" The story I've been told here, directly and indirectly through many channels, is that by taking a day job, that I had the dream and lost it. That I was winning, and then I failed. That I gave in. That I settled. That I'm not a real artist anymore if I'm working behind a desk. At least this is the story my own self doubt told me as I was faced with the decision of whether or not to take this day job to support myself as the landscape of my life changed (a decision that this article helped make much, much easier). 

So what really happened? Was my music not good enough to maintain a career? Was I unworthy of the dream the PBS promised me? Was there just not enough room in this world for another indie pop princess? 

What happened is that my perspective shifted along with the redirecting tides of my life. My dream didn't shift, but my needs did. And I've learned that that's truly, truly, truly okay.

Also, with a lot of help, I have become much more equipped to thrive comfortably in the world of "both/and." Now, I am both a musician and a receptionist. I have both lots of dreams that have come true and more to come. I have both a supportive team of people at my day job (which I love, by the way) and a supportive network of colleagues and allies in my music world. I'm both more musically productive and collaborative now than I have been in years and a stable, predictable income. I feel both grounded and like I'm on a musical career adventure that is not even close to ending. 

What also happened, with one more nod of thanks to Fred and Cyndi, is that I've come to have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Why do we take this dream thing so seriously anyway? This song was a collaboration with my new band The Peggy's, recorded live at Otto's Shrunken Head at our first show as a band. Whether it's about my initial resistance to taking a day job or not wanting to suffer the grind of the very non-glamorous work it takes to be a full-time musician, I will never know. My guess is it's a little bit of both/and. 

 

FRUIT IN BAGS by The Peggy's

Same, same, bag in, bag out.

Same, same, bag in, bag out.

I don't wanna be a means to an end.

I don't wanna take the local train anymore.

I don't wanna have to go to work anymore.

I don't wanna be an anyone anymore.

 

Quit your job at the grocery store!

Quit your job, you don't want it no more.

Something better, something better for sure,

Stop putting fruit in bags!

 

I don't wanna have to punch the clock for the man.

I don't wanna have to wear a smile cause I can.

I don't wanna have to go to work anymore.

I don't wanna be an anyone anymore.

 

What's a dream, anyway?

What's it matter, anyway?

I could spend my days doing nothing much at all!

I've got freedom, I've got love,

I've got blue skies up above,

But it's not enough, no it's not enough,

And enough is enough is enough...

 

Quit your job at the grocery store!

Quit your job, you don't want it no more.

Something better, something better for sure,

Stop putting fruit in bags!

Happy Mother's Day, Here's a Song About My Miscarriage

Mother's Day can be complicated. It may have started out as a Hallmark holiday designed by a massive corporation to sell more greeting cards (more on my capitalist patriarchal conspiracy theories later), but now this holiday has come to mean something special to a lot of people. That feels important. However, for those of us who have struggled with motherhood in one way or another, this Sunday in May can be painful and grievous, and also bittersweet.

In June of 2007, I had a miscarriage. I learned I was pregnant as it was happening. I was 24 years old. I was on the pill and took it every day, actively trying to prevent pregnancy. I was at most 4-6 weeks along. My boyfriend at the time and I lived five hours apart from one another for one half the year and an ocean apart the other half. It was a total shock.

At the time, I wasn't really capable of registering the depth of what had happened. Thankfully, my miscarriage took place while I was amongst friends who took good care of me, one of whom who had had a similar experience. She told me what had happened to her and gently coached me through how to take care of myself. I called my boyfriend to tell him the news and he immediately bought me a bus ticket to come see him so we could process it together. I don't remember crying much, but I do remember feeling numb, confused, and also relieved. 

On one hand, this thing was tragic. It was terribly scary. A life had been lost. But it was barely a life, and I couldn't understand how one could lose something that was unwanted in the first place. The guilt of hosting a child that I didn't want overtook me, especially since so many try to become pregnant and can't. That emotion was followed by a lot of shame that my body couldn't hold this child even if I'd wanted it to. I felt broken, unable to do my job as a woman.

On the other hand, I was overcome with relief. I was so grateful that the baby hadn't gestated any longer and that the experience had not been physically painful. Most of all, I was so glad that I wasn't pregnant. I did not want to become a mother then, and eleven years later I'm still on the fence about it. I am beyond grateful that I don't have a ten-year old child. My life is full to the brim with creative, fun, and wonderful things... projects, adventures, intimacies. Of course many mothers have those gifts as well, and in fact some of my heroes are creative people who take their motherhood with them along those huge, wild journeys. Motherhood is not the end of a woman's creativity. But there's a freedom I feel from being no one's mother that I do not take for granted. I feel complete. 

In 2015 I broke open and was able to start unpacking my emotions around this experience in a new way. This song, Primate, was a huge part of that process. Like my miscarriage, Primate also took me over by way of unintentional gestation. It flowed out of me, fully formed but underdeveloped, at a time when I was learning that my former boyfriends were starting to have kids of their own, on purpose, just as my marraige had ended. The jealousy, confusion, grief, and freedom I was finally able to express were indescribable in words, but this song sums it up well.

This version of Primate is, like my child, unfinished. After a long stretch of debating how and whether or not to release this song in its pre-natal form, I decided, like my child, to set it free. It's a gift from me to you, on Mother's Day. Primate is especially dedicated to those of us who have lost their children or their mothers in one form or another; physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. It's okay that it hurts. 


Music generously and beautifully produced by multi-instrumentalist Nick Phaneuf

Lyrics and more info on Primate at my Bandcamp site, here

This song is free to download when you sign up for my email list, or you can donate a little if you like.