Monday, August 8, 2011

Folk Music - The Anti-Career

OK... I'm continuing my little series on How I Escaped from the Rat Race (or more accurately, how I never got in). To read the series from the beginning, click here.

So after I had my little nervous hoe down in college (it's like a nervous breakdown, only smaller and with comic overtones) I decided that there was no way in hell (or any other fictional location for that matter) that I was gonna go out and get a "real job."

But, sometime during my senior year in college there was a mandatory career day. We all had to trot down to the career center and fill out a bunch of forms about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I had firmly decided by this point that "growing up" was not on my agenda, but they wouldn't let me graduate and get the hell out of there unless I went, so I went.

I dutifully sat through the presentations by alumni and alumnae in a plethora of professions, learned about all of the available internships in "the city" (because from the New Yorker perspective there is only one city) and plowed my way through the paperwork. Actually, doing the paperwork didn't take that long. There were sections for those who wanted to sign up for a life in banking, marketing, sales, management, bla, bla, bla, bla...

Then there was a little box at the end that said "other" and had a blank where you were supposed to fill in your career of choice. Finally! A box for the rest of us! So I happily checked the box and filled in the blank with "folk music."

I took my pile of paperwork (which really didn't have much written on it except for the "other" box and the "folk music" thing) up to the front of the room and handed it to the career counselor. She looked at my papers... looked at me... looked at the papers again, and finally asked, "Is this a joke?"

"No," I replied.

"Well, we can't help you with that" she said with an expression of bewilderment.

"I know" I answered. "Will you sign my form now so I can go?"

She wasn't happy about it, but she did sign my form and I got to graduate.

I sort of had a fantasy that I would travel around the country living out of my car and support myself as a singer-songwriter. But my first stop was to come back to Denver to re-connect with both my roots and my father.

As the reality of feeding myself started to sink in, I decided that perhaps I should settle in for 6 months or so, save up some money, record a better demo, and just generally get my ducks in a row. So I decided I should look for a part time job. I scoured the help wanted ads, but egads, everything just looked so darned "jobby."

I had pretty much decided that I was gonna take a position canvassing for PIRG (an environmental group) because it was really just about all I could stomach. But then one afternoon I was thumbing through a brochure that I had picked up at a local guitar shop. I wasn't quite sure what the organization was all about, but as I leafed through the pages, suddenly... there, tucked away on one of the back pages was a tiny ad. It read:

"Do you want a career in folk music?"

Really!?! Seriously!?! I mean... talk about fate! It was as if the gods had received my career day paperwork, reached down from the heavens and offered up this most unexpected gesture! "Yes, yes, yes!" I practically shouted it out loud!

The thing was, the ad said that resumes were due at 4pm that very day... and it was currently 3:45. Oh NOOOO... Finally my destiny had presented itself, but lo it was dangling just out of reach. What was I to do?

In a panic I picked up the phone and called the number on the ad. I really had no idea what the job was, but I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by. I hastily and apologetically explained my situation in a somewhat frenetic attempt at professionalism. Please, please, please would they accept my application even if it was 15-20 minutes late?

"Uh... sure, come on over" the voice on the other end of the line said.

I quickly changed into my best hippie chick/folk music/professional wear, jumped in the car and tore across town. I walked in the front door, feigning calmness and handed the woman behind the desk my resume.

"Oh... um... he's in the back... can you wait a minute?"

I nervously sat down on the bench in the waiting area. The building was tiny... only about 2000 square feet. There were people milling about with dulcimers, guitars and banjos.

Then a guy wearing a black beret appeared and ushered me into a back room. Holy Moly! An interview? I wasn't prepared for this!

He glanced at my resume... asked me a few questions and said. "Well, it's $5 an hour salaried at 20 hours a week."

"Salaried?" I asked, "What does that mean?"

"Well, basically it means you'll have to work a lot more than 20 hours, but we can only pay you for 20."

Just then the door opened and a group of people burst in carrying fiddles. "Oh geez! Is it 6 o'clock already?" he exclaimed. "Hey" he said turning to me "Can you help me move this table out of the way, the Western Swing class is about to start."

I didn't know it then, but my anti-career had just begun.

For the next post in this series, click here.


  1. Salaried (aka code for unwilling/unable-to-pay decent wages)

    I am picturing the woman's expression as you turned in your forms. I love that.

  2. Isn't it great that we have different interests, talents, paths?! Makes life fun, though sometimes challenging.

  3. I CANNOT wait to read how this story pans out. Eager with

    (sorry, couldn't resist)

  4. I fear this topic was supposed to be an introductory paragraph to a post on how I ended up in the world of extreme frugality, but alas, I got carried away and it got WAY to big. So Extreme Frugality will be forthcoming.

    Sam... I think I'm being dense, but I don't get it... I mean I know you're saying "anticipation" but I fear the rest of the joke is lost on me... sigh.

  5. EcoCatLady: I am a bad bad person and must be publicly flogged. I meant anticipation as a joke, but it was extra mean given your post esp. reading of Al's "dogooder"


    But, I recently gave my notice and have more or less dropped into a non-career. I'm mostly excited and happy, but also terrified - sometimes. I was sick of being exhausted and unable and unwilling to do things that give me true joy (cooking, reading, sleeping, riding my bike - a daily commute was unacceptable).

  6. Oh... I get it... like slowing the word down in anticipation?

    Hooray for your non-career move! You're at the beginning of a wonderful journey!

    1. All I should be doing is playing my guitar, sculpting and hanging our with my cats and hedgehogs. what am I doing wrong?!

  7. Oh wait wait... "Anticipation" as in the song "Anticipation"?

    Anticipay-ay-ay-shun is makin' me wait... keepin' me way-ay-ay-ay-ting...


  8. Ok, I am catching up on my reading (hence the gazillion comments in one day), and this is so crazy! And hilarious. You are so damned clever.

    Dude, I just read a book called "Deep Community" about how many folks actually do have (small, but doable) careers in folk music! I can't wait to hear more about this.

  9. CF - OOOOH That sounds like a book I must read. Unfortunately I have yet to crack open Married to Bhutan yet so I fear it will have to wait... But soon...

  10. SNORT!! :D

    "...but egads, everything just looked so darned "jobby.""

    ANYTHING but the dreaded J.O.B.!!!!

    1. CatMan always says that there are two things that will ruin your life: work and school. I think he's on to something!


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