Tag Archives: questions

Back on the bicycle.

imgresIt takes a lot of courage to walk away from a career path that you thought was going to be your life’s through-line. Most of the time it feels like breaking up with a guy (or girl) whom you’re deeply in love with, but who is not really the best thing for you. (Haven’t we all had -at least – one of those?) It takes a lot of thought and preparation, soul searching to the highest degree.

Oftentimes it seems like the easiest thing to do is to walk away.

We justify our new career by throwing ourselves whole-heartedly at it, like we did with that first artistic love. We decide, since we’ll not ever be the Second Coming of Pavarotti that singing isn’t worth it at all anymore.

This is an extreme approach, admittedly. But for some folks there’s no middle ground – you’re either doing it, or you’re pointedly not doing it. Sometimes that separation is extremely valuable – allowing a reprioritization of life goals, and an amount of  personal freedom not found in pursuing high artistic ideals.

Here’s the kicker. After a while? Most of us really miss that artistic thing…the singing, the playing with an ensemble, the creating moments in time and space that are special, distinct, that have artistic value…the collaboration…the sensation of losing ourselves in a practice room or studio for hours on end, feeling like only minutes had elapsed. As we get older, that sense of flow that seemed so easy to capture as a young artist seems more elusive.

(When I use “us,”  “we,” “you?” I really mean “me.”)

I wound up, thankfully, in a job that’s intimately involved with the performing arts. It has its positives and negatives:

  • I hear singers all year round that could clean the floor with my best past attempts.
  • I am inspired and challenged as a listener.
  • I have colleagues who also have strong performance backgrounds – dancers, instrumentalists, actors, singers.

Sometimes those colleagues challenge me. They have a great idea for an ensemble, a send-up of a popular song, an original tune. And I am a willing volunteer to hack around in a practice rooms for HOURS on any number of projects. (I have always loved rehearsal – the exploration and growth that happens in the room is the most exciting thing IMHO.) But getting onstage? Never really an easy thing for me…not when I was singing or playing, and certainly not now when I’m so out of that routine. It’s terrifying.

But sometimes? They ask. And I bluff my way to a “sure!” And I sweat like a villain in a Bond movie.

And it actually ends up being OK. Fun, even.

Turns out that once you’ve learned to ride that bicycle? You can, in fact, still ride it years later. Maybe you can’t pop a wheelie or race anymore, but you can get from point A to point B.

(And by “you?” I mean “me.” And also, “you.”)

Thanks to KC and GB for letting me play along with this year’s Christmas tune. I had a blast!

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Profile Friday Roundup

Greetings from San Francisco! (I bet that curtain weighs hundreds of pounds...)

As I try to acclimate myself to the west coast (it’s been three days and I’m finally waking up at 5:30am, rather than 4am. Progress!), I hope you’ll skim through the profiles that we’ve featured here over the last few months.

(Listed in order of appearance.)

Mark Bradley Miller

James Lynn

Melissa Collom

Joseph Craig

Jennifer Empie

Tonya McKinny

Sean McAuliffe

Kim Pensinger Witman

Tracy Cherpeski

Vic Muenzer

Stephen Brody

Annie Burridge

Tom Wright

Peter Zimmerman

Gia-Ninh Chuang

At the very least, there are some salient points to be taken from each of these journeys. At best – and that’s personally where I think these stories and intentions belong – they’re tales of discernment and courage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gia-Ninh Chuang – From Singer-Pianist to Fitness Professional

Ok, Gia-Ninh. Let’s start at the very beginning (“…a very good place to start…” I think there might be a few musical theater asides in today’s profile. It’s just a hunch.)

Well, starting at the beginning does indeed start with a musical! The Sound of Music, to be exact. I was obsessed with that movie as a child, and went to elementary school knowing solfege! I attended a private elementary school affiliated with the Southern Baptist church in my town. My non-practicing Buddhist Mom and non-practicing Catholic father wanted me to be challenged, and even though it was a sacrifice for our family they opted out of the public school. I was a boy soprano – with super high notes – and no stage fright. I sang in the choir. I remember the first time that I realized that I enjoyed performing was during the Christmas pageant. I played the shepherd Jesse, the shepherd that was leading the 3 Wise Men to the baby Jesus.  It was the first time my entire family came to see me perform, and having that support and buy-in felt fantastic! (Full disclosure – some of my relatives didn’t really get the story… one uncle still calls me Jesse the King.) (Ed. -That will be a great WWF wrestling name someday. Keep it!)

When I reached middle school, I hit the opposite side of that fantastic performance coin:  my voice changed in the middle of a solo at the Regional Choir Concert. I pulled a total Peter Brady. It was traumatic! When the teacher suggested that I lip-sync for the rest of the school year, I was crushed and stopped singing. I had started piano lessons the year prior, and threw myself into practicing – hours a day, just because I enjoyed it so much.

When I hit high school, I got back into singing, and found a strong role model (more on her later) in my choir teacher. I accompanied people, started an a cappella group (back before Glee made it cool…we were called The Suspenders – get it??), made it into All-State. As I approached senior year and college I started thinking about being a choir teacher. I won a piano competition at the Peabody Conservatory, and it seemed like studying music was going to be my thing.

So, you went to school for music.

No.

You see, once I started preparing for scholarship competitions and such, I realized that it was going to have to be my livelihood. And that took much of the joy out of it for me. I was struggling a little bit at home, too… I was in the middle of my coming out process, and it was tough. So, I started my freshman year at the University of Maryland with a Psychology major, and a minor in Opera.

Well, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. But when did your path change?

A pal of mine from the UMD Chorale was teaching aerobics classes at the campus rec center, and pretty much dared me to take a class. It was SO MUCH FUN, and I was instantly hooked.  I thought, “Wait, I could get paid for having fun like this?” Within a month I was enrolled in instructor training.

It allowed me to perform – which was something I enjoyed immensely – but it also allowed me to communicate with people, to translate concepts in ways that they could understand and use (which used the linguistic training I learned as a music minor). Plus, I was surrounded by music – the pulse of my classes was set to music, and having a strong knowledge of musical forms allowed me to customize my spin classes and aerobic choreography in a finely-calibrated way. So I switched my major from Psychology to Kinesiology.

Cool. What happened next?

I dropped out of school.

What?

Well, I was teaching full-time, in addition to my classwork.  But my passion for teaching and helping with my students eclipsed my academic goals.  And I won this big competition – the first ever winner of the AAAI/ISMA Aerobics Star Search in 2002… think American Idol for instructors.  I also had success in fitness competitions as an athlete.  I was 23, and suddenly had all of this visibility and momentum, and I pretty much thought this was my path. Heck, I was on Oprah and ESPN in the same year – if that’s not making it, what is? I decided to stop taking classes and ride that train.

But that certain path that I thought existed: win the competitions, teach great classes, give workshops at a conference, get a sponsorship, etc… well, that momentum started to slow down.  So in 2005 I went back to school. (Stay in school, kids…stay in school.)

When I was back in school, a pal told me that Equinox – a fitness company with a reputation for being the best in the industry – was opening its first location in the DC area. (Ed. – This is where I first met Gia-Ninh…I think it was a kettlebell class? I might’ve wept from the muscle soreness two days later, but I went back for more!) She suggested that I apply for the Group Fitness Manager position there. It was a great place to be – I taught, but I also used that psychology background to support and balance the diverse personalities of my instructors; I really felt that my job was to take care of my staff, so that they could do their best job.  And it taught me some valuable lessons about putting the success of my program and my instructors above feeding my own ego. It was both instructive and humbling.

So, from a boy soprano to a successful fitness professional…what skills or habits transferred?

You know, actually quite a number! A large part of singing well has to do with small, precise muscle coordination, and in fitness, you’re coordinating larger groups of muscles. Plus, both disciplines require a strong commitment to healthy living.  Both singers and fitness professionals ask their body to perform set skills on cue to do their job. Taking care of your body is taking care of your livelihood.

I referred to my high school choir director, Dr. Barbara Baker before, but I cannot overemphasize the influence she had on me, both professionally and personally.  There are several things that she said that have stuck with me through the years, the first being this:

  • The stronger your foundation (or, in musical terms, technique), the more you’ll be able to do, especially in less-than-optimum circumstances. Nerves, illness, they’re all things that performers have to work through… the key is to be able to do so without hurting oneself. I find that this particular message transfers tidily to my work in fitness, too – the better your form and technique, the more you can do and the faster you reach your goals without injury.
  • She also taught us humility, and to realize that we were just one part of a larger whole. No FIG JAM. (Ed. – Huh?) FIG JAM stands for “[expletive] I’m Good, Just Ask Me.”  Let your work speak for itself; everyone else will figure it out.
  • I was also constantly amazed at the ways in which she could ask us/inspire up to do more than we thought we were capable. Even as a fitness professional, my approach is about asking others to stretch themselves…don’t show them what you can do, show them what THEY can do.

What advice do you have?

Be nice. I’ve always wanted to be the guy who was amazingly good at his job, but that’s not enough; I want to also be the guy that people enjoy being around and is fun to work with.  When people want to work with you, countless opportunities to collaborate, learn, and gain exposure come your way.  Now, I’ve not always been 100% successful, but it’s something that I work towards constantly.

Protect your body. Being healthy and having a strong physical foundation in your discipline, lays the groundwork for making life easier and more enjoyable.

No FIG JAM. Don’t tell me how good you are, show me. No one wants to work with people who think they’re the better than everyone else.  It’s shorthand for staying humble and always thinking about how my decisions affect the people around me AND my own reputation.

Just do it. At this point in my career, I’ve taught over 15,000 classes. I take a huge amount of pride in the quality of my teaching, and also have found a deep confidence in that amount of experience.

Gia-Ninh has recently relocated to Idaho, where he is continuing his studies and maintaining a private fitness practice. For more information on him or his services, you can find him on the web at http://kineticedgefitnessconcepts.com/Home.html

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I hate crowds.

Rather, I struggle to interface with more than one person at a time. (I was going to refine that thought to say only during professional situations – conferences, donor dinners, and the like – but when I examine it I have the same issues at a cookout or a big family dinner, too. So there you have it.)

It’s not the fact that I’m particularly shy, or that I’m afraid of new things. It’s the constant ADD of many of the situations. People! Microphone issues! Four simultaneous conversations, each with interesting words, all within 2 feet of me! Awkward small talk – let me check my phone/email/pda to extricate myself!

Yes, I’m obviously an introvert. But I love people – I would just prefer to meet and talk with them one at a time. I can get a better bead on who they are, what’s important to them, where we intersect when I can focus on just one person. (And I’d also like to think that they walk away knowing who I am in a fuller sense.)

Lifehacker posted an article by Michael Lopp a few days ago about listening, and most of the ways that we don’t do it. I am seriously as guilty as anyone of these errors – jumping in too soon, not asking enough dumb questions, letting ambiguity hang out there in the air – or worse, pushing past it.

I realize that, with pals and such, I make listening a priority…but I don’t often transition that over to my professional conversations. When I do? Those are the conversations that do indeed make me feel closer to a teammate or colleague – they do build trust.

Note to self: more eye contact, more dumb questions, less talking.

I’m all ears.

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Socrates would totally dig it.

 

I signed up for a daily email from Box of Crayons. Succinct, clean, I find them a great way to focus/aim my efforts for any given day. I kept this one, from a handful of days ago, starred in my inbox:

The most powerful coaching question in the world: “And what else?”

It not only teases out more from the person you’re coaching (the first thing they have to say is never the only thing), but it stops you from jumping in and offering solutions or advice before it’s welcome.

I have become infatuated with questions. I’m no longer so young as to feel that I have all of the answers, or so insecure that I sweat asking the wrong question… and I also no longer feel that need to fix things before I have all the information: I’m likely not the only person who has stepped in to solve a problem that wasn’t actually a problem.

I am delighted by the combination of a thoughtful question, some (direct, but not confrontational) eye contact, and silence. It’s a crucible for honest discussion.

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A Virtual Toast to Transitions.

(Does this come in an IV drip?)We hosted a small symposium this past weekend. Kim Pensinger Witman and I were fortunate enough to attend the Opera America Conference in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, and were both inspired and challenged in the seminars which we attended. But oftentimes our artists are bypassed from these larger discussions, or they’re expected to listen but not participate actively…the general directors dictate the tone and flow of the conversation. (It’s not a criticism – the GD’s are the ones who deal with those overarching principles on a daily basis…they should be the folks to initiate the discussions about strategy and the state of our art.) We wanted to give our singers an opportunity to join the conversation.

We called our two-day event Recitative: Plain Talk About Opera, recognizing that what we wanted to do wasn’t glamorous or sparkly…not aria-like in the least. We wanted to raise the questions that the singers/directors/artistic admins were pondering, but maybe hadn’t had the opportunity to discuss. And we asked a group of people who understood our demographic to help us with these discussions.

(Have I mentioned that, by and large, opera people are generous and helpful and agreeable? The colleagues who assisted with these discussions – artistic administrators and general directors and singers and conductors, from companies in our own market to Left Coast-ers, and even a representative from the Continent! –  surely were… we are indebted to them for their time, their thoughtfulness, their candor. Opera people are indeed pretty cool.)

It was a fantastic, provoking, sometimes heated two-day discussion. I was struck very early on with two observations: firstly, that there was such a passionate feeling towards both the art form and the collaborative structure of the art form. (not a surprise, certainly, but it was a wonderful realization of the intensity of feeling.) Secondly, that there were so many people who had started as singers who were now deeply involved – as artistic administrators, casting directors, general directors – in a non-performance aspect of the art. Do they contribute to the discussion as administrators? Most certainly. Do their words hold a different weight because they know firsthand what it’s like to biff a high note in public or trample over an overture in rehearsal with a respected conductor? I think that they might. They know what it feels like to perform at the top of their game. They’ve been moved by an exceptional performance, whether as an onstage colleague or an audience member. It’s invaluable information…and sure, a lot of it can be learned. But maybe not all of it.

It’s not an unusual path, for sure…transitioning from singer or actor to artistic or general director. I’m glad that there are so many people leading companies who, at one point, made the noise…stood in the spotlight…took the curtain call…and ultimately realized that they were meant to support the art form in a different way. Raising a virtual toast to transitions!

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Stephen Brody: Scheduling Solutions

Since my head is still very much wrapped around Marci Alboher’s book and the concept of “slash careers”, today’s profile is of a singer/web designer. I met Brody in a pal’s office at the University of Maryland several years ago, and he approached us a few years later with a great idea for a scheduling program that’s in beta testing now and will undoubtably make my former administrative interns weep at the thought of all of their lost hours, proofing excel spreadsheets for typos and double-bookings. Here’s his story:

Where did you go to school?
I received a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Loyola University of New Orleans and a Master of Music degree in Opera Performance from the University of Maryland Opera Studio.

Did you want always want to be an opera singer when you grew up?
I grew up wanting to work for NASA. It was my dream as a kid to become an astronaut, and as I grew older I wanted to work in design and development for NASA in Houston, TX – where I grew up.  I was accepted into the College of Engineering at Texas A&M.

Huh! How did you get to opera from there?
In February of 2003, a week after I had been accepted to A&M, my voice teacher called me and my parents into her office. She wanted me to take a year to study music and recommended a baritone named Philip Frohnmayer  who was on the faculty at Loyola University of New Orleans. I was very hesitant and uneasy about the idea – after all, I had spent my entire life wanting to study Aerospace and Mechanical engineering at Texas A&M and actually got in! Texas A&M allowed me to defer a year and my parents convinced me to head down a few weeks later to audition. I figured taking a year off to sing and live in New Orleans would be fun! A month or so later I was accepted as a Vocal Performance major and in the fall I made my way down to the Crescent City to begin my music studies.

The second defining moment came the summer between my junior and senior year in undergrad. I remember the moment precisely; I was sitting in a rehearsal for Il barbiere di Siviglia at Opera in the Ozarks in 2006. I was double cast as Basilio and we were rehearsing the Act 1 finale. I was sitting in the audience studying my score as I watched my colleagues on stage and it was at that moment, that I realized I wanted to be an opera singer for the rest of my life. I loved the rehearsal process, the people, the travel and the craziness & hard work involved in bringing a character to life.

What is your current profession?
I am an opera singer by profession and a web consultant by trade. I think a better title would be ‘operapreneur.’

How does the web consultant piece fit into your operatic path?
I have never stopped performing but over the past five years or so I have embarked on two career paths simultaneously – both dependent on each other. My web design business grew out of friends and colleagues needing websites for themselves, the luxury for me was that everywhere I performed, I was introduced to new prospective clients! Web design became the perfect opportunity for me to fund my opera career without having to get a “real job.”

It has been a very gradual process. I knew even as a student at Loyola that, if I was going to be an opera singer, I was going to need a website to market myself. I didn’t have the money for a custom site and I hated the idea of cheap “cookie cutter” websites – so I set out to build my own.  I am almost entirely self taught as a designer and developer. Everything that I have learned about web design, development and marketing has come through trial & error.

I haven’t opted out of singing, but there have been some major positives and negatives along the way. In 2010, I took most of the year off to concentrate on my finances. I had been hired by a web agency in Bethesda, MD as a web designer with a nice salary, benefits and the like. They were a fantastic company, I learned an immense amount about the web business while I was there and they even let me leave for over a month to perform with Opera Fairbanks in Alaska that summer. While I was working full time, I realized that I was not cut out for a normal 9-5 job; the creativity that I thrived on was stifled by managers and stubborn, “old-school” developers unwilling to embrace new technology and design styles. I longed for my weekly voice lessons and time spent in rehearsals. I hadn’t learned any new music (aside from Masetto for Opera Fairbanks) and found it was increasingly difficult to concentrate on musical matters. A few weeks before the New York audition season began, we decided to part ways.

But you said that you were a web consultant by trade – are you still working in tech at all?
I am! Today, I am the CEO & Co-founder of Schedule Arts LLC. Andrew Lunsford (a tenor whom I met while we were singing with Opera New Jersey) is the President & Co-founder, and together we have developed a web based production scheduling application for arts companies. Our program reduces the time and money required for an arts organization to create and distribute their daily, weekly and monthly production schedules by 50% or more. We provide sophisticated conflict detection to prevent inadvertent double bookings, individual schedules so artists and staff don’t have to search through a maze of rehearsals to figure out their schedule, online request forms to easily organize & manage releases, coachings and rehearsals, along with many more features to reduce the time and stress associated with the production schedule. And it all came out of our mutual frustration with being double-booked for coachings and staging rehearsals!

Did your musical training come in handy in managing your two (very different) career paths?
My careers as both an opera singer and web consultant go hand in hand. My ability to communicate on stage has helped me better communicate with my clients offstage. I am able to calmly work with all sorts of people and create designs that break the mold from the “classical singer” website.

Was there a certain person who directly or indirectly influenced your decision?
Laura Lee Everett has been my cornerstone these past couple of  years. From day one at the Maryland Opera Studio, she worked hard to support me on stage and off. Laura Lee has helped guide both of my careers; providing me with constant advice, testing out my ideas, keeping me focused, and introducing me to invaluable colleagues and contacts. She convinced me to exhibit as a web consultant at the Opera America Convention in 2009 which opened the door for me as an operapreneur and has been an incredible influence with Schedule Arts.

Any advice to share?
My voice teacher in undergrad, Philip Frohnmayer, gave me the best advice; he said, “Brody, the most important thing in this industry is perseverance, to continue on regardless of how hard it gets.” I have never forgotten those words. They have helped me make it through countless 100+ hour work weeks, times where I thought I wouldn’t be hired for any opera, and the hardest times when I’m torn between leaving opera behind or pushing forward. My advice is to always try everything at least once and keep pushing forward – If I hadn’t, I’d probably be back in Texas at Johnson Space Center living a “normal” life. It sounds cliche, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Sure I would like to have been more prepared for some of my rehearsals or to concentrate a little more on my opera career. My path has been a roller coaster and the random twists and turns have led me to a very bright future – I couldn’t ask for anything more!

Brody will be at the Opera America Conference in Philadelphia next week, unveiling a beta version of the Schedule Arts scheduling program. I hope you’ll join me in checking it out!

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Reading List: One Person/Multiple Careers

My friend Claire (she is my new go-to for great books – her mom is a librarian, and she’s supremely well-read.) turned me on to Marci Alboher‘s book One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success.

Now, I’m not usually a highlighter of books: when I find something interesting, I’ll either stick a piece of paper (gas receipt, junk mail, business cards…even twist-ties and rubber band serve on occasion) in the pages of a hardcover, or, if the book is mine and a paperback, I’ll dog-ear the page. (Book purists, I apologize.) So I took the book to the gym, to motor through some reading while on the elliptical.

Here’s what the poor, poor book looked like after an hour:

You can tell that I’m finding a lot of value in this particular tome. I’m tempted to just copy all of the bits and pieces that ring true to me, but we’d be here all bloomin’ day.

The most liberating takeaway is one that flies in direct opposition to what many of us have been taught: the concept that we don’t actually need to specialize for a lifetime in one discipline and ignore everything else that we enjoy in order to find success. For some people there are parallel tracks; others commit to a discipline for a number of months/years, and then either leverage that knowledge or skill set into a different career or turn that single-minded focus towards another discipline that they’re interested in. But all of the permutations are valid, and frankly very interesting. And it’s not much of a surprise to see a high number of artists and musicians’ stories represented within the pages.

There are strategies for finding your ‘slash’ (or, rather ‘slashes’ – why stop at one?), interspersed with real-life case studies of folks who have successfully explored both parallel and sequential tracks.

It’s worth the read, I promise! (And thanks, Claire, for the recommendation!)

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On smugness, searching, and self-reliance.

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There’s a lot of advice about following your dreams and loving what you do.

I think it mostly comes from an empowering place…spending 40+hours something you enjoy can only enrich your life, your relationships, right? For those of us who have lucked into/sacrificed for/found one of those jobs, it seems pretty smug to preach about the importance of adoring your professional life. I mean, who wants to spend their workweek doing something that they hate? Um, nobody. Even if the perks or money are compelling for a while, sooner or later an exit strategy is developed, a parachute is crafted, and a departure is engineered.

However, doing that thing that we love can come with some serious baggage in the form of financial hardship. Student loans, a rough (to be generous) job market…if you’re in the arts, you’ll also factor in the cost of living, which will likely be on the high side since metropolitan areas are usually the places where culture thrives. (Not always, for sure…and there’s something wonderful to be said for those communities who embrace art-makers as an integral part of their fabric.)

So, how to reconcile following the career that makes your heart sing while also being able to live? And really, to live, not just survive?

Million-dollar question, that.

I came across this quote:

…The first step is creating a foundation of self-reliance: a survival dance of integrity that allows you to be in the world in a good way—a way that is psychologically sustaining, economically adequate, socially responsible, and environmentally sound.

I think it’s absolutely true that you cannot make your best art, or your best effort, when you’re not feeling safe. There’s a reason that the trappings of security are the foundation of Maslow’s pyramid: if our basic needs aren’t met, we can’t function strongly in society…we can’t contribute creatively if we can’t feed ourselves!

But, and here’s the bigger question: Do we dive in and hope for the best? (We are artists, after all…there’s a certain amount of grace for those who make beauty for a living, I think.) Do we defer the dream for security? How do we find a balance, find that self-reliance?

There are some great stories on this site of folks who have found that balance…and they’ve done it in as many different ways as there are people profiled. If you have a similar story, I’d love to hear it- you can find me in the comments here, or at indirectroutes@gmail.com.

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Career Scaffolding

Rather than posting a personal profile this week, I’d like to direct you towards a post on Creative Infrastructure by Linda Essig, the director of ASU’s Arts Entrepreneurship Program.

(Side note – Arts Entrepreneurship? How awesome is that? While the 17-year-old-Me might’ve been all about performing, the [mumblemumble]-something Me is totally entranced by this program of study.)

She writes, in reference to a chance meeting with an arts worker in a metropolitan sushi bar:

The story of J is a good example of a person who uses his talents, skill and training in the arts to build a career, albeit not one he would have envisioned as an art student. Students enter study in the arts with many dreams and aspirations. […] If J had kept his head down, looking only toward the world of studios and gallery shows, he might not have seen the opportunities that have led to what became an enjoyable and sustainable career.

I can vouch for the undergraduate nearsightedness, and also for the value in keeping one’s eyes open to opportunities. If we think about our undergraduate (and, in some cases, advanced studies) as the scaffolding upon which we build a career, rather than the than the gun barrel through which we cast our aspirations, it free us up to look in any number of directions. Sometimes the straightest, most direct route is simply the easiest route, and not the best. Maybe we should co-opt Lysander’s words of wisdom for this little corner of the internet:

The course of true love ne’er did run smooth.

Amen…whether in love, or relationships or vocation or avocation…sometimes those crunchy places are trying to catch our attention. Listen. Look around, lean into those bumpy, rocky spaces.

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