This weekend I had the pleasure of attending Gather at the River, a two-day choral conference put together by the New Hampshire and Vermont chapters of the ACDA. It was held at Dartmouth College, in the lovely little town of Hanover, NH. You can visit the link above to see the rundown of the things we did during those two days, but it was basically workshops, learning, and singing with dozens of choral directors and choir members from VT, NH, and MA. Friday night there was a more formal concert where three groups (including the Concord Chorale, my current musical family) performed for the public. On Saturday evening, we held an informal concert where we performed for each other to showcase the pieces we had learned over two days in three small chamber groups, as well as the whole group performance of the Duruflé Requiem under our guest conductor, Dr. Joe Miller of Westminster Choir College. It was an overall wonderful, enlightening experience.
During his keynote speech at the start of the conference, Dr. Miller talked about how his love of music and choral singing developed in a non-musical football family. Now that he's teaching at the Westminster Choir College, he said someone once asked if it was his dream job, and his response was, "I didn't know to dream this."
I didn't know to dream this.
Those words stuck with me. I find myself feeling similarly about certain things in my own life at times. I'm the type of person who likes to daydream about the best outcomes while acknowledging the possibility for the worst and knowing the reality will fall somewhere along that infinite spectrum. I generally try not to have too many big expectations about things. I go with the flow. And the result has been that sometimes the best outcomes are things I hadn't even imagined on the spectrum of possibility.
In high school. I attended a young writer's workshop for a few weeks one summer. The feeling of being among other young writers who loved this thing that I also loved, and who enjoyed learning and practicing and sharing our craft together the way we did there, had been something that, before I experienced it, I wouldn't have imagined possible. The same thing happened with this choral conference. I had never been to anything like it, and it exceeded what I could have hoped for. I had that same feeling of being a big old nerd finding the mother ship of other music nerds who just really love music and singing and learning about both of those. In a few short weeks I'll be attending the Romance Writers of America annual conference, and while I'm trying to do the whole "no expectations" thing, it won't surprise me to be overcome by the same sense of nerdy joy when I find myself surrounded by hundreds of other writers who want to geek out over writing and the same things that I love.
Going back to the idea of a dream job or profession, where I am right now in life is also a place I wouldn't have thought to dream. Nailing down what I "want to be" into a clear path and career goal was always something that filled me with dread and uncertainty. I just didn't know. I still don't know. I knew that I loved a lot of different things in different ways. I was lucky to find a college major at a school where I could combine a lot of different passions into one thing. But, as you can probably guess, that didn't translate to a clear, successful career path once I graduated. (Don't get me wrong, I don't regret my major or my degree one little bit. I loved every minute of my experience. It made me happy.) After fumbling around in retail for eight years trying to find the right company, the right position, the right place where I fit and could use my skills and love of fashion and do something I enjoyed without coming to hate it after a a year or two, I quit. I gave it up and turned toward some of the other interests I had. It was clear that this one passion wasn't enough to fulfill me.
If you had asked me at any point in my life, even right up until the start of this year, if I thought I could be happy doing three different jobs at once, I probably would've told you that that sounded miserable. And on the surface, plenty of people might agree that working three jobs is just nuts. But it's where I am, and I love it.
Earlier this year I started working as a speech and language annotator. It can feel a bit tedious at times because it's a lot of staring at the computer screen and clicking the mouse, but there's something about it that satisfies my love of language and the analytical part of my brain. I never even knew such a position existed until I was approached by a recruiter who found me based on my freelance transcription business.
I'm an author. I write and publish novels and short stories featuring the drama, humor, sexiness, heartbreak, and joy of relationships. I've also written some erotic scripts for a startup company bringing innovation to erotica.
My third job is my newest, and it's as a freelance copyeditor at Mistress Editing. After writing the romance and the sex and all that awesome stuff in my own stories and having friends ask me for help with theirs over the years, this seemed like the logical next step.
These three things together are how I'm currently making my living, and having a blast doing it. I now have the time to commit to rehearsals and performances with a community choir, which I wasn't able to do when I was working retail. I still love fashion, but my retail career made me miserable. Maybe sometime soon I'll be able to make the time and the space to do some fashion design sketches or start sewing at home again, for the love of it. Fashion, music, and writing. My three biggest passions. I never thought they could all coexist in my life and that I could also have a satisfying job(s) that paid actual money.
I guess my overall point is this: Dream your dreams, but keep your eyes open. Don't let expectations or even dreams blind you to potential opportunities that may just having you saying I didn't know to dream this.