I keep finding reminders of the life I’ve left behind.
As my time living in Seattle draws to a close I keep finding things to stumble upon.
My house is on the market at an asking price that will put me at break even after the nearly $20,000 in agent commissions and fees; I’m trying not to bite my nails. Worst case scenario will leave me financing an RV at 1/6 of the cost of my mortgage. Which, when I consider that it gives me a place to live and the mobility I need to continue to play music around the country with significantly reduced expenses, isn’t worst case at all.
I’m renting a room in Greenwood (North Seattle to those not down with the local lingo) for the first week my house is on the market. My next door neighbor has sent text messages while I’ve been away that basically say, “There are strangers in your house right now and I don’t like it.” After seven years of sharing a wall, he doesn’t want me to move and seeing my house turned into an exhibit hall is probably just as hard on him as it has been on me. I have found myself over the past several days thinking, “I just want to go home,” and finding myself in tears because that home is out of reach and will soon be disappearing. It doesn’t feel easy but it feels necessary.
The dogs are with me on this little adventure. The disappearance of the dog door has been an inconvenience and has caused me to be hyper aware of their needs. My host doesn’t have dogs but he had a moment with Slinky Sunday morning when he picked him up and held him to his chest. “I can feel him healing me,” he said.
“Are you sick?” I asked.
He looked up surprised, “No I just think I’m tired and overworked.”
Never underestimate the power of the snuggle of a dachshund.
I found out that my host was working on something for a conference. He’s a data scientist so he’s looking for patterns in data and analyzing trends; establishing formulas and algorithms that can explain this to the layman and show the patterns easily on a report. I used to work a lot with data in different fields like litigation and advertising so I asked him if he was using SQL or R. A startled look from him and the response, “I use R. That’s refreshing… nobody usually knows what that is.” Although he spends his time researching and thinking towards resolving issues with diseases in third world countries, so not quite the same as lawsuits and consumerism.
I miss talking tech. I miss solving problems and getting excited about those eureka moments after chewing on a string of numbers or steps for several weeks. I miss having something tangible to show someone and say, “I made this. I solved this puzzle. I have these beautiful concepts spilling from my brain in a simple explanation.” So much of what we peddle these days are ideas, hopes, dreams, and concepts in yes or no on a computer screen.
Working as a musician to make something tangible, I am realizing this is an interesting time to decide to make that my full time career. It’s unstable, challenging, and there is rarely a product to actually sell. Some people might say, what about a CD? The truth is that no one buys CDs any more. It’s often taken as a symbol to buy a CD to support an artist, but how many people who buy CDs actually open them up and listen when they get home. Nearly anyone under the age of 25 these days doesn’t buy CDs. iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and any other digital service is the convenient way to go as a consumer. It’s not the way to go to support the artist financially.
So the truth about professional musicians is that it is no longer an industry of product. It is now a service industry. You have to put on a great show. Put on that smile, nail those harmonies, wear that tight shirt, and wrap everyone in your magic from that stage or that street corner.
Musicians rely on patrons. The people that recognize the music for the magic that it is and want to support the artist. The majority of my earnings over this last year have been more from tips or house pay from a venue than they have been from selling any merchandise. (I know because I happen to like analyzing data.)
I was telling a musician friend of mine earlier that it was possible to make nearly $50 in an hour an a half at a farmer’s market in tips. It was a matter of talking to the passers by and engaging the kids to dance and sing.
“You weren’t by yourself though, were you?” he asked.
“Is there something about being a duo?” I countered.
“I have a theory about talent versus novelty,” he replied. “The most talented guitar player might get ignored because there is someone down the street playing a didgeridoo. It’s about having a schtick.”
I laughed, “Oh, so now I’m a schtick!”
“A well tuned schtick,” he laughed in return.
I knew he was right. As the singing violin player, I had seen a boost in response with nearly any musician that I paired up with. Maybe the product I need to sell was me. Geli Wuerzner, at your service, sir!
It’s a non-mathematical problem, but an interesting one to solve.
I’ve made it outside of the corporate world for a year now and I’m working out how to live the life that makes me shine and causes people to say, “You look amazing” or “I wish I could do that.”
I still have variables to fill in, like the house sale.
Even as I sit in the bed I will sleep in for the night my phone sends me the notification of the “last bus home.” The data collected and trying to fill in the blanks. I suppose I’m not typical in this regard. I may not always be predictable. Oh, Google, thank you, but I am home.
This is the everyday.
I may not know where I’ll take my next shower or where I will lay my head to rest come the evening time. Even with the reminders of the life I have left behind, I will be fine. I may be rootless but every day I will find my way home.