dr. who?

The other day I popped into Whole Foods to get some guacamole (their guac is really good), and in the checkout line I noticed the cashier had written "Dr." in front of her name on her name tag. "Dr. ___?" I asked. "Yeah," she sighed, "I have a PhD." I pressed further: "What subject?" and she sourly named an area of biology that is probably hard to find a job in. By then I had paid and someone was waiting in line behind me, so the conversation was over.

I wonder why she seemed so unhappy. Maybe she simply was having a bad day. Maybe she doesn't like chatty customers. My guess, though, is that she resents having earned her doctorate and the best job she can find is working as a cashier at Whole Foods. I wanted to tell her that in my own small way, I can relate. I know what it's like to finish a doctorate, only to find yourself out of the field with an occupation with low (or no) pay and stifling tedium. (Not that we're alone, mind you. Half the cab drivers in this town have PhDs.)

I hate to say it, but lately I feel close to giving up entirely. I had to force myself to sit down and practice this afternoon. Once I got started, I enjoyed it, but it took giving myself a little talking-to. I'm just not in that groove these days. It's frustrating that family life constantly interrupts what little work I can find. I don't miss being a student, but I've been yearning for that feeling of being surrounded by other musicians and being stimulated by their energy and ideas. Every year that goes by since Anya was born, I feel like I lose a little bit more of that. I also feel like it doesn't even matter.


Strangeite said…

It has been almost two years since I left the law firm and the hardest part has been the lack of daily interaction with colleagues. It can be very difficult but it a very subtle way that creeps up on you.

I also don't think it is always about being challenged and inspired by others. The small trivial minutia that transpire during social interactions with people that you see regularly, but aren't really friends, I have come to the conclusion is important.

I have no words of wisdom. I hope find the balance that allows you to appreciate the beauty around you.
Strangeite said…
Sorry for the typos. Hard to proofread on my phone.
Anonymous said…
In an astronomy magazine I ran across this fragment of a poem by Thomas Hood:

...No warmth,no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds--

ann said…
I want you to feel passionate and proud of yourself again. I want you to feel energized and stimulated. It matters. :-( I wonder how many people are passionate about, and energized by, their work?

(I'm sure this is a dinky link idea, but I'm saying it anyway: have you considered a community band, orchestra, or choir?)
Scott said…
Sorry things feel so blah, Susan. I'm sure you've gone at this issue many ways, but have you tried just going at a one-person project? Like, if the time to put things together and meet other musicians, and rehearse, and all that is too much, what about something like a recording? Something you could do on your own time, at your own pace, with whatever amount of dedication you have at the moment.

For me, I find that any time I feel too divorced from music, I have to remember that it's about music-making first. (I miss doing it full-time a hell of a lot... even though my situation's a little different, I feel you.) So I find things to do that are about making the best music I can as a reward in itself... it's nice to remind myself how awesome music is, apart from all the other stuff that goes around it. Anyway, just another thought to throw out there as you navigate what life's thrown at you.

Warmest wishes your way, Scott
Animal said…
Hey Suze,

If it's any consolation (in the misery-loves-company way) I'm going through my own creative doldrums. I know, I know…I already HAVE the cushy university job, so what's my beef, right? I just totally share your frustration of mindless day-to-day requirements that absolutely prevent me from doing what I *want* to do…which is write songs and compose music. To wit: I just last month finished a 3-minute song…that I'd started over 2 years ago. That's shameful, and some of it is due to my own tendency toward entertainment when I *should* be working. But, some of it is basic rustiness; I'm out of PRACTICE at doing this stuff, and just like instrumental chops can wane when not constantly challenged, so too my compositional craft.

Tess and I have been talking about an invited weekend "conference" on Mackinac Island this summer to address a lot of these issues: how to feel good about your art, how to fight through creative depression, and how to be successful as an artist. I'd like to send out a firm invite on a tentative gathering for this: it would be sometime around the weekend of May 20th (or, the weekend BEFORE Memorial Day). I'd love the opportunity to finally meet you, and having a pianist in our midst would be a plus for all the wind/string instrumentalists. Shoot me an email at "hardi1srATcmichDOTedu" to follow up.

Meantime: be well, and enjoy the family closeness of kids at Christmastime. :-)
Anonymous said…
Oh.no. As a PhD-therapist I immediately want to encourage you and begin problem-solving with you!

Our first child was born while I was working on my dissertation 21 years ago. Family won-out over stimulating career for me, too, but I felt like it was my choice.

I hope this is credible, but the investment in the lives of our children - I will never regret. As a child development specialist, I hope for you that your choice is not so completely one-sided, all or nothing for either your kids or your art.

Visiting here from my Friend, JoyMama.


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