Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Good-byes

I am feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the good-byes. When I decided to move, not only did I not fully realize just how much I love San Francisco, but I also didn't realize just how many people I would need to say good-bye to, just how many people would tell me they are sad I'm leaving. I have already said good-bye to many choir friends and students. Today I start training the person who will replace me in my office job. The group of twenty people I work with by day, who I assist in multiple and various ways, has become like a family to me. I have spent forty hours a week with most of them for more than three and a half years. My last day working there will be Friday. I am looking forward to moving on, but I really have come to love these people very much as individuals each in their own idiosyncratic ways. It's going to be sad to leave them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Unfinished Business

The other day as I was going through the books on my shelf to decide which I should keep and which to give away, I came across five excellent novels I started but never finished. It's quite possible I have blogged about this before, but I'm not sure, so... maybe I'm doing this again.

1. The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoevsky (on p. 372 of 615)
2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami - (on page 88 of 607)
3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke (on p. 466 of 866)
4. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry (on p. 102 of 603)
5. Bel Canto - Ann Patchett (on p. 131 of 318)

The first question I have to ask myself is, if these novels are so excellent, why didn't I ever finish them? The second question I have to ask myself is, if I hate leaving things unfinished, why did I start another book when the last one was unfinished? The answer is that for the last couple of years, I have had a really short attention span for fiction. I have plowed through numerous non-fiction books, but when it comes to fiction, I can't seem to finish anything that is more than one-hundred pages. It's not that I don't value the worth of fictional accounts, it's just that for some reason I have attention deficit disorder when I am reading them. And, I feel like I need to find a way to get over it. Would ritalin help?

Calm

Of all the things that happened today, the most interesting was when, this evening, in the middle of singing my third mass of the day, I suddenly stopped feeling tired and anxious. I'm not sure how to account for it. I realized that it would be my last time singing for this particular group of people and with this particular pianist. I was enjoying the music and feeling good about how my voice sounded, but that had been true for the other masses, too. Only, until then I had been feeling incredibly tired. If you had asked me what I wanted most in life just an hour earlier, I would have said to take about a week long nap. But, something happened. After my second mass of the day, I went to brunch with a couple of ladies in the choir and then we ended up going on a very long scenic drive. By the time we were back near the church, it was only about two hours before I had to be back for the next mass, so I opted to stay in the neighborhood instead of going home. I went into a record store and browsed around and then I did the same at a book store. And, then I went to an art supply store and bought a journal and a nice pen and went to a coffee shop. I ordered a bagel and coffee and sat there and wrote for a while until it was time for the next mass. I was still pretty tired when the mass began, but at some point in the middle I felt some relief, and when the mass ended I felt a sort of ease and confidence that was very unexpected. And, afterwards and even on the bus ride home, I felt unusually relaxed.

I expect the week ahead to be somewhat hectic. It's my last week at my office. I'll be finishing up loose ends and training my replacement. I will have my last teaching day at one school branch on Monday evening and my last teaching day at another school branch on Thursday evening. My landlord will be showing my apartment for the first time on Saturday, so I will also need to find some time to make things clean and presentable before then.

I really have no reason to feel calm. But, I'll take it when it comes.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pioneering

The comedian Louis CK does a hilarious bit about people getting impatient with technology. He makes fun of people who can't wait fifteen seconds for their computer to get a signal from space (!!) when in the "old days" we used to get by just fine with rotary phones and typewriters. My favorite part is when he talks about airplane travel:

"New York to California in five hours? That used to take thirty years. A bunch of you would die on the way there. People would have babies. You'd be a totally different group of people by the time you got there!"

As I was thinking about the details of my upcoming car trip from San Francisco to Syracuse, I was reminded of Louis CK's bit and then started thinking about some of the first American pioneers and what inspired them to risk so much. I thought of some of the pioneers who came to California during the Gold Rush. The cross country journey didn't take thirty years, but it did take many months and people faced much hardship along the way. I can't even imagine setting off in a covered wagon for parts unknown, knowing that I literally might never return again to the place I set off from. I wonder how many of them thought they were in for an amazingly wonderful adventure at the offset only to later realize how difficult the journey was becoming on their bodies and souls. I wonder how many of them turned back. And, I wonder how many of them with doubts kept going out of stubbornness only to discover how difficult it was to make a new home and how difficult the process of panning for gold really was and how much less of a fortune they were really able to make than they had hoped for. I wonder how many of them were filled with regret when they realized they would never again see some of their beloved family members and friends*.

These days we have detailed terrain maps that are accessible in seconds via the internet. If traveling by car, we can plug our cellular phones into USB ports on the dashboard and receive satellite updates to indicate our precise location. If we get lost, we can adjust our coordinates into Google maps and immediately a new route suggestion will appear. We have air conditioning in the car to regulate our body temperature and containers that can keep food and water cooled and preserved for weeks. We have radio to keep us company or we can listen to music or audio books on CD or mp3. Traveling by day only, the trip from California to New York will take about six days. But, if a person was young and energetic enough, s/he could probably do it in less. You probably wouldn't want to make the trip in a car more than a few times in your lifetime, but it is definitely possible. Alternatively, you could fly in only a matter of hours or take a bus or train if you didn't want to be the one at the wheel.

Still, I feel a bit like a pioneer. In a strange way I'm kind of proud of myself for deciding to move to the other side of the country and figuring out a way to earn a living. And, for figuring out a way to make things work when things didn't go exactly as I had planned. This journey has been much more difficult in some ways than I had ever imagined. I admit I'm pretty exhausted, but I have no regrets. And, when I look at what some of the early pioneers risked and lost, I realize just how lucky I am.

*Poor Clementine...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pomp and Circumstance

When I leave California next month, I will have lived here just six weeks short of four years. The therapist I used to see told me San Francisco is full of transients. People come here to find themselves and I think I, too, have learned a great deal about myself since I have lived here. In a way it feels sort of like I'm graduating. Maybe it's just because of the four year mark, but I feel like I've been granted with some sort of cosmic blessing to go on to the next phase of my life.

Over the last week I spent a fair amount of time feeling scared about leaving because I love this place and the people here so much. But, then I started recounting the year and the events that led up to my decision to leave. And, now I am back to feeling like I'm doing the right thing.

And, I'm still enjoying every minute that I'm here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bearsy

Back in 2001, I took in a kitty cat who was living under my house at the time. But, the next Fall I decided to go to grad school in Boston and there was just no way I could take three cats to live in a tiny room in a new city. I asked my Mom, who had never had a cat, if she would consider looking after him for a while. She agreed and since then they have become the best of friends, and she has been such a wonderful caregiver for him. In the last couple of months he has become quite ill. He had to have one of his kidneys removed and now the other is not working so well. You may remember another time two years ago when he was ill and pulled through. His veterinarian says he is unlike any cat she has ever seen. He has fought his way through the greatest obstacles and come through miraculously. He is nothing less than a superhero cat in my eyes. And, he's the sweetest little brown kitty you've ever seen. We don't know how much longer he's got, but we love him.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Fog Lifts

This morning when I left my apartment I noticed it was about thirty degrees cooler than it had been when I last was out yesterday. The wind was blowing little droplets into my face. Looking up I could see that fog was obscuring the top ten stories of a high rise three blocks away. As I rounded the corner and walked down the hill towards the coffee shop, I couldn't help thinking that today was going to be a very different day than yesterday had been. Yesterday was so warm and sunny. But, in the last hour and a half, the fog has totally lifted and as I sip my coffee I can see a blue sky and plenty of sunshine out the window.

I'm still feeling like I don't want to leave. But, I will be living here for thirty-three more days. I think the only true remedy for my predicament is to make the absolute most I can of these last thirty-three days.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

California

So, since I wrote last I have fallen in love with California even more and now I don't ever want to leave. I've been taking pictures every day, seeing new parts of town, spending time with people who I don't normally get to spend time with, and saying goodbye to students, co-workers, and other friends left and right. On Sunday, My friend LKA invited me to hang out with her in Oakland. I have had a number of people tell me that Oakland is awesome and I have considered moving there before for financial reasons, but every time I have been there before this time, it seemed really commercial and dirty. I didn't really see what the appeal was. It turns out, I just hadn't been to the right part. We took a walk around Lake Merritt, which was beautiful. It was a gorgeous day, we walked on a really nice dirt path, there were lots of people out walking, biking, and jogging, there were lots of geese and every other person had a cute dog, a man was commandeering a gondola on the water, there was a neat children's play area, and there were some really lovely buildings to see all around on the outside. After walking, we grabbed some food from Trader Joe's, ate it outside by some palm trees, and then went to a beautiful old theatre to watch the movie *Bridesmaids*, which was really funny. And, this morning, I don't know if it's just the coffee mingling with my brain cells, but I love this coffee shop I'm sitting in. It's right around the corner from my apartment and I'm sitting in a far corner so I can see everything going on outside on the street and inside the cafe. There is so much activity: people on their way to work, students off to summer school, mechanics from the local garage, retirees, waste management guys taking a break, etc. Haha... and the song playing on the radio is "Boston" by Augustana. That's really funny! In case you don't know it, the lyrics to the chorus are:

She said I think I'll go to Boston
Think I'll start a new life
I think I'll start it over
Where no one knows my name
I'll get out of California
I'm tired of the weather
Think I'll get a lover
And fly him out to Spain
I think I'll go to Boston
I think that I'm just tired
I think I need a new town
To leave this all behind
I think I need a sunrise
I'm tired of Sunset
I hear it's nice in the summer
Some snow would be nice
Oh yeah

We've had real summer weather for the last 3 days, so I can't say I'm tired of the weather at all right at the moment, but I do relate to the song in the sense that it has been very cold for most of the last month and I do miss the seasons, especially in the Fall. But, today is perfect and I have really been appreciating everything about where I am for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes it takes leaving to realize how wonderful things are just where you are. But, of course, the reason things are so wonderful is because I'm leaving, isn't it?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Route!

I'm happy to say I've finally decided on a route for my trip across the country. I want to see as much of the west as I can while I'm out here, but it's definitely not possible to see everything on one trip. So, I'm going to do a short trip to see the Grand Canyon on my own and then for the cross country trip with my friend LP on board, we will be going via Portland, Seattle, Billings, and Minneapolis! I have always wanted to see Oregon and Washington and so has LP, and it's been ages since I've been to Minneapolis, so we thought, why not?! That means we will also be driving through Madison! It's going to be a short stop, but I'm hoping to at least have coffee with a certain SG! As each detail solidifies, I am feeling more and more relieved.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Random Stuff

So, I'm trying to blog more regularly to help me through this next transition phase of my life, but I don't feel like I have much of anything interesting to say. Still, here's what's going on...

I've been helping my boss at my office job find a replacement for me. We've interviewed four candidates so far out of ~135 applicants. Holy crap.

One of my San Franciscan students moved to New Zealand and I have continued to give her voice lessons via Skype at her request because she will be auditioning for music school in mid-July. At this point we are doing two lessons a week. It has taken a lot of experimentation to improve the Skype connection and it's still not ideal. I'm feeling pretty stressed out about that. I hope I am able to help her get to the place she needs to be.

The professional choir I've been singing with regularly is singing for a national choir conference here this afternoon. I have a crazy solo in one of the pieces we're singing. I hope I sing it well.

I am doing a benefit concert for the same choir tomorrow afternoon for a bunch of our donors and will be singing three of Copland's Emily Dickinson songs.

Also, tomorrow, I've been advised to wear red to church for Pentecost. Honestly, I have never understood what Pentecost was all about.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Quote of the Day

“It's not knowing what to do, it's doing what you know.”
- Anthony Robbins

SF in June

It's a typical June morning in San Francisco, cloudy and 54 degrees. We're expecting a high of 63. I'm sitting here in my neighborhood's local coffee house in jeans and a cable knit sweater. I have to admit there is something sort of romantic about living in a place where it is eternally Fall. Of course, it is also never Fall... I mean, the leaves don't really turn color in my neighborhood and there are flowers outside all year round. I'm in another world than the one I grew up in and I'm going to enjoy it as long as I'm here. For some reason I'm feeling really optimistic this morning. I think I'll go with it. It's Friday!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Can't Take the Heat

This morning in San Francisco, it is 51 degrees. The high temperature today is supposed to be 65. Tomorrow the high temperature is expected to be 61. Year round, the temperature is normally in the 50s and 60s. In the winter, it does sometimes dip into the 40s, and at isolated other times in the year, it does sometimes get up into the 70s. But, the norm is the weather we are currently experiencing. I have just read about the heat spell on the east coast resulting in temperatures of 90/100 degrees. It's not like I haven't been through that kind of heat before, but I didn't like it. I am miserable in severe heat. Right now I am really, really glad to be where I am.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Time

I'm having one of those weeks that has been fairly typical in my life lately in which I am pretty much working all of the time and not doing anything to relax. Let me be more specific. I had one day off recently on which I didn't have any obligations (Memorial Day). I spent the entire day (14 hours of it) sorting through bags of papers that have accumulated in my life over the last several years. I'm really glad that I finally took the time to do that, because I really need to be sorting through and getting rid of things before I move, but obviously it wasn't very relaxing... The last whole day off I had before that was January 19th (MLK day). I've been working my full-time office job every week day, teaching students on Monday and Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoon (and extra make-up lessons when I have rehearsals that conflict with regularly scheduled lessons), in choir rehearsal on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, cantoring on Sundays, and singing concerts, like this past weekend's two concert set in Palo Alto on Saturday and Sunday evening. I enjoy the work I'm doing, but it's not really possible for me to be working this schedule, having multiple deep conversations a day about why I'm leaving town, keeping up with my laundry and other personal needs, and also doing major planning for the move and thinking about the future and not feel like I'm going totally bonkers. I don't have any immediate plans to go hiking or out for drinks with friends or see a movie or anything else relaxing or fun. I think I need to work on that. And yet, I really need to do my laundry... And, sort through my music books... And, ...

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Identity

I've been reading an interesting book called *Switch* on and off over the last year, part of which was required reading for my office job. It's written for business people, but the concepts in it can easily be applied to all aspects of life. I picked it up the other day after a long hiatus from reading and read a chapter about changing how workers see their identity (by changing their job title, for example) in order to change how productive and effective they are in their jobs. The thought is that if a person is an inventor and trying to make a decision, part of the subconscious decision process involves asking oneself, "What would inventor do in this situation?" One example in the book describes a steel manufacturing company that wanted to become more innovative and decided to change all of its employees' job titles to "inventor" (from some generic title, I guess) and the positive results that followed.

As an individual, to take this one step further, if you are trying to decide if the identity you are operating out of is the right one for you, you might ask yourself, "Do I aspire to be someone who...?" Here's a random example. You're at the store and you are trying to decide whether you should spend your money on fresh fruits and vegetables or ice cream and candy bars. If you identify as a person who is very health conscious, this is most likely a no-brainer. Because you identify as a health nut, you probably aspire to be someone who spends your money on fruits and vegetables and not candy bars. If you are someone who identifies as a person who lives in the moment for pleasure, you might choose the ice cream and candy bars. But, if you identify as someone who feels like having a healthy body is pleasurable and allows you to have more fun in the moment, you might choose the fresh fruits and vegetables. There are many ways to spin this.

I think this could be particularly helpful in trying to make difficult decisions. Let's say you were offered a gig performing in Spain for six months, but you know that you won't be able to afford to travel back to the US and visit family at all during that time period. Thinking about different ways to see your identity, you could theoretically put on different hats that represent different aspects of your personality (similar to the *Six Thinking Hats* decision making tool). For example, "What would a daughter do in this situation?", "What would a budding professional musician do in this situation?", "What would a person who longs to be well-traveled do in this situation?", etc.

Another interesting, but unrelated, exercise could be to make a list that describes a number of people you know:

- works 40 hours a week sitting at a desk
- can never drink coffee or alcohol or stay out late to protect her voice
- wakes up every morning to her loving husband and two beautiful children
- has to be at school at 7:00am every week day
- travels to Europe every year
- can see a mountain range from her bedroom window

Then, precede each entry with, "I aspire to be a person who..." and see if you agree or disagree.

**ADDENDUM: After looking at Susan's blog, I have a new idea for how I could use this identity idea. I have *always* thought of myself as someone who does not have a green thumb, and yet, I love plants! Perhaps I need to start thinking of myself as someone who has a green thumb! If I were to think to myself, "What would someone with a green thumb do in this situation?" I might have better luck with plants! :-) I am always in awe of Susan's garden!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

News

A couple of weeks ago I made the official decision to move back east. I had been thinking about it for quite a long while, but since it's not like any ordinary move, the logistics required some intense thought. Also, there is SO much I love about California, the landscape, the climate, my friends here, my work here, that I wasn't able to justify moving until life seemed to require it.

Things are gradually falling into place. I've given notice to my office, the church where I sing, the music school and students I teach, and my singing colleagues. My dearest friend from college has offered to fly out here and drive with me across the country. For that, I am so grateful. I have purchased her plane ticket and am currently working out the logistics for car travel the week of July 25th.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning with an intense feeling of dread, like "What have I done?" Other times, I feel excited at the thought of reconnecting with old friends on the east coast and being closer to my parents. The reality of the cost of this trip and of the volume of personal items that I will need to get rid of is a bit overwhelming. The main difference between this trip and the trip I took out here is that I had a car on the way out. That car has since bit the dust. So, I will be renting a car. Also, I didn't have any cats in the car on my way. Otherwise, I only took here what I could fit in one car load, so I expect that after selling off my furniture and shipping boxes of books via mail, I should be able to pare down my belongings quite a bit. That's what I'm hoping anyway.

I've always been a person who thought life should be lived for the experience. When I was younger, as long as I could afford to do something, I would have done it if that's what I wanted to do. As I get older, I realize that I don't have as much energy as I used to, and I am more set in my ways than ever. Sometimes it's good to think of how I might feel different if I were 20. There is still much more life to experience. There are many more places to go. And, when I come back to visit California, I won't be working all day, so I can spend my time visiting the people I love and going to the places that fill me with joy.