How to Do What You Love

Edouard_Manet,_A_Bar_at_the_Folies-Bergère
Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.                                                                                                           Henry David Thoreau

In a box somewhere I have a list I wrote at age thirteen of ways to make money. If memory serves, it included crafts I could make and sell, chores for which I could possibly get paid and babysitting for my neighbors. Babysitting’s the only one that provided any significant stream of income. In high school and beyond, I worked as a lifeguard, caterer, house painter and substitute teacher. But most of my adult life I’ve earned my living with some combination of teaching and waiting tables.

In the ‘90s I discovered the profession of teaching artist—someone who implements long-term residencies and short-term workshops in their art form in schools, jails, community centers and hospitals—and I’ve been doing it ever since. Last year I did residencies in Chicago, Evanston and Independence, Kansas, designed and led a handful of professional development workshops for teachers, directed the Chicago Public Schools All-City Theatre Ensemble and wrote educational materials for Lyric Opera Chicago’s student and general audiences. I also waited tables at two different restaurants. I got fired from the first by a sketchy owner, which led to an anxiety-ridden, touch-and-go September: no teaching work and no restaurant to fall back on. I’m still feeling the effects of a month of no income, though I did find another job—at a place where I work longer hours for less money. The whole thing left me demoralized and a teensy bit frantic—and wondering for the millionth time why I’m still waiting tables. Continue reading How to Do What You Love

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In between

four moonIt began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.                                      
                                                                           — Diane Ackerman

I’m waiting tables again. This past fall, a couple gaps in my teaching schedule left funds a little thin, so I picked up a couple nights a week at a place not far from home. Waiting tables has always been something I’ve done between other jobs, between teaching and writing and life. Often, the restaurants where I’ve worked have been staffed by artists and students and immigrants – people on their way to doing other things, people working two jobs or three to support families, put themselves through school, pursue creative projects, people between countries, languages and cultures. On top of all of those betweens, there’s the contrast between the staff racing around, keeping tabs on tables and drinks and entrees and the customers at rest, eating and drinking, catching up with friends.

Waiting tables makes me think about these collisions, these betweens. It also makes me want to go have a drink after work. So, the other night, somewhere between one day and the next, I was sitting at a bar with a couple new friends from the restaurant. Continue reading In between