Earn Less, Live More

When I was at basic training a year and a half ago, my flight had a lot of trouble getting along, and getting things done quickly.  The whole idea of it is pretty ridiculous, that you shove 55 girls from all over the country into small living quarters with no privacy for 9 weeks, and expect them to work together to accomplish things.  Well, we did accomplish things, by week 9!  But there were many patches along the way that were just really hard.  Many times we would have “come to Jesus” type talks where we’d all sit in the dayroom and we would talk about how to improve our teamwork skills.  (A dayroom is like a common room where we weren’t allowed to sit on the furniture.  The floors were very hard and yet, I had a few solid 20 minute naps while sitting up cross-legged pretending to study from a 400 page book we were tested on at the end of basic training.  Naps, of course, were also prohibited.)

So we had these talks that usually went nowhere, but there’s a girl I remember who used to say, “Okay.  Real talk, ladies.  Real talk.”  And she would just say what was on everyone’s mind in the simplest, most honest way possible.  It was effective and and we all listened to her.

That being said, this blog post is going to be “real talk.”  It’s about how I work part-time as a music teacher, but that it’s probably the most amazing position to have ever.    Seriously.  Not convinced?  Well, read on, my friends.

As an elementary music teacher, I teach Monday and Wednesday at one school, and Friday at another school.  So Tuesdays and Thursdays are my days “off.”  I use the word off in quotes because I do a lot of preparation for school on those days.  I have yet to have a completely free day, but it’s okay.  I’d rather be sitting at home in my sweatpants and drinking tea while writing lesson plans than at school!  Sometimes I substitute teach on those days, sometimes I don’t.  I have 4 piano students currently that I give weekly lessons to.  I have the Air Force National Guard once a month.

So it’s kind of a hodge-podge bunch of things that help me make my living, but I love it this way.  I am never bored.  I don’t earn a lot, but it’s more than enough for one person to live off of.  I am careful and I budget what I make and I usually only shop at thrift stores now, but it totally works for me.  Through the school district I work for, I even get health benefits and a 403(b) plan!  So I’m even saving small amounts for retirement doing the part-time teaching gig.  (Go Vermont education!)

I love playing my flute.  I don’t get to play as much as I want to, but I can count on the Guard once a month to allow me to focus on playing.  It’s why I joined the National Guard band in the first place, and it’s served its purpose exactly.

I love teaching private lessons.  It’s so awesome getting to work with students one on one and seeing them improve week to week and get to know them and their families well.

I love teaching in a school setting.  And with the job I have, I teach band, chorus, and general music so I get to do it all there!  I can remember thinking so many times when I was student teaching and applying for jobs that I had NO idea what specialty I wanted to teach because I liked it all.  Well, I am currently doing it all!  And have I mentioned the vacation time?  Two whole weeks off at Christmas, one week off in February, and another one in April, not to mention the entire summer.  Being a teacher in New England is fabulous.

I even love subbing, especially when it’s for older students.  I enjoy teaching elementary and I feel very competent doing it, but there’s something about those middle and high schoolers that is just so great.  I recently subbed for a seventh and eighth grade English/History class, and it was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had teaching.  Those kids are so funny.

This weird combination of jobs adds up to about 30 hours per week, not counting subbing or the extra time I spend creating lessons plans off the clock.  So that’s the amazing part about working part-time: the jobs themselves.  Now for the next part of this blog, the “live more” part from the title!  Some of this may sound like a brag fest.  Well, it is.  I am bragging because I am loving life and thankful for the many blessings I have.

I am relaxed.  I am not stressed.  I have time to recharge after a long day of teaching.  I have time for hobbies.  Don’t those all sound like such wonderful things?? They truly are.  It is such a blessing to have time to do things and appreciate life happening.  I am able to live it, instead of watching it pass by in a blur.

I get a lot of sleep.  Usually 8-9 hours a night.  I can remember so many times during college and student teaching having to stay up late working on lesson plans, papers, and tossing and turning over some event happening the next day.  But now?  I cherish those hours to sleep because it allows my body to recover and power up for the next day.  Instead of feeling exhausted, burned out, and on edge, I wake up every day feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.  If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I am not able to function as well.  I get cranky a lot faster, and everything seems harder.  I will never be apologetic about how much sleep I get.  I tell people that I sleep this much every night and they say, “How do you do that?  I barely get 5 a night.”

Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that it was a competition to see who can be more stressed out and exhausted every waking moment.  Sorry that you need 18 cups of coffee daily to function.  Not sorry that I feel great every day.  I seriously feel like I am adding years onto my life because of how well I feel.  Those old days of feeling totally frazzled because I’m running on empty are over.

In addition to having lots of time to sleep every night, I am able to keep up with my hobbies, music and non-music related.  For music-related hobbies, I’m a part of a samba group that meets twice a month to jam for our own pure enjoyment.  That same group of people is forming a drum circle which I’ve also joined that will meet weekly.  It’s all djembe (African) drumming which just brings me back to Jamaica every time I play.  There’s a local orchestra that gives several concerts a year, and I’ll be joining them for their winter concert in February.  They play great literature!  This concert will include Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony.  I can say with certainty that if I was teaching full time I would have no time or energy to join ensembles like these.  I also have some up and coming accompanying gigs!  And accompanying is one of my all-time favorite things to do, and is usually a paid thing.  I’m so grateful for my piano skills.  I can’t express enough how beneficial all those years of lessons were.

My non-music hobbies are plentiful as well.  I have started sewing regularly again!  My parents recently gave me a housewarming gift of an old-fashioned sewing table with a lid that opens.  I love sitting down and working on a project a few times a week.  I am reading again, a lot.  I have always loved to read, even from a very young age.  But starting around high school, my book reading was reserved for my off time during the summer and winter breaks because I was too busy for it during the school year.  But now, I have the time to read for an hour or two most evenings.  Last night, I just finished The Lovely Bones by Alice Seebold, which was both a beautiful and sad book.  I love going to the brand new library up the hill every week and eating up some great literature.

I also am writing more!  I started keeping a journal in about kindergarten (it was mostly pictures of Franklin the turtle and Eeyore back then), and I wrote faithfully for years and years.  But when I got to college, my desire to write completely left me.  I think it might be because whatever I would normally have written down, I ended up telling my parents when I called home every week, and I didn’t want to share things in detail twice.  I had kind of gotten back into writing when I began this blog last year but now I am beginning to write again, for me.

And by the way, my blog is one year old this month!  It’s been such a fun thing to do.

Another thing I’m doing is yoga.  There’s a class at the library that I just joined, and it’s great!  It’s easy and relaxing yoga called Prana.  As the weather is getting colder, I’m looking for ways to stay fit during the winter months.  I’m not running much now – I am going to do another half marathon in early June, and I’ll start my training for that in February.  So I’m taking the winter off to do my yoga and a lot of walking until that training time begins.  Plus, I get such a workout teaching!  I am constantly moving around, dancing with the kids, and forever moving instruments to and from their storage areas to use.

Working part-time allows me to be good at my job, and also good at being a person.  Sometimes in music education those two things feel mutually exclusive.  I felt like that during parts of student teaching, when I woke up tired, came home exhausted, went to sleep after scarfing down a tv dinner and writing lesson plans, and starting all over again.  In college, I often felt like music education defined me.  That if people asked me to tell them about myself, I would say, “Well, I’m studying music education.”  And that’s about all I had to share. But now, I have lots to share about my very full and satisfying life.

I bet some of my family and friends thought I was crazy for taking a part-time job in the middle of nowhere, Vermont, but it was in God’s plan to put me here and give me a wonderful start to my adult years.

I am really happy here.

Have I convinced you yet?  Will you agree that a part-time gig sounds wonderful and fulfilling?  It truly is.