Ever since I was a senior in high school I’ve had a job. I’ve only had a full-time job once. I worked as a secretary at a loan office one summer. Otherwise, my jobs have always been part-time, or undefinable like my “job” designing and renovating the homes we’ve flipped. My main side gig has been teaching voice lessons. I love teaching. I love the interaction with my students, I love the music, and I love the person I become when I teach- more playful and funny.
I had around 15 students in Cleveland, and then only 3 in Seattle. And now in Chapel Hill, I’m trying to decide if I should teach again. Perhaps some of my hang up is I like the idea of having a “studio.” A group of students, who know of each other, have recitals together and feel some sort of group identity. In Seattle, I never had that, and it sort of embarrassed me. I didn’t feel like I could offer the sort of experience I wanted for them. (Though, thinking about it, my first voice teacher didn’t have a “studio” that I interacted with in any way. She was a university professor and I was a side student, an eager 12-year-old who’s mother talked her into taking me.) Now in a new city, I’m trying to think through the practicality of taking on new students. Our stay here could be a year, or it could be three or it could be permanent. Though, as of right now it’s looking more like a one year gig. Tom’s career will likely take us to a few different locations in the next ten years, would it be better to pick up a side gig that is more mobile, say freelance writing? Or maybe, wait for it, I don’t need to have a side gig. Maybe I can just do the Mom gig. Heck! I’m already homeschooling, isn’t that job enough? Maybe I should claim that as my “gig” and use any free time to pursue other hobbies?
Moving has given me the opportunity to assess who I am, and what defines me. I struggle to feel that spending time on hobbies, just for joy’s sake is a worthwhile use of time. I really enjoy nature journaling. It has brought me such wonder and curiosity, but every time I take fifteen minutes to do it, I feel guilty. I really enjoy reading, but it’s very hard for me to sit down and read. Its why I adore audiobooks- they allow me to “read” while also doing something “productive.” And yet, I know how productive reading is, I know the power and importance of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and learning about the experiences of another, but it’s just so hard for me to do! Sometimes I can justify it if it is a parenting book- continuing education, but a novel- it’s difficult! And so back to the side gig, part of my reason for working has always been to keep my toe in the water so that I’m ready when the time comes that I want to “go back to work.” I’ve taught voice lessons because that’s where my training lies. I love teaching voice, but I identify myself as a singer less and less with every passing year. It occurred to me that I haven’t a clue who Kjirsti Foutz will be in ten years. And if I don’t allow myself to fully immerse myself in my present passions, I will probably have no clue “what I want to do with my life” then! Often people that create vibrant fascinating careers later in life, do it naturally as an extension of something they pursued for personal interest first. Unless I allow myself time to throw myself into my present-day interests how will I ever grow those interests into something that will pull me out of bed each morning?
I’ve been surprised at the change in me as I’ve experimented upon this idea. I’ve taken along my nature journal more often and with it a field guide or two. I’ve taken pictures of leaves at the park. I’ve been more dutiful with my yoga practice, and more intentional with each poise. As I’ve allowed those buds of interest to open a bit, I’ve felt the subtle calls of expansion into work- perhaps I could create a local field guide “Trees of Homestead Park.” or maybe I should get a yoga certification, I’d love to teach a Friday Enrichment course! I think it’s great if my desire is to share my knowledge with others, but I find it worrisome when the minute I start to see growth in an area I feel the need to capitalize it. As if making money doing it will make it worthwhile.
So this year I think I’m going to take a break from side gigs, and instead just really claim my main gig- mothering, homeschooling, and living life fully. I want to show my children the joy of adulthood. I want to so fully immerse myself in my interests that when in 10-15 years I feel the pull to work, I know just what I’d like to do.