Friday, July 29, 2005

Keeping busy

Is it normal for my lip muscles to feel sore? I played for a little over 2 hours today! WOOT! My reeds were not cooperating at all. The one that usually sounds flat, but played very much in tune on Wednesday, is back to being flat. I swear the thing is a hygrometer. As long as we're under 40% humidity it plays fine. The only reed that was responding easily is the one that tends to play sharp. I only did a few long notes because I don't like doing too many of those unless I can tune them up well. I practiced scales for a bit even though the three lowest notes tend to not respond on that reed. At that point I took a break. Then I went back and reviewed my scales (C, G, D, A, F, B-flat, and E-flat - just major today). After that I decided I wanted to just play stuff that I liked but is still too hard for me. I did that for over an hour.

The first thing I tinkered with was Brahms' Third Symphony. I purchased the second oboe score the other day just for kicks. Right now this is my favorite symphony so I wanted to be able to play along with it. Figuring that even if I ever do make it to an (amateur) orchestra I'll probably not be principal I thought it safer to purchase the second oboe part. Gosh it's hard to follow along. You have to read perfectly. It was difficult to follow even when the passages weren't technically challenging. For the third movement I peeked at my mini score because I really wanted to play the solo there; it's simple yet hauntingly beautiful. I really like the counter melody (downward arpeggios) that the first flute and oboe play near the very end when the strings take up the theme. The tutti at the very end is fun too. Brahms is da' bomb!

After that I ventured into the territory of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante (the wind one). I actually did better with this one that the Brahms. Since it's sort of like a concerto the oboe parts stand out and I've memorized what they sound like so the sheet music is easier to read. I was playing a bit sharp because of the silly reed but I was surprised to be able to follow it a bit more than the last time I attempted it some months ago. That's excluding the third movement which has some pretty mean variations.

I probably should have stuck to my exercises but I just felt that I needed a break to remind myself why it is that I'm doing this in the first place.

I MUST finish the two reeds I'm working on tomorrow!! MUST MUST MUST!

Cimarosa on my mind

Ahhhh I have the intro to Cimarosa's "Concerto for Oboe and String in C Minor" on my mind. What a lovely melody. And my two favorite chord progressions are featured in the first 30 seconds.

Yes, the oboe still pierces my heart and fills me with a feeling of warm, liquid electricity. I thank God that I've found something that brings such rapture to my life.

I'm going to go hear that movement again now. Ciao!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Nice week so far

If I had known how happy quitting my job made me I would have done it a long time ago. Ever since I broke the news to my manager I've been feeling increasing better. I've now had several great days in a row. I just feel so free and alive. Like I'm ready to take on the world. I wanted to capture this feeling in writing because once I'm knee deep in Organic Chemistry I will have forgotten what all the excitement was like. But for now I will enjoy it. I am elated at taking control of my life. Soon I will no longer be spending almost 10 hours of every day doing something I don't care for.

I had another lovely drive in. I *will* miss that somewhat. But then again I can always just drive up for fun. The weather was in the low 70's and about 50% humidity. It was wonderful to drive with the windows all down.

My practices have been pretty good for the last three nights (quartet rehearsal was cancelled last night). I've gotten close to the 2 hour mark each day. Though it would be best if I did this in two sessions so I can rest my lips. Last night I played on a different reed, one that had felt too hard all the prior days. Maybe the less humid conditions helped. Last night it was the only reed that would play in tune. The others were all sharp. Tonight I need to do more scales because yesterday I spent almost all my technique time on long notes and slow intervals. Last night I did reward myself with two pieces at the end. But by then my mouth was so tired! Maybe I should do one piece at the beginning and one at the end.

I think I'm making progress. I'm really praying that my teacher will confirm this on Sunday. By starting all over again I am better able to work on ALL aspects of music at the same time (since the music is way easier). So rather than rushing through the beginning exercises simply because I happen to be able to finger them ok, I am concentrating on getting more things correctly this time around: my posture, my breathing, my embouchure, articulation, intonation, sound, and dynamics. The result is that now my playing sound more musical. Or at least I think (and hope) it does. Maybe I should record it again. But then again that usually tends to discourage me.

I called my first teacher yesterday because he had left messages on both my cell phone and my home phone. I'm now wondering if maybe I should have been more clear about what I wanted to get from him. But that's so unlike me to make demands, especially of an older male figure. I feel bad because he's concerned and wants to help me out with reeds and stuff. He's really kind, but I just feel I am getting so much more from my new teacher. I hope he's not sad but I told him that I won't be taking lessons for the time being due to school. Hopefully after some months have gone by I will have the guts to tell him that I started attending a new school (for logistical reasons, of course - errr, to be closer to school). I'm such a wuss. Why can't I just say the truth? But I'd hate to cause someone who helped me a lot any pain.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Tuesday morning ramblings

One of the silly things I enjoy doing is playing "Guess the Composer" while I listen to the Classical station. The other day I was listening to something and after about a minute I had decided it was most likely Haydn. So when the piece finished and the announcer said that we had just been listening to one of Haydn's five hundred thousand symphonies (actually it was number 73 - "La Chasse"), I threw my hands up in the air and let out a hearty "YAY!". Thank goodness I was stopped at a red light. That 100 grand education was good for something.

Then yesterday I ran across this site again. It was one of those sites I visited during my oboe/clarinet debate. A few seconds after I started listening to the English Horn sound clip I realized I now recognized this piece. "Why this is Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture" though I. And sure enough it is. Tee hee. Fun!

Oh, by the way, I unofficially gave notice at the jail, I mean the job, last week. I too am leaving Cubicle Land (tm - Waterfall)!! My sentence was for a little over 8 years. I am still in denial. I can't believe I am finally going to leave! It's funny because I told my friend that I felt that everything was moving so fast now and she reminded me that I had only been considering leaving for the last 5 years or so. Oops. My last day should be August 26th. The reason I gave leave so early was that I asked for leave first. Once I'm done with this year at school I have to wait another year before entering dental school. So I was open to coming back here for that time to work. So I asked for a 9 month leave. This was denied because company policy allows leaves of 6 months or less. Oh well. So now the managers all now that I am going to school full-time for a "premed" program. A part of me feels quite sure that I will not be returning here ever. It was so darn hard to leave that I think I'll just take my chances with some crappy part-time job during the application year.

My first teacher just left me a voice mail. I had been procrastinating on sending him that Thank You/Good Bye card. Yikes. Now I'm going to *have* to talk to him over the phone. This sucks. I also keep having these scary thoughts that my new teacher will ditch me. Maybe she will not want to deal with a needy adult beginner. I would be so sad. Maybe that's why I haven't sent in that card. But I just can't go back to playing hard pieces when I know how much of the fundamental stuff I still need to get good at. I really shouldn't be playing the stuff I was playing for another year or two.

I've been working very hard on the embouchure and sound since my last lesson. I was unhappy with how I did and really wish to impress my new teacher. I hope she will be able to see some progress. I feel better. The new embouchure is feeling more natural and I think my lips are starting to build up again. I had been able to hold a long note for nearly an average of 26 seconds with my old embouchure. Then when I switched I was barely getting to 10 seconds. Now I'm back up to 16-24 depending on where the note is. Those high ones require more air! I wish I could see an X-ray of what the mouth looks like on the inside when your embouchure is correct. I'm still afraid that it needs to be more open or maybe it's my throat. My tone is not quite singing yet. But I do think the notes are a bit more centered.

My scales are improving! God, is this the area where improvement is the slowest or something? I have such a long way to go still on my metronome. I feel like I've been at 60 for months and months. Yesterday I moved my C major scale up to 66. I've been working a lot of my reed position, especially for some of the notes that are harder to tune. Like my A's tend to be flat unless I'm very conscious about my air speed and reed position. But the G's right next to them are usually sharp. As are D's. I played A to D and it sounded like a tritone at one point LOL! The E's and F's in the middle register can sound stuffy if I disregard air speed. My high C sounded so much better last night. It felt at least a tiny bit "brilliant" for a change. And my A's weren't flat on the way down like they usually are.

I am trying so hard to make the scale sound more musical. I know that when I played them for my teacher last class she didn't seem very happy with them. I think they sounded very mechanical. I called them robotic. She played scales for me and they sounded like a concerto. So I'm trying to relax and let the music come through.

Ok the one thing I am SURE has improved is my C scale in thirds. For some reason C major was giving me more trouble than some nearby keys like F, B-flat, G, and D. It was even harder than A and E. What the hey? Actually I think it had something to do with the saxophone. Scales in thirds was one of the things I most worked on as a saxophonists because they were very useful for playing my merengue jaleos (Pretty good article about merengue here). C major has in it both of the fingerings that are most different between sax and oboe: F natural, and the whole B/C thing in the middle. I kept fumbling on that but last night I was able to do my C major in thirds at the same speed that I did the regular scale. Another thing was that I tried to not think about it and just let my fingers go. Amazingly they knew where to go to all on their own! How do you get to the point where you trust them? It was scary for me last night to not be trying work it out in my head. But I have to let go of that because there is no way I can think C-E, D-F, E-G, F-A quickly enough to play fast AND pretty. I guess that's what practicing is for. :-)

What else did I do last night? I did some minor scales as well. And my interval studies from the new method I'm working on (Niemann/Labate). Oh and I even threw in some arpeggios for good measure. I hadn't been actively studying arpeggios because they were sounding so absolutely horrible. But I guess the thirds practicing is helping so that now they sound a bit better (I just need to work on the fourths).

My last few practices have been over an hour which is good. I'm able to play a bit longer again. Last night I even squeezed in some music. I bought Elaine Douvas' Solos for the Intermediate Players. By the way these are some high level intermediate players because it all seemed a lot harder than most of the other "intermediate" level stuff I've seen. Maybe I'm just being pickier with myself now. I just don't want to play things that are so technically challenging that I can't make them sound nice. I rather play easier things and work on them sounding good than be playing hard stuff while sounding like an out of tune duck. Anyway so I played Nielsen's Romance from that book as it was arguably the only piece I could sort of play comfortably. The piece is quite lovely and has some nice intervals for me to practice. I just realized that my half hole must be getting better because I don't have to think about it as much.

I think I'm going to get the Beginner version of those books.

It's hard to start practicing every day, but once I assemble the instrument and put the reed in my mouth I'm usually fine. My last few practices have gone better so I'm starting to enjoy practicing again. This is good. I might still be able to work up to two hours a day by September!

Oh it's eleven. I guess I should start working.

Monday, July 25, 2005

An expert beginner

A dear friend told me something very insightful which really got me thinking. She said that she admired that I wasn't afraid of being a beginner in things; I wasn't afraid to start something new. It's weird because I am someone who doesn't like change but since I do love learning I am definitely more than willing to try something new. I've dabbled at a lot of things in my life so far and I usually start them with at least some degree of confidence. However, I tend to burn out long before the finish line and never quite make it to the top levels in any activity. This, I realize, was what had been bothering me about two years ago right before I finally made a turn for the better. Back then, however, I couldn't quite articulate what it was that was bothering me. I simply knew that I was dissatisfied with myself. Now I know that I was tired of not being really good at anything.

I danced ballet for 13 years and modern dance/jazz for about 5. I was decent enough to pass a musical theatre audition my first year in college. But I don't think I was ever very good. I'd say I was probably average. I was naturally flexible and had strong legs, which helped. But my weak, double-jointed ankles made it very difficult to do much on toe shoes. I also believe I lacked in subtle areas like grace and expression. But, hey, I can dance a mean merengue!

I've done martial arts on an off since 1990. I think I was pretty darn good at it (better than at dancing).

Yet I never achieved the highest goal there: black belt. Maybe some day.

Here at work it's more of the same thing. I manage to scrape by because whenever I want to I can force myself to think quickly and make up for time spent on other things (*cough cough*). So they haven't quite caught on to the fact that I could be SO much better at this than I am. At least here I don't really care to be the best since I don't like what I do.

The thing I had always been the best at was school. My life was turned around when I was unable to keep up with the competition undergrad. I was used to being the proverbial big fish in a small pond. That was all over when I entered Columbia in 1992. Within a year my faulty study methods did me in and I was demoted to the level of "average". It has taken all these years for me to get over the wound to my self-esteem. My current success in this postbacc program has helped a lot in this regard. Let's just hope I can keep it up this year.

Anyway, where I am going with this is that now I see why school was always in the back of my mind all these years. My Type A-ness would not allow me to settle for not being good at anything even though I was living a pretty comfortable life. That's why I've always felt the pull towards graduate studies and the "doctor" title. I would have finally "won" at something. It's been quite frustrating to be sort of good at a lot of things and not really good at anything. I'm not ashamed to admit that I had been thinking that way because now I feel that I am motivated by things other than prestige. Maybe that's why it is now that I can finally commit to something. Prestige alone won't get you through the long training.

Of all areas of my life music is the one most afflicted by my eternal beginner phenomenon. At age 7 my mom took me to guitar lessons for a few weeks. I keep forgetting that. I told her I was bored because all we did was the same thing (an E major chord). So she took me out of the class. I just wanted to do more chords! Oh well. Then at age 9 (4th grade) I picked up the recorder. I don't remember how this happened or who the teacher was. I believe it was some sort of after school program. I played recorder for about a year or two and then the program ended I think. Either that or I became more involved in dance recitals. At age 14 or so I started those informal piano lessons. I had a wonderful time chatting with my teacher, an elegant middle-aged lady who I looked up to. I did learn a few pieces but I was not a pianist by any stretch of the imagination. When I started college I did mean to pick up an instrument seriously. But I didn't realize they didn't take on beginners. And I was in for another shock when the kids my age were already playing like pros. I took a few keyboard courses that were required for my major and it was also at this time that I started playing the electric bass by ear at church. I don't play much better now than I did back then when I started. Well, the only difference is that I no longer have to write the notes down for myself since I can follow the chords by ear. Woohoo! Ok how many instruments am I bad at at this point? Four. In 1996 I decided the saxophone will be it. I will finally be good at something! I started off well. For two years I attended weekly lessons and practiced almost daily. In hindsight it was again an average effort but compared to what I had done before I felt like I was really going hard. I improved a lot and reached a level of "chops" unknown to me previously. But I was restless to start playing in an ensemble and rather than continue concentrating on my chops I started playing in merengue groups. It was difficult at first but with time I learned to just practice my repertoire really well and I got great at faking it. I was starting to impress other musicians but little did they know that I ONLY knew how to play the songs I had practiced. Yes the merengue scene did change for the worse but I suspect that at least part of the reason that I stopped playing was that I was fed up with the faking. I wanted to be good at the instrument not just happen to be able to play x number of songs.

It wasn't until I had started feeling better about myself in other areas of my life (school and weight) that I was able to open up to music again. This time I knew things were different. I had finally admitted to myself that music is my first love. And I was finally mature enough to commit myself to serious practice. I knew that I would have to work hard to reach my goals; there would be no short cuts this time around. Of course by now my life was quite complicated which meant that my hours of practice would be limited. But I knew that I could now do what I couldn't do before. And so I decided I would go for it even if it took me 20 years.

I will never reach the highest levels in music, I am well aware of that. But I will aim for it regardless and take my training very seriously. Aiming for the very top will get me as far as possible. I *will* be a good oboist some day, darn it!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Oboe updates

I have been unable to make many musical entries lately but rest assured that I am still quite involved in my musical pursuits.

In case I haven't already mentioned it or hadn't made it clear, I have a new teacher. It's going very well so far I think. She's an amazing player. I just love listening to her play. At my last lesson she demonstrated some scales and even those were beautiful to listen to. Her sound is really lovely, even up in the high register (where mine is still mousy). She is also very intelligent and perceptive. She was able to pick up that I had been horsing around with my practicing lately. I had been playing every day but I was sort of only half there. She was firm with me about how I should be practicing and it was just what I needed. I've been better able to concentrate on what I'm doing this week. My scales are becoming more even and I think the sound is improving again. My problem remains endurance (which took a nosedive since I changed my embouchure) and time. I really want to work up to 2 hours a day but it might not happen until I am done with work and back at school. And even then I am counting on being able to snag a few practice room slots for the semester. Luckily I will have Friday completely off so that will be my time to catch up on reeds.

One thing I noticed is that I'm more inspired to practice if I'm frequently listening to orchestral music. It's true that you need to have a sound that you want to model. For me, listening to stuff on my way home gets me in the mood to practice. I start yearning to be a part of it all and that makes it easier to do those long tones and scales. So long to that summer music I was dancing to! My new teacher has been making me CDs which is nice. Last time she gave me a recording of Albrecht Mayer playing the Schumann Romances. It was interesting to compare his playing to Allen Vogel's.

Maybe I just thrive under stess or something. I was practicing more (and working out more) when I was in school. Hmmm.

Anyway, I'm not sure yet if there is woodwind quartet rehearsal tonight; I will have to email the gang. The rehearsals are going pretty well. We're getting more familiar with the music and now we will try to work on the nuances. JC attended our rehearsal last week and took some pics.

Here I am being all smiley before we start. Notice the mirror and the tuner on my stand. I have to make sure I'm doing things right! By the way, if I smile any harder my face would crack.

This is us in action. Check out my wonder dimple! Do I look like a real oboist yet?


Sunday, July 17, 2005


I really need to stop making weekly digests because I fear I'm alienating my few readers with these long posts. I will attempt to keep this short and sweet. I just need to write at least some of it down so that then I can resume my regularly scheduled program of describing my attempt at becoming an oboist.

So I made it through my dental internship unscathed. In fact, it turned out much better than I ever expected. Never did I seriously think that I would emerge from it with my decade old question answered. What do I mean? What I'm trying to say is that I may just be on the way to becoming a "dentoboist". Get it? Dentist AND Oboist.

I don't think that things would have worked out this way several years ago. But hey, the past is the past. I've been telling myself that there really is no predestined path in life, that we must make it as we go. Right now this choice makes way better sense than anything else I've come up with. Yes, Medicine was secretly my dream job. But nowadays I liken it to a beautiful Monet painting which someone has desecrated by cutting into it with a knife and writing over it with a red permanent marker. It's a wonderful vocation that has been tainted by the insurance companies, litigation, etc. Dentistry is more like a pretty watercolor that is framed in lovely wood and hung perfectly centered. It doesn't draw you in immediately but once it does you find beauty and serenity in it.

If you can't already tell I am very critical of pretty much everything. I guess it's my little bit of OCD. Yet last week I was unable to find any glaring defects in the profession that I was investigating. The people I met were all ideal colleagues. They were intelligent yet not snobbish. All were charismatic. I will never forget my impression when we first visited the undergraduate clinic (where the 3rd and 4th year students practice). It felt like something out of a movie. The set up was reminiscent of cubicle land because there are many stations side by side like that. However everywhere I looked I saw harmonious interactions going on between teachers and students, students and students, and students and patients. Everyone (even the patients!) was smiling. It was such a wonderfully cooperative environment that I expected for them to go into a spontaneous rendition of "Kumbayah" at any moment. Of all the things I saw this week that had the biggest impact. The environment was precisely the type of environment I envisioned whenever I thought of an ideal career.

Other things I liked:
  • At Columbia, the first two years of the curriculum are the same as in the medical school. In fact the dental students take their classes along with the medical students. I've long said that I wish I could just learn all the stuff but without the hassles of being a medical doctor. Well, here's a chance to learn it all and then use it to do something else. Some may see this as a negative because it makes the dental school experience even harder, but I see all this learning as a big positive. Wait until I'm studying for all that though ...
  • One of the things I hate about my current job is the feeling that what I do is completely meaningless and that the hours I spend there are a complete waste of my time and existence. Dentistry involves a lot of detailed work with your hands. There is no way I would feel bored under those circumstances. Instead, I would get really absorbed with my task and would pay close attention to getting all the details correct. The interesting thing is that it wasn't until after I picked up the oboe that I realized how much I enjoyed doing things with my hands.
  • Dentistry is a very versatile career. You can decide to go directly into private practice. You can work under someone else. You can be affiliated with a hospital clinic. You can go into research and/or teaching. There is currently a severe shortage of dental faculty. I've long seen teaching as part of my ideal career. It would be very easy to work this in or possibly make it the focus of my career should I so decide. There are many professionals who are doing a little bit of everything and this helps keep things fresh (because I'm sure root canals CAN get boring after a decade or two).
  • Along with the prior one, you have the option of having your own business. I had never considered this seriously because I don't have much on an entrepreneurial spirit in me. But as I've gotten older I've come to appreciate the advantages of being a business owner. Though I can't say I want to do this right now, I will at least have the option to should I so choose.
  • It goes without saying that it was intoxicatingly wonderful to be back in my old neighborhood. Even if I were somewhere else in Manhattan it would still be so much better than where I am now. Suburban CT is just not for me.
  • Gadgets!! I am a (pseudo) programmer after all so I do love technology. There is a lot of research going on regarding the use of technology in dentistry. There are tons of cool gadgets (even lasers!) out there that one can incorporate into their practice. This is cool to me from both a user perspective and potentially from a developer perspective.
  • Less stressful lifestyle. This key question was clarified for me this week. At Columbia the first two years of dental school would actually be slightly MORE stressful than medical school because you're doing the full medical curriculum PLUS dental lab work. However the last two years are a lot less stressful than the clinical years of medical school. And residency and beyond are better for dentists too. I know it will be difficult but no one I met had that desperate look in their eyes due to their career having taken over everything. Everyone seemed to have found a nice balance for themselves. For example, it is relatively easy to become a part-time dentist. There are economic implications but you can easily work a schedule like that. It is also much easier to combine research, practice, and teaching as a dentist. You don't have to also get a PhD. You do come out with a huge debt so I guess there will be pressure to do what brings in the most money. But I think that even if you did dive head first into practice you still would have some free time.
  • Treatment does not consist of prescribing strong drugs which might fix one thing but break another.
  • The "healing touch" -> You can provide instant relief of symptoms.

    I am sure that some of my impressions may have been specific to Columbia so I will need to look into the other schools as well.

    I am trying very hard not to over think this (like what happened with medicine). I felt wonderful the entire week that I was there and immensely enjoyed the hands-on activities (we carved out some fake teeth and worked on a dental simulator). I don't think that I should tempt fate by looking for something even better when I was unable to find any big negatives with this.

    As I've said before I already have my true passion and that hasn't changed. Music and my little oboe are still my big passion. I'm now convinced that however long and painful my journey of self-discovery has been, everything is now working out for the best. I had to find my oboe passion first because it has helped me learn a lot about myself. It also freed me up to think about my career in a more objective fashion. Before I was expecting my career to satisfy my every need. I am now better able to take a look at my needs without emotional baggage getting in the way. Now I have my music passion on the one side and I also have a need to find a career that incorporates science, community service, and teaching while not taking over my life. I think I can definitely enjoy a dental career yet keep it in perspective; I will be able to give it as much space as it needs but can back off after that. This should allow me to still pursue my musical goals (though it might be hard for a couple of years). In the end I am fairly confident that I can become a successful and happy dentoboist.
  • Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    Midnight Confessions

    No, this post won't be erotica ... just some late night rambling about things that are on my mind.

    I'm sitting under the hair dryer right now getting my hair ready for my first day of the Dental internship. I found a cute little article about Dominican hair stylists here. My hair is naturally curly and while it doesn't require chemical straightening I do endure a long process to get it straight. It looks nice curly but it gets so tangled that I can't stand it. Straightening it out creates a longer lasting style and no knots. I have my own dryer at home and huge rollers. I learned to do them on my own head back in college. It takes about 20 minutes to get all my hair done. Then I sit under the dryer for an hour. The result is soft waves as in the third picture from the top (my hair is just a tad bit shorter than that girl's right now). After that I proceed to the official "blowout" where I use a blowdryer to pull the soft waves straight. Voila!

    As I suspected Columbia is very disorganized and the Dental Internship is no different. I received no word from the program since the initial acceptance letter. When I called the office last Friday the Director himself picked up which threw me completely off guard (I have phone phobia). Thankfully I had written out what I would say so I was able to pull of a conversation of sorts, but it was pretty painful. Today I finally got word from the assistant (though I already knew everything after my conversation with the director). I hope the rest of the program is better put together.

    I have a feeling I'm expecting too much from it. Part of it might be that I'm pressuring myself to "figure it all out" by the end of the week. The decade long career question, that is. I am just fed up with my indecision and feel that maybe some tough love is what I need. In all seriousness, I am hoping that at the very least I will be able to decide whether I hate Dentistry or whether I'm still intrigued enough by it to continue researching it as a possible career choice. If the latter is true then I will likely be back in school full-time in September after all (I'm starting to miss studying. Go figure.). Otherwise I will be asking for part-time at work and postponing school for at least a year. So you see, while the decision I need to make this week is not so big in and of itself (do I hate Dentistry or no), the repercussions are huge. Either way I am supposed to have a major conversation with my manager at work in the next few weeks. I will either be asking for leave or asking to go part-time. The anxiety regarding this conversation is giving me the occasional palpitations. It will only get worse as the day nears.

    I had a few good days at work this month. Because of my imminent serious conversation I've been trying to actually be efficient at work. The days go by so much quicker that way. It's too bad that at this point I am so done with the place that I can not function that way every day. Anyway ... I have to confess that those few good days made me doubt my decision to leave altogether. How silly that because of a few good days (after several bad weeks in a row) I am willing to just settle. "It's not so bad here after all" *smacks self* Of course it's bad there. How can I possibly think of spending another 30 years there? Actually I've come to realize that the problem is not the job nor the place nor the company, it's me. I'm the one who doesn't belong. A lot more people than I thought are actually happy there. They have found a place where they can earn a title and exert some power. I need something either more academic/intellectual or more people oriented. Or both, ideally. Which is why the health care field still seems to be where I need to end up. Of course I still adore my music. But it's an expensive little pastime. And we also have an expensive little townhouse. I need to make money. And it needs to not be painful. I need to feel that what I am doing means something. At least to me. And hopefully to other people too.

    I had an interesting chat with a high school friend today. We both typed almost the same thought at the same time. Basically both of us are feeling a bit empty about not actively "giving back" to our communities. Both of us expressed a desire to expose youth to the greater world. You'd be surprised by how tiny the world some of these kids live in is. Some of them have never been to a zoo or a museum. Sometimes all you need is just to plant a tiny seed in them by letting them see that there are wondrous things out there for them to enjoy. That curiosity can mean the difference between success and failure. It can break their cycle of poverty and apathy. Ok now I'm really rambling. But I would really love to be involved in something like that.

    Why am I so afraid of change?? It's silly but I feel like I have this huge weight on my shoulders right now. I feel that I am on the verge of making a breakthrough in terms of my agonizing decision. Yet while I am excited I am also very afraid. I am afraid of changing the things in my life that are currently working, especially the hubby and music. I guess I will have to keep praying for faith, wisdom, and guidance.

    Sometimes I feel guilty because I dwell on my own stupid little dilemmas when there are so many people in the world with real problems. I should be thinking about that tragedy in London, but something inside tends to block it off. It's way too close to home. Ever since 9-11 a dark cloud hovers over my happy life. I am always afraid for my beloved hometown and all my loved ones there. Fear is always there in the background. Last night I had another nightmare about something bad happening. Mini bombs went off at some constructions sites in Manhattan and the structures fell to the street killing pedestrians and drivers. I was on the other side, in New Jersey, watching helplessly as the sun set and sky grew a dark, angry red. Huge beams fell on top of buses and fire engines. I was desperate to get in contact with my husband, my parents, and my brother, but I couldn't get through. I was on foot and nowhere near a bridge and I knew that I wouldn't be allowed across even if I could make it to one. It was all very terrifying.

    It's weird because instead of driving me away from the City the 9-11 experience makes me want to be in the thick of it. I will not be happy with my job until I am working in Manhattan. God forbid if anything happens again I want to at least be on the same island as everyone I care about. I don't want to be stuck in Connecticut again, unable to talk to or get to my loved ones. Perhaps all we can do is pray for peace.

    Whatever part of my psyche fears change needs to stop equating it with major disasters because it makes decision making even more difficult than it normally is for me. I have to stop thinking that I am going on a path of no return, or a path of certain unhappiness. I thought I was an optimist yet I have a hard time imagining that the life I want is possible. I wish I could feel comfortable giving things a try, especially when it's in regards to things that have been in my mind since I was a kid. I know that it would be better long-term that I at least go for something, even if later on I decide against it. Living with the "what-if's" might tear me apart. I just need to be confident that I can pick my life up if should I decide to change my mind down the road. I have to learn to see life as an adventure.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005

    Things I was told

    I've been meaning to write a long entry about my eventful day last Thursday but I've gotten so busy. I will try to recap everything that happened.

    Things I learned at my first official lesson with JL:
  • Two of the four reeds I attempted were actually halfway decent. The one I thought was the best ended up being the worst.
  • I shouldn't scrape the tip to the same thickness throughout. It should be slightly thicker in the center and then taper off as you go to the sides.
  • Uni-tip = bright, screechy sound
  • My embouchure is "very close". *sigh of relief*
  • But I still need to work more on the sides of my mouth coming in better.
  • We went over a plan for me to attack scales. This was very helpful as I was feeling overwhelmed by the whole thing.
  • The correct breathing concept is anti-intuitive (apparently many things oboe are anti-intuitive).

    I walked out of my lesson in a good mood. When I got to the subway station I didn't even care that I just missed a train. I sat down and started reading a book. Someone was playing violin pretty badly on my platform. I felt a bit sorry for the older gentleman as he struggled to get his melodies out (maybe he had a crappy instrument). Yet I was I was happy that music inspired him and that he was trying. So as I walked by him to get into the train I gave him a dollar. He thanked me in Spanish and that's when I realized he was a compatriot. He said that next time he'd let me play his violin. He must have mistaken my oboe case for a violin one? I was happy that I "made his day".

    As I rode uptown I decided to get off a stop early so that I'd be forced to walk through the neighborhood in order to reach my Mom's. I hoped to bump into people I know (this happens VERY frequently). Or at the very least to enjoy the sights and sounds. Boy am I glad I did this. Just one block into my walk I passed by Coogan's and there was a fellow Incarnation School alum! We greeted each other and she informed me that the whole gang was in there meaning all the favorite teachers. Incarnation is a very special place to work at as is evidenced by the large number of teacher who stay there for decades. Apparently I had been invited to this shing ding but the invitation had gone to the wrong address. In addition to my favorite teachers one of my long time friends was there too. We ended up hanging out afterwards. What a wonderful reunion!

    Here is all the advice I got in about two hours' time:
  • One teacher was alarmed that I had yet to work out my career decision. He reminded me of my age and also remarked that he does understand that the path I was originally on (high powered medical or research career) is very difficult to stay on for someone from my background. Now I could have taken this badly but I knew exactly what he meant. Folks were supportive of me while I was still a teenager, but as I've gotten older there is more pressure to assume the more traditional role of mother. Or to simply live a simpler life that allows more time for domestic pursuits. He was pushing for me to find something lucrative to do.
  • My fifth grade teacher, who I hadn't seen since ... ummm ... 5th grade, interjected and told me not to listen to teacher #1. She found her passion in cooking and was excited to hear about my musical pursuits. She said that I am right in trying to find something that I actually like and can see myself doing for many years to come.
  • The one time development office worker told me something along the same lines. She said that I had already "won" because I was happy. She said that many of those people who went on to pursue the high powered careers are miserable and that I have to worry ONLY about my happiness.
  • One teacher insisted that I was the smartest girl he ever taught. Then he reminded me who the smartest boy he ever taught us. And mentioned that he's now chief orthopedic surgeon at John's Hopkins or some other big name place. *sigh* Why is it that I seem to be the only high potential student to not have made anything special of myself?? ALL the people I used to compete with in school have left me in the dust. My grammar school friend is getting her PhD in Biomedical Engineering and everyone else is either a lawyer, doctor, or professor. Anyway this one teacher said there was a perfectly logical reason why I'm still vagabonding. He said to me "Hilda, you're an artist". Then he went on to say that he knew it all along but that he would have gotten killed by the administrators if he had strayed their best student away from the sciences. Hmm, thanks. I thought it strange that he said this and so I prodded him to elaborate. He said that I was always way too creative and charismatic to be able to lead that kind of single-track life that you need in order to succeed in the science careers. He reminded me of things from 1987-1988 and it was interesting to see how the real me did shine through back then. His comments made me think a lot because I do think that part of what makes me hesitate about committing to an intense program of study is definitely my perception that my essence will be limited. I will become less me in order to accommodate the career. Am I willing to do that? He bid me the best of luck with my musical pursuits and told me that he thinks I definitely found my true passion. The last thing he told me as I walked out the door was "To thine own self be true". And with those words from the Bard I will leave you for now.