The Moment I Have Been Trying Not To Have Been Waiting For.
(also I am playing on Thursday night and you can watch it on the internet.)
The great Quinn Collins, who was nicknamed “Quinnshake” by me because he was friends with the great Dave Molk, who had been nicknamed “Molkshake,” obviously, once sat with a group of composition students at the Sō Percussion Summer Institute in order to Tell Them How It Is, from his perspective as a then-graduate-student in the Princeton composition program. My students would ask questions about graduate school or the profession or finding a voice or whatever, and Quinn or another of the graduate students I’d assembled for this purpose would, as I said, Tell Them How It Is. One question that came up was, and I quote, which I will prove to you by using quotation marks: “Did you take any time off?”
I will translate this. It means “did you do anything between your undergraduate program and your masters program and/or your masters program your doctoral program, or just go straight through?” This question got under Quinn’s skin. I mean, he handled it like a pro, but you could tell. Taking time off, in his view, is synonymous with, like, LIVING. Making rent, having a job, participating in a larger world than academia. Why is it called “time off”? Isn’t it time on? I understand this objection as I wait, for one more day, to take some time off.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, is my last day of classroom teaching until September. Of 2022. Yes, I know. It is absurd and wonderful. I will make records and write. I will cook. I will call you maybe. And I have been, what is the expression, gunning for this moment even though I have been trying hard not to do such a thing. Consider the parable of this haircut appointment I made on Tuesday, May 4, for Friday, June 4: I can’t wait until I have that haircut, maybe I had said to myself in the mirror, and then caught myself because there was/is a lot of time between May 4 and June 4 and I do not want to wish that time away, weird COVID hair or no weird COVID hair.
You live with things about yourself that If You Could Just do such-and-such a thing then they would be different and you would be different and things would be better. For me it always feels like “holding it”: this rare right now, this rare day, things feel pretty good, so how do I DIP AND BRONZE whatever this is, whatever this energy is, whatever I did, ate, drank, etc in order to get beyond bearability and into thriving? Grip, grasp, fix, remember, surf, hang on, hold. But more likely the reverse: this more frequent right now, this typical day, things feel pretty too much, so how do I change whatever this is, this energy, this thing I should not have done, ate, drank, etc, in order to get beyond implausible and into bearability? Let go, untangle, deconstruct, forget, unmake, undo.
On the back end of tomorrow being the first day of Taking Some Time Off is that the clock will start ticking away from freedom as soon as freedom arrives. My questions in a recent workshop about how to sabbatical were actually about coming back from sabbatical. Insane.
I have been told, by wise people and dharma friends, that there is a way to get off this ridiculous carousel. I have also been told that most people just keep working at their jobs for years and don’t get 15 months to make records in the basement. I have also been told that maybe the problem isn’t that the 15 month record making adventure is indulgent, but that the conventional normal is oppressive.
Far be it for me to weigh in on these matters except to say that I plan to keep you informed. I will have been Taking Time Off for a day when maybe I will see you, on the internet, for some songs about pandemics, elections, partnerships, gardens, making songs, and also a cover. Thursday, June 3, 8PM Central. CENTRAL. Minnesota time, in which the time seems very, very nice but secretly thinks you are a bit much with your sarcasm and your fast talking and your black t shirts and your food is way too spicy, also, but thanks for using the jalapeños I grew in the rain garden with the sign that says you can take them.
Perhaps I will be counting up, perhaps I will be counting down. Or maybe it’ll be like the gadget I am using to make beats: the time just goes on and on, signals go out here and there, it doesn’t really care where. Give it a number and it obeys, plays or doesn’t play, nothing more complicated than that. If it is on it is always midstream, always in motion, uninvolved except to do what it is built to do.
If you don’t want to dig through the text for the show link, here it is again, not embedded in a cute turn of phrase:
May you honor what you are built for,