Since my cello career is a bit up in the air, I’m trying out some new things. I’m brushing up on html and adding CSS via Code Academy to bolster my writing and copyediting skills. So far, so good: but I am miles behind people who are getting hired to do this stuff fluently.

I’ve long been enamored of home renovation and restoration, so yesterday I got to tag along on a home inspection. Like much of the industry, there are not many women doing this job. There seems to be a logical path to doing it professionally, and I could specialize in something that interests me (historic homes, for instance- they are complicated and many stay away from them) to make my niche. After riding along for one townhome inspection in Manassas, I’m not sure if it’s right for me, so I’m going again tomorrow. It’s not a final step, to be sure. What I think I’d like to do is respectful remodeling with a concentration on salvage/upcycling and efficiency. Next weekend, I’m taking a class on flooring and installing tile. It is strangely exciting.

I’m reading Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin, about a woman who was a successful writer in Boston who dropped everything and became a carpenter. Highly recommended and dangerously inspiring.

Here is actual video of me learning carpentry.

If my hand hadn’t crapped out, I think I would still be considering this jump. The thing about teaching is that being good at it does not earn you anything. Not respect, not money, not stability or opportunity- nothing. Being ethical is a liability. Being attached to outcomes only brings heartache. The ends haven’t met in years, and the degree I earned at the accepted behest of “common sense” has only drowned me in debt. And I’d nearly be okay with that if I felt like what I was doing was valued.  Aside from a small group of private students and folks I encounter at workshops, it has been made abundantly clear that any instruction I offer- be it music history, cello, English composition or something else- could be done by anybody else, and probably for less.


I can’t keep operating at a loss, financially or spiritually. The clock is ticking on my time in DC. Although I’m not sure what the interval will be until the gleaming Potomac is in my rear view mirror, so until then, I have to make the most of it.

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3 Responses

  1. This piece made me feel very sad. I grieve at your injury that prevents you from playing music.

    As far as the business of music is concerned, there is not much money in it now. Teaching in schools can be reliable. Some few write music for advertising and movies. There is money if you are in love with a form of popular music and excel. The entrepreneurs, who continuously face failure, often carve out a niche. And location matters a whole lot – in some places teachers are turning away students from private studios. Of course you know this better than I.

    But a new career – most people retrain several times in their lives and settle for liking a few aspects of their jobs. It is the common thing. One note: I firmly believe that anyone that can master the cello can master anything. Another thing that I have found helpful when making life plans: I think about being dead in thirty years, or fifty. I start at the end and plan back from there.

  2. Stop me if this is a stupid question, but have you tried icing your wrists before bedtime? My hands were going numb in my sleep despite the wrist braces until I figured out how and when to ice them. Now my carpal tunnel is healthy enough for 4-5 hour practice sessions, and I can feel the string again 🙂

    1. Not stupid at all! My arm has not responded in any major way to ice, although the temporary shock of cold distracts my nerves for a while.

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