Every once in a while, I get a call to come work security at our local arena for a concert. It's a pretty fun gig most of the time, when people behave themselves for the most part or if I get to hang out watching the road show from backstage. Sometimes it's even funny...like when there's a comedian in town or some young pop star falls through the stage because he's only paying attention to the his wardrobe for the first three songs of the concert.
This week, I did a mind numbing 15 hours shift back stage in "the tunnel" - the area where the dressing rooms and production offices for the visiting acts are. I arrived just as the crew buses and trucks were pulling in, armed with a cooler of snacks and a large double double (coffee...2 cream, 2 sugar for my south of the border friends...) that I was putting a lot of faith in.
I walked in and got myself situated in a small hallway that leads to a set of double doors that leads to another set of double doors that leads to a stairwell where someone else was sitting at the top, ensuring no one came down that wasn't authorized. So, essentially, I was second string security for a little known and lesser used entry point to the dressing room tunnel. It didn't bode well for excitement but in this gig, a quiet day is a good day.
The trucks unloaded, the crew began to set up stages, catering began to cook and prepare meals for the multitude of stage hands and production crew throughout the day. The catering team hustles hard and they have a long and often very detailed list of items that are requested in advance for the performers to have available just in case they should want it pre- or post-show. I've seen everything from a crate of beets and a juicer to a certain, very difficult to find scent of candle, to an expensive array of organic goods to a cooler full of top shelf tequila roll by me when I work backstage. This particular band and crew were pretty easy going and had most of their own stuff handled.
I was quizzed by the head of their security firm if I knew who the band was and could identify them in the hallway as they would not be wearing passes and had free run of the place. Thankfully, I had googled their bio just moments before in the car, waiting to start my shift. Also, thankfully, the band only had 3 members and they were pretty distinct looking guys. I won over the security boss and that always makes the day go smoother when they feel like they can rely on you to be responsible. Often, if they are unnerved (or just power mongerers...) they can make your day feel like you are at boot camp and you have to just smile and acknowledge their barked orders all day even when it's something as minute as having your chair 1.5" over the crack in the linoleum that they had asked you to be behind. The worst was a the security boss for a comedian who toured a while back. He sat us all down and told us it was our job to make sure that our friend "Mr. Comedian" didn't lose any of the such and such million dollars he stood to make on this recorded event by allowing anyone to tape or take photos. Super inspiring when you're talking to an audience of casual workers making less than minimum wage. We had to wear glow sticks around our neck and be in constant motion scanning for recorders of any sort (including phones) and there was immediate ejection for anyone caught even taking a selfie in the building. It's common these days for people to record on their phones, despite the fact that they are watching their favourite live....they do it through the 4 inch screen on their phone for reasons I still don't understand. Why would we want to hang on to a memory so tightly that we miss the experience? That's a post for another day in itself.
As the afternoon wore on, the opening band showed up and began to practice and sort themselves out in their shared dressing room. Once the "talent" is in the building, it's go time and essentially from the moment they get in the building until they leave the property, it's on us to ensure that they are happy, happy, happy. A couple of the main band guys showed up and began to meander around the tunnel. They were friendly and chatty, just sort of getting the lay of the land before the building was open to the public. They eat, they work out, they play music, they nap...basically all in the cement bunker that is the tunnel. It's a long day for everyone and no one really sees the sun or any weather for that matter, for the rest of the day. Around dinner time, we hear the word that the final band member is arriving with his kids in tow. Personally, I like seeing kids on the road with their parents. I'm sure it's an unusual upbringing but the truth is, kids need their parents and if they can spend time with them on the road, then that's time well spent. This family came in and while maybe a bit unconventional, it was certainly Dad and the kids...well, and a bodyguard named after a large animal who was charged with the task of keeping the kids in sight. No easy feat when the kids came equipped with scooters and helmets and a lot of energy to whip around the large empty arena. This bodyguard was tracking his steps on his fitness app and clocked 5 miles in the evening before the show even started. Maybe that's the gig I need...none of this sitting around keeping everyone "safe" business.
Stationary as I was, I had a front row seat of the backstage life and I will say that this is what I realized. Here was a guy who had started chasing his dream of being a musician as a young guy. He practiced for years until he was as amazing as he is now...but that came with a lot of time in the garage, banging on the drums or strumming the guitar or whatever talent he had that needed time under its belt to develop. And yes, while he walks on stage to the glamour of a stage set up and his gear in place and his dressing room ready, he possibly spent years carting his own gear, eating fast food and rushing to tear down his gear before the "real" talent came on stage after he warmed up the crowd. There was also probably a long period where when asked what he wanted to do with his life, his response of being a musician was met with skepticism or even worse, practicality. The years where people thought it was a phase or patronized him with a few questions before shaking their heads wondering when reality was going to bite him.
And I realized that even now, while he had 90 minutes on stage doing the thing he loves most in life, that there are nights where he would rather be home, tucking his kids into their own beds or watching Netflix and eating cereal at 11 pm. The dream job is out there...but it's always tinged by reality. His 90 minutes of limelight is only afforded by his years of practice, pushing, patience and persistence. Even then, there are those who put in the effort and it never pays off...or lasts.
I'm still dreaming about the next big thing in my life...but I am beginning to believe it's not a job or a position. A bit counter cultural in our world right now, but I'm going to say my next big thing is getting these boys through school and launched into life with the skills and support that only a family can establish in them. My next big thing is to figure out how our love for our friends in Zambia and Zimbabwe can continue to be a priority as we search for the means to travel and support and learn from them as often as we can. My next big things might be to focus on the smallest things yet, the quiet corners that have been neglected and the details that get glossed over in the pursuit of a big life. I don't crave fame or fortune, in fact, quite the opposite. I've always felt an affinity for the verse that says, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. I haven't figured out the balance at this point. I tend not to want to be dependent to a fault, where I don't ask for help, even when it's offered with genuine care. I also am never good at the "minding my own business" aspect...mostly because I'm the mother of teenaged boys (good looking ones at that, if I do say so myself...) and I feel compelled to ask and ask and ask and even then, if unsatisfied, resort to a teeny tiny bit of spy work. I'm not proud of it...I'm just putting it out there as the cold hard truth of my flaws.
So, I'm not employed but I'm working. On myself. My family. My outlook. My flaws. (well, maybe not the spying but I'm sure it will work itself out once my boys are out of high school...) My character. My friendships.
It's a work in progress for sure -the paycheque is dismal but I'm feeling it's going to pay off.