When I tell people what I do for a living, this is the most common response:
"You are so lucky to get to do what you love!"
This truth is not lost on me. At the same time, non-musicians may romanticize what my life looks like on, oh, any given Tuesday.
Here's what Tuesday, June 20th, looked like for me.
Surely, this was a day that dreams are made of.
Here's what actually happened.
6:30 AM: I am awoken by my hungry infant son, Galen. I feed, change, and play with him. He is the stinking cutest. I love life.
7:30 AM: Shower. Put on breastfeeding-friendly button-up dress. I head downstairs and ensure that my pump parts (there are, in all seriousness, 25 of them) are clean, organized, and ready to go. I come back upstairs to quickly apply just enough makeup to strike the elusive balance between admirably-put-together and new-mother-modest. Gazing at my reflection, I inhale calmly and deeply, already feeling like Working Mother of the Year.
8:15 AM: Head to my car. While in the privacy of my own driveway, I assemble all my pump parts. I unbutton my dress, strap myself into my hands-free pumping bra, and hook myself up to the pump. This involves an elaborate MacGyvering of my seatbelt, pump parts, and self. Waze says I will arrive at work at 9:25 -- a wonderfully respectable time for our 10 AM downbeat with John Williams. I give myself a mental high-five.
8:20 AM: While backing out of my driveway, my high-tech new car begins making an unrelenting beeping sound. It is because I'd failed to close the door all the way when I'd taken my son out of the backseat the night before. Without bothering to close my dress all the way, I untangle myself from the pump, get out of the car, and shut the offending door harder than is really necessary. I hope my new neighbors aren't getting a pro bono postpartpum peep show.
8:25 AM: Once strapped back into the pump and my MacGyvered seatbelt, I restart my engine. My gas light goes on. I recall my husband suggesting we fill the tank last night. What I don't remember is why I didn't. My Waze ETA is now 9:37.
8:35 AM: With my pump just having gotten into its groove, I arrive at the gas station right next to the freeway entrance. It is teeming with burly-looking men. I do my best to unhook myself from the pump inconspicuously. This time, I fully close my dress before exiting the vehicle.
8:43 AM: Armed with a full tank of gas and an ETA of 9:45, I combatively accept fate's challenge of getting to work on time.
9:10 AM: Waze adds more and more time to my commute, putting me at the unacceptable arrival time of 9:58. It alerts me of each new ETA with an android indifference that only amplifies my despair. I frantically search for alternate routes. As luck would have it, faster ones always result. However, each of these instances shaves about 4 months off my life.
9:11 AM: I recall that stress impedes milk production. Sure enough, I have only yielded about 3 ounces for my sweet baby this whole time. This hardly seems worth the hassle of hooking myself up to the machine three times. I hope the Jackson Pollock-esque milk splatter on my dress will dry before I arrive at work.
9:28 AM: A yellow light dares me to cross its intersection. As soon as I accelerate, I notice the red light camera discretely placed atop it. Waze is supposed to warn me about these! I brake, curse, and take this selfie, having just now conceived of this post.
9:40 AM: I finally enter Sony's chock-full parking structure. I climb 6 levels of this inferno of bad design before finding a spot at the topmost circle of hell.
9:52 AM: I get to my chair at the session with just enough time to pee. The womens' room is a literal sh*&-show, so I opt to use the mens'. I feel clever.
10:00 AM: Downbeat. It's a pretty great session.
1:15 PM: Kevin and Meredith ask if they can get me pre-rehearsal ramen lunch while I pump. While I appreciate the gesture, I'm not sure why they want ramen; it is 90 degrees outside. But I love them, and would rather sweat lunch out than go it alone. The smoldering bowl is, admittedly, quite tasty.
2:15 PM: Kevin, whom we all know to be a genius, suggests that we go for ice cream at Sweet Rose Creamery. This is the home of my favorite-ever version of my all-time-favorite flavor: Mint Chip. (They steep the ice cream base in fresh mint leaves. No toothpaste-y peppermint extract!) Kevin's never tried it. We decide to drive separately. I plug the address into Waze, and call my husband to check in on the homestead. The day is looking up.
2:30 PM: While talking to my husband about the baby's every adorable move, I realize that my surroundings look too familiar. Mysteriously, Waze has brought me back to Sony, not to the ice cream store.
2:45 PM: Kevin calls, wanting to know where I am. I tell him about my Waze snafu, and that in the interest of time, I decided to make my way to our rehearsal location instead. I am secretly hoping he will offer to bring me ice cream. As if reading my mind -- for what else is chamber music? -- Kevin says there's no sense in bringing me any, as it will melt in the heat. He then tells me he got the mint chip on my recommendation, and that it is delicious.
3:00 PM: I arrive at our rehearsal spot. Yoshi, our lovely cellist, is already there, wondering where everyone is. Kevin and Meredith are late, frolicking about with bellies full of delicious ice cream. I am still sweating from the ramen. I contemplate the impression we are making on Yoshi.
3:15 PM: We finally start rehearsal. We have our work cut out for us -- two monster quartets in three rehearsals for a crowd of thousands. But it is a ton of fun. I feel intermittently joyful and overcome with the desperate desire for more time to practice. These twin feelings are exacerbated by the fact that we are playing two of my all-time favorite quartets: Ravel and Debussy. Plus, this is a particularly special event for me, as it was a small chamber music concert at the Huntington 18 years ago that inspired me to start my own series in the first place.
7:40 PM: After an hour and forty minute commute, I finally arrive at home. My body is very ready to feed the baby, and for the day to be over. In fact, I'm ready for the season to be over. My son was born March 1; I was required to go back to teaching six weeks later. My husband had remarked recently that I'd been saying "don't worry -- things will slow down after this week" for the past month. Like my car this morning, I am running on empty.
7:45 PM: Sweet Philip innocently asks if I'd read a Facebook friend's latest "interesting" mommy post that "sounded like a good idea." You know the kind. It involved way more work than we were already doing, and had the added bonus of making me feel like an inadequate hypocrite. Surely this particular friend's well-meaning desire to share their perfect solution accounted for 90% of the motivation behind the post -- the remaining 10% being a need for public validation for the former. I proceed to jump down my husband's throat. I hate life.
7:46 PM: I apologize.
8:00 PM: I bathe the baby, play with him, swaddle him, read him a story, feed him, and put him to bed. His smiles and deep baby sleep melt me.
9:30 PM: The house is quiet -- save for the repetitive drone of the pump while I attend to emails and study my scores. Life is pretty great.