I celebrated the New Year on my cross-country skis among good friends in an old hunting cabin on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness on the eastern side of the commanding Rockies. The start to this year is similar to those past — a celebration of old and new all centered around sliding on snow. However, 2012 marks a major change in my life: I will not spend most of my winter days on the snow.
This love and long underwear lovin’ ski bum is growing up and she’s kicking off the year with a J.O.B.
I got a job. A permanent, year-round position with benefits, vacation, and even my own desk!
I have to trade in my ratty long underwear for dress shoes and even a little black dress for some occasions, but honestly, I think the trade-off is fair.
In the late fall of 2011, I was scoping the Glacier Symphony and Chorale’s website to inquire about season tickets (both Cole and I are big fans of classical music) and their website announced a position opening. And no, it was not for a place within the orchestra. I am not musically talent, whatsoever. The vacancy was for the Patron Services Manager and upon reviewing the job position description, I decided that I’d very much like to work for our exquisite symphony and help manage the front of the house productions.
Now, a bit of a background on my employment history: I haven’t had a full-time job since the fall of 2008 when I left the Glacier Institute (on my last day of gainful employment, Halloween, I arrived dressed as Sarah Palin). In the years since, I have somehow scraped by, working many part-time and seasonal jobs and babysitting to make ends meet. I haven’t had a savings account but I did manage to pay off nearly $10,000 in credit card debit. I did not rely on Unemployment and while my parents are not of means, when my tires on my old red Subaru exploded, they helped with the expense. One winter, I taught skiing in between shifts at the Hellroaring Saloon for extra cash.
I’ve been (nearly) broke for nearly four years. But I’ve also had an incredible adventure navigating seasonal employment that the Flathead Valley provides, and this experiment in the unsteady employment world led me to Sarah Calhoun and Red Ants Pants. Because I didn’t have a job, I was able to take off and travel the country in an old Airstream trailer. I found good, fun, and meaningful work as a bartender and manager at the Belton Chalet in West Glacier and I loved spending my days on the trail representing the Forest Service on Big Mountain. Not having a “real” job allowed me a certain amount of freedom that translated to a bit of anxiety but a whole lot of good fun at trying my hand at something new. My flexible schedule also gave me the time and the energy to volunteer for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation and the Whitefish Review, two local organizations that I care deeply about. This tenuous time reconnected me with my first love, writing and I began my freelance career. I wish I could rest my laurels on my few writing achievements but writing has yet to provide me with a steady supply of work and income. However, writing has never been a means to gather a large sum of money and it will continue to be my love and vocation, even with my new job responsibilities.
In those past years, I did apply for many, many full-time positions — from public relations to non-profits, I always camethisclose but I was never granted the job. It was certainly defeating — I thought surely a person like me with a good degree from a good school and with a background that spanned from writing to education to restaurant work could certainly find a job in the Last Best Place. And I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t able to find a job that could compare to those of my college friends. My timing with leaving the Glacier Institute and the recession were not to my advantage.
My deep love for in the Flathead has rooted me here, and despite my lack of employment, I could never imagine leaving only because of lack of work. When I discovered the position with the Glacier Symphony, I poured my entire heart into the application process. It was not just a job. I wanted to begin a career in a field I care deeply about. Combining my love for the mountains and all things that are wild with my love for the arts, the Symphony offers this Ski Bum her perfect opportunity to seque from days in plastic ski boots to organizing volunteers to usher for a Baroque concert.
Just before Christmas, after a second-round of interviews, I was hired by the Executive Director and the Maestro to fill the position opening. I said yes. Then I began plotting my work wardrobe and quickly realized I hadn’t worked a professional job that required something other than ski pants, a hideous polyester ranger uniform, or chunky waitress-friendly clogs. What a change.
Sure, with just one week under my belt, I am very much starry eyed about my work with this 30-year old organization and the fact that my talented and kind boss looks exactly like Garrison Keillor. The receptionist has played violin for the symphony for 28 years and all of the musicians are volunteers. This organization breeds a kind of love and passion that is rarely seen these days. Also, another great perk of my position is that I attend incredible concerts each month and am allowed entry into this world of classical music, from meeting the passionate local musicians to world renowned visiting guest artists who practice on the piano in the lobby of our small, homey office. I’m sure I’ll miss those powder days when I’m at the office organizing seating charts for concert halls but in the past few years while I’ve enjoyed my experiment as a Ski Bum, I’ve also yearned to enhance my professional life.
Perhaps as I’ve nearing my 30th birthday, I’ve come to learn that happiness comes from a variety of places, including the cultivation of and dedication to a profession. For years, although I’ve had fun slinging drinks under the shadows of the Apgar Mountains, I’ve wanted more. And honestly, I’m not really good at being a Ski Bum. I don’t do drugs and my days ruckus at the Bierstube are over. I worry too much about my dwindling bank account and I mope about the house and whine to Cole that I haven’t accomplished anything in my life. I’m ready to blend my life as a Ski Bum with work at the Symphony.
Also, my parents, who are divorced, are just tickled that their daughter finally has job that they both sent flowers to work. I am so happy to make both of them oh so proud.