One of my biggest flaws is my struggle to commit to a project/task/goal all the way to its completion.
Subbing helped me overcome that fear of commitment in many ways.
Gradually, I have gone from being a day-to-day sub, suffering the chaos of getting calls at 5 AM and having my daughter ready and dropped off at school or arranging for her to be dropped off before heading to my assignment of the day, to a sub whom, generally speaking, is trusted with long-term assignments at select schools.
In other words, I was able to experience the pros and cons of commitment, at a professional level.
For a long time, I have considered going back to school for my credential in order to teach full-time. I’ve already had several opportunities to know what it’s like to be in my own classroom each day and the experience has been positive. At the same time, I am still holding on to my dream of singing full time and I’ve always intuitively felt that if I fully committed to teaching, I would be, in a way, closing off my possibilities as an artist. I would essentially be telling the Universe two things: I want to sing but I don’t believe in it enough to fully commit to it.
A huge problem with being the Singing Sub IS being midway between two possible fulfilling careers.
On the one hand, I love to teach. I love being in the classroom. I love working with kids. It comes naturally to me.
On the other hand, I love to sing, I’ve loved it all my life, my demand is increasing, my capital is increasing, and I am realizing that the world needs me to tell my stories through my songs.
At the beginning of this career, I didn’t know what I wanted. I was too downtrodden after my brother’s murder, and too disappointed in myself and all of the ways I sabotaged my deal. As I had mentioned before, I began to sub because I needed to make money to support myself and my growing child.
By making small commitments as a sub that gradually became greater commitments, I learned a lot about myself and what I truly want out of life.
Over the years, I have subbed in kindergarten classes all the way to the twelfth grade and have discovered that my preference is teaching at the high school level.
I have also subbed in a variety of subjects and have learned that my preference is teaching within my majors, English and Social Science, with a special emphasis on Sociology and Women’s Studies.
I am also partial to teaching in the South Bay, particularly at Banning High and at San Pedro High’s Olguin campus, although I did have some wonderful experiences subbing for ABC Unified and my most recent, yet minimal experiences at Norwalk High have also been very rewarding.
Mostly, I am growing more and more interested in teaching close to home in order to better support my growing daughter.
She’s ten now, and she’s got a life apart from my own. She’s a competitive swimmer and likes to be involved in extracurricular activities at her performing arts school. Swimming and her tutoring sessions at Mathnasium, along with any other school activities are her life.
It was easier when she was smaller, because I would just take her along to my activities and have her be a part of them, but now that she’s developing more of her own hobbies and interests, I am having to work harder to balance between supporting us financially, supporting her developmentally and supporting my own dreams as an artist.
It’s not easy, folks.
When I first started pursuing singing professionally, I was not a parent and the world was my oyster. And yet, I squandered so many of those opportunities. I didn’t demonstrate any real commitment to anything I would start because I was the only person propelling myself forward and my vision of what I was working for wasn’t clear. It seems as if my greatest achievements have been set up systematically, according to someone else’s vision of how I should live: graduating from high school and college, and becoming a substitute teacher.
It also seems as if when it’s just me pushing me, my motivation, desire and plans are simply not enough for me to follow through.
I know this isn’t just a “me” thing. There are lots of us out there with amazing dreams who can’t seem to wake up and fully make them happen.
As a result, my greatest lessons on how to achieve my dreams as a singer have stemmed from what I have learned about how to be successful as a sub.
On a very fundamental level, all I’ve had to do is show up. In the same way that I have shown up for my assignments after being called, whether I felt like it or now, I have had to learn to show up for my recording sessions, performances and other music-related meetings and endeavors.
Additionally, how I show up matters. After many days of subbing in different schools and for different subjects, I have learned what is appropriate to wear, what my attitude needs to be like and I’ve also learned about the importance of being punctual. I’ve learned to come prepared for whatever may get handed to me, and as a result I’ve become a master of improvisation and thinking on my toes. This also applies to all of my musical opportunities, especially big gigs like weddings and corporate parties.
I used to also burn the candle at both ends by staying up late and waking up early, and learned after many instances of trial and error that showing up tired is almost the same thing as not showing up at all. I made an even bigger change when I discovered that not getting enough sleep adversely affected my voice, along with smoking weed, drinking coffee and drinking alcohol.
Because I was so invested in helping my students learn and I knew that not being 100% in the morning would adversely affect their progress AND my money, I had to get my shit together. No more late night sessions on a Monday, no more getting crossfaded at a function, no more rolling out of bed and barely combing my hair in order to be on time or late to my assignment of the day. I wanted to be better, for them and for me.
Subbing ultimately helped me learn and practice the process of loving myself.
I simply had to learn to say no to distractions if I really wanted to be my best in the classroom. And when gigs suddenly and swiftly picked up for me, I learned to make time to prepare for those, too.
My fear of commitment, after a while, held grave consequences, including shame, and politely detached terminations from assignments and/or opportunities. I no longer wanted to endure these negative consequences, and therefore had to change my habits.
It’s definitely as if the Universe was using my classroom experiences to prepare me for the achievement of my dreams.
Had I not developed the necessary self-discipline to thrive in a classroom setting, which included the writing and preparation of daily plans, the management of others and the evaluation of performance in a detached manner, yet with a growth mindset, I would not be gigging as much as I am today.
I HAD to get organized. I HAD to come up with plans and stick to them. I had to learn how to collaborate with others harmoniously in order to get ahead and I had to learn to only say yes to win/win opportunities for advancement.
More than anything, I had to figure out what I really wanted.
In my case, commitment issues stemmed from not knowing what I wanted, and not wanting to make the wrong choice.
They also stemmed from issues of settling for less than what I wanted and deserved, and not having enough faith to let go of what I didn’t want in order to make room for what I did want.
I am ready to let go now. I have been preparing for a leap of faith into my own career as a musician.
Nobody tells you when you’re a kid that you need to do more than just dream. Reality check: a dream that gets realized is a dream that is planned and envisioned daily. It is a dream that tons of daily work goes into, much like the daily work I am doing today as I write this memoir. There needs to be persistence. There needs to be an understanding that you don’t give up when the going gets tough. Commitment is not always pretty, but commitment is always the right choice when you know exactly where you want to get to with every commitment you make.
With every passing season, I become better at finishing what I begin, because I HAVE a vision. I HAVE a definite purpose for why I do what I do daily, including sub.
One day, I won’t just be the singing sub. I’ll simply be the singer. Just like my students first envisioned for me, in order to motivate me to also envision that for myself, and plan away until I would reach that goal.
To my students: thank you for holding an elevated vision of me that I was unable to hold for myself at the time of our first meeting. Thank you for always asking me, “what are you doing here?” and questioning my intentions. With every question, I was able to answer, “I am here to serve you. This is part of my mission. This is part of the process. And when the time comes, I will outgrow this cycle and I will move on to my next adventure where I won’t need to be in a classroom to be a teacher…I’ll be a teacher everywhere I go, with my voice intricately embedded into a lesson plan for the world.