The Coal Mine

Working for a living is interfering with my lifestyle.

For the past six years I’ve been living with my mother, who is now 86. Her 4-bedroom suburban house is not really big enough for both of us (in several different senses). On the plus side, since I pay no rent, I have the luxury of considering myself semi-retired. I work, but I don’t work very hard.

This week I started looking very seriously for a house to rent. At the same time, I started ramping up my workload. I’m planning to teach a class in music theory, for instance, if I can round up a dozen students at the two studios where I teach cello. I emailed several magazine editors and pitched stories to them, and got a couple of fresh assignments, with more on the way.

If I work like a little beaver, I can probably come close to breaking even on $1,800 in monthly rent. But by the time I do all that work, go to the gym, do the shopping and the chores, and drop in on Mom two or three times a week to make sure she’s okay (or, worse, drop everything and drive over to Mom’s house because she needs something done), I’ll have precious little time left over in which to enjoy life.

The whole point of renting a house, you see, is so I’ll be able to enjoy life.

If I have to go down in the coal mine six days a week, and come up covered with coal dust, and end up with black lung disease … well, the metaphor could be stretched too far, but even without the black lung disease, where’s the fun part?

Conversely, if I stay in my present living situation, that’s not fun either. The whole reason I want to move is because the lack of space and lack of privacy are grinding me down.

If I weren’t a musician, I could rent an apartment. That would still be expensive, but it wouldn’t be quite so steep, which would translate into a little more free time. But I like playing the piano and the cello at home — and also, one of my main income streams is writing about music software. Which means I have speakers in my home office, and I make noise. This is not the sort of thing apartment managers are keen to put up with. Apartments have, in point of fact, rules on the subject of noise. Typically, the rules are rather restrictive.

Today the problem seems quite thoroughly insoluble. It gets filed under the line from an old song by the Tubes: “What do you want from life? Well, you can’t have that….”

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