New City Downtime
Here I am, one month into “Life in Germany.” I am taking an intensive German course at the Volkshochschule. (you automatically get into the A2 class if you can pronounce Volkhochschule three times) I currently end each weekday with a German Headache, eine Kopfschmerzen, for those who were wondering. It sounds particularly painful when spoken in the local Dresden dialect. The locals all sound like they are rehearsing for the scene in My Fair Lady when Eliza has a mouth full of marbles.
In between German classes, I attempt to gather some practice and study time together. Whenever one moves to a new city, or a new country, it takes time to make connections. I am never particularly calm during these perfectly normal slow times right before and after moving to a new city. I try to guard against that little voice in the back of my head that tells me I will never get paid for working again. I imagine this little voice as a cartoon character devil sitting over my shoulder, trying to keep me from doing what I love. Sometimes I actually succeed in ignoring it completely. Sometimes.
Despite the fact that no one is actually paying me for working, there is actually a lot to do when one moves to a new city. Everything can and will become overwhelming. Here are a few things I recommend to stave off that little voice:
One is e-mail, e-mail, e-mail. Start with one person, send an e-mail. The next day send another e-mail. Assume that you won’t hear back from anyone. Pretend that you are sending e-mails back out into the wild. Let them be free. Eventually you will get a reply, a really good reply. Which will lead you to more e-mails with more dead ends. Eventually you start building something. It is slow, painful, everything feels like a rejection. It isn’t, people are busy, people have a lot on their plates. Most people aren’t sitting by their computers, waiting to not respond to you.
Attend workshops, masterclasses, (if they are around) and performances. Make yourself known. Don’t necessarily have any concrete goals regarding these outings, but rather the broader goal of just meeting people. You never know who might turn out to be a colleague, or even just a nice person. Nice people are important in new cities. Nice people can make an overwhelming city become a little more like home.
Another thing to work on when in a new city is update lists and calendars. I am a big list maker and planner. If I didn’t have three different levels of planners, I would end up circling the living room wondering what I should do next. Not a pretty sight, it confuses the cats. Planning takes away the question, “What should I be doing now.” You know what you should be doing. So, slow times are good times to review the longer term schedule and maybe cross one or two things off the list.
This only goes for double reed players and maybe the occasional ocd clarinetist, but make reeds, make reeds, make reeds. Down time is a great time get your stock of reeds up past the panic mode. If you don’t play historical woodwinds, consider yourself lucky with the reed situation… at least it is only one instrument that is failing you on the reed front.
Listen to recordings. I always need to take more time to listen to recordings, in my schedule it is the thing that gets pushed to the sidelines. It is good for one’s musicality, for one’s soul, for one’s business. It is a good thing to do all around. Even better listen to a recording while walking around the city. Walking a good way to get one’s barrings in a new city, and bonus, it is good for you.
General cleanup. One can update website, (mine is currently a mess) clean up finances, clean the apartment, (it is amazing how much cleanup a new apartment requires) cut the cat’s nails. My apartment, in a freak turn of events has a refrigerator too many and about ten pieces of furniture too much. Freaky for having just sold all my furniture and moved to a new country. The tenants before us left their furniture, and it is simply too many pieces. So selling off furniture can be on my personal list, but generally not a problem for someone who just moved. If one has health insurance, a dentist appointment or a physical can always be a good thing.
Finally, take up a knitting project, start an art project, go for a bike ride, be a tourist. The tourist bit is important for new cities. I know I tend to have a certain disdain for tourists in my own city, they don’t know where they are going and stop walking in random places, but it is OK to be the tourist every once in a while in your own city. A tourist who knows where they are going is much less irritating. Seeing the sights can be a good reminder on what makes your city special.
Here are some other industry freelancer’s ideas on dealing with downtime: