Busy being busy

As you could probably tell, I have (surprisingly) been busy lately; so busy, in fact, that I haven’t published any blog posts in almost two weeks! So I told myself I needed to get down to business and get er done.

An ideal blog post at this point in time would probably be one that describes what it is I have been up to that’s been keeping me so busy these days. Well here’s a great answer to that question: music. Yes, music! It surrounds me, it greets me every day with a warm hug, and it remains as a constant that has me overcome with joy. This is how I know music is my true passion.

It began exactly a week ago when I applied to be a volunteer for Festival (506), previously Music NB Week. My band is a member of Musique NB and we had applied to showcase in this festival, but unfortunately we didn’t make the cut this year. So I thought to myself, “How else can I get involved? How can I make sure that I’m still trying to get my band’s name out there, and meet people who could have a huge impact on my career?” Short answer: volunteering.

Volunteering is probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I always wondered why people said that, because it sounded so pretentious and self-glorified, and as Phoebe Buffay proved to us all, there is no such thing as a self-less good deed. And I was always so focused on the reason behind why people decided to do volunteer work. I mean, you’re basically just working, but for free. And then I decided to try it out for myself ten years ago and realized that by giving someone your time, you’re giving them something that they can’t get from anything else, even from employees. You’re giving them a part of your life, willingly and through no obligation whatsoever. By volunteering, you are in some way, shape, or form, helping someone out. You are impacting someone’s life, even if it’s not directly, and that will stay with them forever.

But let’s not forget that volunteering also helps you out! Yes, it’s true, there are many benefits to being a volunteer. The most obvious one is the gratification of knowing that you accomplished something, that you helped someone, and that you can create change. On top of that, most organisations will show appreciation to their volunteers by either holding a banquet, sending out thank you cards, giving gifts or promotional items to thank the volunteers for all their hard work. Of course, this shouldn’t be the motivational turning point for you to start volunteering, but more of an acknowledgement of your accomplishments and that, in turn, should motivate you to keep going, to work harder, and to persevere in doing good deeds to help create a positive change in someone’s life.

As we say in french, “Let’s get back to our sheep…” (Side note: this is meant to be humorous as it is simply a direct translation from the French expression “Revenons à nos moutons,” meaning “Let’s get back to the subject at hand.”) What was I initially talking about? Oh, yes – Festival (506)! Great experience volunteering there, and it all started last Thursday. The first event was the awards ceremony – and yes, they decided to do things their own way and start the festival off with the awards ceremony instead of having it at the end. Conclusion: it was phenomenal. I was working at the door, checking the guest list and making sure everything was in order with the invitees. I got the chance to meet a crap load of musicians, some of which I already knew, others whom I was just meeting then and there. I also got to work closely with other volunteers, as well as the staff from Music NB, all of whom were great people to be working with.

During my volunteering, I also came to the realization that my leadership skills must be very evident while I work. I say that because a lot of other volunteers would come up to me and ask me questions, and let me know if they were going somewhere, as if I held a position of responsibility.

Volunteer: “I just wanted to let you know I’m going to go help backstage.”

My thoughts: *Ok, you should probably tell one of the employees because I have no say whatsoever on whether or not you should actually be doing that…*

(Not based on a real conversation. Don’t worry, I didn’t let some random dude just strut into the green room and raid the artists’ snacks and drinks.)

The following day, I was volunteering at the reception to hand out the artists’ festival passes so that they could participate freely to all the music-related activities. Obviously, I was a bit envious of my musician friends who were able to profit from all the amazing workshops and meetings that would be taking place all weekend, but I knew I couldn’t attend anyway since I was volunteering at the zoo all weekend. I did, however, ask one of the organizers if it was possible to purchase a day pass for some of the workshops because I figured it would be great if one of my bandmates could make an appearance. And I don’t know if this is Karma being on my side – which has actually been happening a lot lately, just saying – but the lady said I could have one for free if I was looking to get one. I made sure to mention that it was for my bandmate, and she said it was no problem, and bam, my bandmate was all set to get some much needed information on how to advance in your career as a musician here in New-Brunswick.
After the weekend was done – OK, technically Sunday night still counts as the weekend, but who are we kidding? You’re not gonna get shit done on Sunday night, your weekend is over – we had a band practice and had a long discussion about our bands future and what are the next big steps we want to be taking. Fortunately, we are all on the same page and are getting into high gear to get the ball rolling. We made a to-do list and we’ve already started working on some of our goals, short term and long term. And of course, we already have our EP recording lined up for next weekend, so hopefully that will bring many new opportunities for us as well.

And aside all of that, I wrote a new instrumental song for our band today, which will be appearing on our EP as an intro song. For anyone who is interested, we will be revealing this new song at our next gig, on Wednesday, October 28th at Plan b lounge. Following our band will be the incredibly talented Jack & Ally, an acoustic duo who have been touring the Maritimes for some time now. Not to be missed! As for the EP itself, we’re in the planning stages of the release dates (online date + physical CD release date), and I will definitely be keeping you all posted on that. Just as a heads up, we will also be launching a Go Fund Me page to help cover manufacturing costs, and you will actually be able to pre-order the CD and get rewards depending on how much you want to pledge toward the cause; more info on that to come!

So that about sums up, in a very detailed fashion, why I have been so busy lately. And I have to say that I’m incredibly grateful to be able to be this occupied, to feel accomplished doing things that I love, and most of all, knowing that I get to embrace all of these wonderful moments and experiences without having to spend a dime.

Hashtag: My Life Is Amazing.

Zero Spending Month

Also called a “spending freeze,” a zero spending month entails exactly what its title says: you go a whole month without spending ANY money. Well, I thought to myself, this sounds like a fun challenge! 

No, but seriously. Not only do I love challenging myself to living frugally, but there would be no better time than now to force myself to save money – mostly referring to the fact that I need to save money for my trip, but also referring to the fact that I have no job.

You might be asking yourself, “How in the hell do you go an entire month without spending any money?” And of course, the answer to that is that you can’t. But you can separate “needs” from “wants,” and realize where your money is actually going. So for myself, I’ve set up some ground rules to allow spending only on the following:

  • Rent
  • Monthly bills (electricity, internet and phone)
  • Fresh fruit & veggies (only as needed and preferably local) + milk, if needed
  • Gas for planned trips (visit to Miramichi + visit to Sydney to get my cars inspection done)

That’s it, nothing else.

Now let me just point out that doing this is basically impossible unless you are an avid stock-piler. To quote myself “Hello, my name is Carmen, and I’m a stock-pile-aholic.” Obviously, you need to have food stored in your cupboards – even if it’s shitty food – to be able to survive one month not buying an actual grocery. For me, this is especially hard because I’ve never convinced myself to eat something specific – for example, leftovers – when I was in the mood for something else. But now, it’s time to kick it into gear!

Brain: You better not let those three slices of smoked salmon go to waste… Make yourself a sandwich with that shit! 

Me: But it doesn’t taste good…

Brain: EAT IT! 

But on the bright side, I’m running out of foods that I don’t like. It probably also helps that I did a brain-storming session on Monday and realized there were 10 meals – that I actually enjoy – that I can make with everything I have in the house! The only purchase I’ll have to make is one red pepper and one zucchini. FOR TEN MEALS! Did I also mention I’m currently visiting my dad and step-mom? Hello free meals! Although I did have to pay for gas to get here, it was a necessary trip to get the inspection done on my car. Free meals were just a bonus.

Speaking of free stuff, I need to take the time to underline the fact that I am surrounded by such wonderful people. I started talking to some friends and family about my choice of doing the Zero Spending Month and have received nothing but support. I recently had coffee with a friend to catch up, and he paid for my coffee. I also went apple picking with my step-sister, and she said she would pitch in for me. And just today, my mom said she would give me money to buy food to make a Thanksgiving supper. I am definitely blessed and infinitely grateful to all the amazing people in my life, and of course, that extends further than just the three people mentioned above.

So that’s pretty much where I’m at with this no spending challenge. I’ll give you guys an update at the end of the month to see if I was able to manage, or if I caved a few times and explanations why. Wish me luck!