Three categories of participating (used loosely) artists and technicians could be “retired, amateur, and professional.” I am desperately trying to be retired, but “professional” is the addiction status to which I am trying to overcome. A professional technician is, typically, required to “like everything” in order to work regularly, no opinion of the material involved is preferred. An amateur allows himself the often unappreciated luxury of being a step above a fan in preferences, although amateurs are often snobby about the stuff they don’t like. Retired is ideally when the commerce is gone from consideration. A retired guy gets to say, “fuck this, I don’t like it and never did”: my opinion of banjos and bagpipes, for example. I’m working toward being totally consistent in making sure everyone knows if I’m not happy, they can’t afford me. So far, I’m batting about .500, which means I still get pulled into projects I wish I’d never seen or heard.
As a kid listening to jazz and playing in rock and roll bands for the experience, money, and escape from Kansas, I despised country music (except western, but not country and western, just “western” or cowboy songs). Everything I hated about my hometown was well-described in country music and I wanted to escape to somewhere none of that bullshit existed. I would do practically anything to get to listen to a jazz player live, but I’d leave town to avoid the genres of music I didn’t appreciate. The stuff I could play was tolerable and, sometimes, fun but I dreamed of being a musician I never became. I didn’t become that musician, in large part, because I discovered that I could get into the same doors as a technician. Jarrett’s Law applied for me in a way that allowed/encouraged/eased me out of being a player and behind the glass or at a tech’s bench.
So, I became a professional technician. As a professional, I wasn’t allowed to have preferences in much of anything. Not that anyone told me that, but there are only so many jobs and the bills don’t care whose money is paying them. In fact, getting the bills paid is the prime purpose of being a professional. “Art” and professionalism are almost in direct opposition of each other. In a group activity, the only actual “artist” is whoever is paying the bills. Every step away from the bill-payer is just someone trying to squeeze in their tiny moments of inspiration and art without getting fired for being too creative. For many years, I couldn’t justify taking the salary cut to become more of an artist in my work. Since I’m not much of a people person, that easy excuse allowed me to constantly say to myself and potential employers/customers/artists, “I charge $90-225/hour (depending on the work and year) for my consulting/tech/engineering time and it’s not worth it to me to do whatever it is you want me to do for less.”
In retirement, the financial aspects of work no longer control me. I was ruthless enough in the above analysis for long enough that we’re pretty financially independent (as long as Trump and the Russians/Republicans don’t trainwreak the economy and banking system). I’ve been around some kinds of music and performance genres for long enough that I would just as soon never hear or experience them again. Some of the stuff that I’ve disliked for my whole life I still dislike and have no interest in pretending that more exposure will change that. Ideally, I should be down to the things I love and situations I am happy in, but saying “no” is just as difficult today as it was 50 years ago. But I’m working on it. Worst case, I’ll retreat to my dream Montana abandoned mine and practice filling intruders’ butts with rock salt.