Healthy living and a balanced life isn’t all about recipes and exercise. It’s also about family, friends and your career. This last item has been front and center in my mind for some time now and figuring out what I would like to do for the rest of my life and how to accomplish it is certainly a struggle. After all, it’s not that great of a feeling to be 5 (nearly 6…) years out of college without a clear direction. Finding a job that you love and look forward to every day is vital.
Today, my best college friend will tell you about what he’s been doing to find his place in the world since we graduated from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. Take it away, Alvin!
Before I Say Anything on This Blog:
I’ve owned this pair of Chucks since 2004. Limited edition green with yellow trim. Pretty sure you can’t find these at any store but I might be wrong. I’ve kept these in decent condition considering they’re about 6 years old. I don’t wear them much anymore. Only on random days and special occasions. They were made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1984 Lakers/Celtics finals but I bought them because I was a fan of the Oakland A’s at the time. Can’t say I’m much of a baseball fan anymore, but I know The Girl in Chucks certainly is.
The last special occasion I wore those shoes was my wedding day, in April of last year. That moment, wonderful and beautiful as it was, really got me thinking about making a serious attempt to get my shit together. After the wedding, we moved back from Chicago (a city that I am completely in love with and miss dearly despite feeling so alone while living there) to the Bay Area’s punk kid brother, Sacramento. This was a move I was not looking forward to because growing up in the Bay Area created these ideas about Sacramento that I think most of us from the Bay have about the capital of California. In short, Bay Area>Sacramento.
The first couple of months here kind of mirrored my early experiences in Chicago back in 2005. I would watch wifey go to school and I wandered, both physically and mentally, around my new surroundings not really having any idea of what I wanted to do. I wasn’t going to school, which was the easiest way to meet new people, so I had a hard time socially. Despite the social difficulties, moving to Chicago was a big deal for me. I had never lived outside of the 510 area code my entire life and it was cool to live in a different part of the country for once. Eventually, I got a dead-end 9 to 5 job to pay the rent and buy video games while wifey worked super hard and graduated medical school (An honor medical student at that! Holler!).
We got married and moved to Sacramento because wifey got matched up to complete her residency at UC Davis Medical Center in Sac. The beginning of my time here felt the same way it did 4 years ago in Chicago. She would go to work and I just bummed around except now I was one year away from my 30’s and married. I didn’t have any more time to work some crappy dead end desk job (sorry if I offend anyone reading this at their crappy dead end desk job. Seriously though, get the heck out of there). I started to look at different trade schools and community colleges, trying to find a program that interested me. Earlier that year I started hosting and producing my own podcast with my friend Pierre. Something in my brain made the connection that there had to be some kind of career recording and editing audio. This idea excited me greatly. I have always loved music and for a time I even performed as a singer and a pianist but that life is far behind me now. I don’t have any aspirations to be a musician but I do want to be the guy in the control room of a recording studio fiddling with faders and knobs on a giant mixing board. What really inspired me is podcasting. Shows like This American Life where the focus is people talking about experiences and telling stories. That’s what I want to do.
I went to Audio Engineering school, which overall, was a great experience. I kind of did the same thing I do when I enter a new environment: spend the first three weeks not saying anything while getting an idea of whether or not I will offend these people with my sense of humor, video game knowledge, and random thoughts. I probably didn’t get off on the right foot when I used “Party in the USA” as one of my songs in a compare and contrast essay for homework (the song I compared it to was “Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground. The idea was to compare and contrast the recordings of a modern song vs a song recorded back when we didn’t have the technology we have now). Fortunately that school was a suitable match for my insanely awkward and stupid personality and I flourished . I finished at the top of my class which I could never say before. Sure the exams weren’t the most well written and kind of easy, but audio engineering itself is not an easy thing to learn. It is really easy to lose track of everything that goes on, so I take pride in the fact that I was one of the best students in the class. For once in my life, I made a serious attempt at learning. I made flash cards for Christ’s sake! You know when teachers always say flash cards help you study? Flash cards actually work. Couldn’t believe that shit. Anyway, I really liked what I was learning about there and I wanted to be the best student. My hope was that my good grades would show my classmates and teachers that I had an understanding of how to record so that if they ever needed help or assistance they would come to me…with money. NO! That’s not true.
I graduated this past May and since then I’ve been spending a lot of time…playing video games. Yes, I do do that a lot (here’s a picture of me causing a kill screen on Pac Man Championship Edition DX), BUT I have been trying to find work at any kind of recording studio or recording environment. I spent the summer cold calling and emailing every studio in Sacramento. Sadly I didn’t get many calls back and the ones I did get led to nothing. One studio even had the nerve to “hire” me as an unpaid intern and then on my start day the studio emailed to tell me that they changed their mind. I was starting to feel like it was hopeless until one of my instructors called me one day and asked me to assist him in a session. I was thrilled. I didn’t expect to do anything other than watch, but he actually let me run parts of the session which did wonders for my confidence. After that day I felt like I could actually do something in this industry.
As of this writing I still haven’t found a full time job as an engineer but I have had a lot of opportunities open up to me recently. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy as well by taking on any side projects people approach me with as well as my own personal projects. I’m interning at a post-production place in San Francisco, learning all about the business side as well as trying to sneak into the studios to watch the head engineers record commercials for high speed internet, political campaigns, and even…*squee*…video games! Going back to school not only has given me a clear career path, but I’ve met so many great people through the experience. That has made living in Sac a lot easier. Hopefully the gigs will keep rolling cause I need money so I can make babies.
Alvin Bataan is a freelance audio engineer. He lives in Sacramento with his wife and his two cats Buster and Panthro aka Mega B and The Prince. His current project is to make avant-garde recordings of his cats purring because they see Jon Hamm on the TV. He hosts “The Mad Cuddlez Podcast,” a bi-monthly podcast about pop culture and shooting the shit.