I have only recently understood what others have known for so long. The simplicity and practicality of this conclusion embarrasses me, but here I am: Thirty eight years old, and finally ready to accept that I am an artist. I know I know. It sounds so obnoxious. So self important, so “who do you think you are?”
It also sounds really, really true.
I am also a woman who needs a paycheck. For so long I have confused these and tried to conflate the two. But I am done pioneering and ready to do as the artists before me have done and get a flippin' day job.
I have spent the better part of 18 months ( plus the 10 years before that) trying to land the “dream” job, desperate to parlay parts of me that are, for lack of better phrasing, not suitable for work.
I thought a job in a creative office or a meaningful sector of work would nurture and satiate this part of me, but it didn’t. Instead it zapped me of my energy - creative and professional, leaving little to no bandwidth to create something, simply for the pleasure of creating.
I took the new year and the growing pile of rejection letters as an opportunity to streamline my freelance business into more focused areas, and to preserve blocks of time for my favorite things, dreaming, scheming, and of course, always believing. I thought this would be the winning combination, the perfect trifecta for me to gain momentum and get my artistic groove back.
I succeeded in getting more writing work, but guess what I did not want to do every night after spending hours writing for a client? Hint: it’s not watch TV, that became my dedicated evening activity. If I couldn’t create content, then I was going to consume it. If you guessed “writing,” you are right. Move ahead two spaces.
WAIT, don't go!
I also want to mention that there is a real and present danger working for yourself, mostly at home. He's a sneaky son of a gun and you thought you were just high school friends, but turns out he will follow you if you don’t create better work habits.
Evil, thy name is PROCRASTINATION.
What I don’t finish in the morning can be done in the afternoon, and oh look, Law and Order’s on again, well, the evening is free — this is what “flexibility” is for right? Damn, the kids want dinner AGAIN, didn’t we do that last night? And on and on it goes. In addition to a supplemental paycheck, clearly I was in need of parameters, deadlines and accountability.
I swallowed my pride (and my lexapro of course) and said YES to a very boring part-time admin job, the likes of which I would have run screaming from a few years ago. There is NOTHING cool about this place. It’s all beige and cubicles and landlines. Nary a whiteboard or shared IKEA workspace in sight.
I love it.
I go in three mornings a week for four hours and I answer phones, file papers ( PAPER!), place newspapers on the big wig desks — it’s very Mad Men and I’m into it. I also wear skirts and pants, not jeans or athlesiure wear, and that makes me feel straight up UNSTOPPABLE.
There is a very definitive end to my day. I tidy my desk, say my goodbyes, and go to my “second shift” where I focus on client work for a few more hours before heading home to meet the kids.
What I hoped to be true has proven right. I am brimming with ideas. Because I can basically coast through my work day, I have more ideas for things I want to make. I have better focus on the work others are paying me to help them with, and I don’t take any of it home with me which is certainly the best part.
I am trying not to attach my identity to my career, except when I say I’m an artist, then I am 100% full on in. In addition to accepting my unconventional career trajectory, I am growing in comfort with not fitting neatly in a category. Wearing a lot of hats is an overused cliché for good reason. I have many and they rotate several times in one day. Sometimes I mess up and wear my viking helmet to the PTO meeting and everyone gets really confused, myself included.
I have a lot of interests, a family in NYC, very few marketable skills, and a wild imagination. I am cobbling these together in hopes of a making a decent living and a beautiful life.