It has been a good 12 weeks. Some of the most interesting and inspiring weeks of my life. I feel like I have done more and learned more than at any other time, save those crazy 18-credit semesters in college. I am doing ALL OF THE THINGS. And I am loving the freedom and the constant mental and emotional engagement that comes from the opportunity to pursue activities that interest me. I feel like I can accomplish something. I feel confident. I feel like my life has potential.
But I’m kind of amazed that I was able to sustain it so long with having a full-on heart-palpitating financial panic-attack. Some combination of luck and budget-mojo got me through 12 weeks without a whole lot of trouble.
But now I have arrived at The Money Problem.
As in, I need money to sustain my existence. More than I have coming in at the moment.
As in, I need to find some income.
As in, I have to decide what the point of negotiation is between dollars and passion. I have to really consider the urgency of getting a J-O-B job.
This sudden crisis was not just catalyzed by financial distress…
I got a call from a recruiter the other day about a mid-level position with a major company. It would pay quite a bit. But it would be a 9-5 at a desk in an office in Detroit. And it would be a bureaucratic position, lots of paperwork, lots of chain-of-command, not a lot of autonomy and creativity.
Exactly the kind of J-O-B job that I would probably hate. And the kind of job that would prevent me from doing the awesome things with nonprofits and spontaneous projects and pursuits I’m doing now. And it would certainly be tough to get into consulting or further my photography when 10 hours of my day would be at a desk or in a car.
But I’m not in a position to turn down the opportunity to try to make this kind of money. I put in my application. It would be ridiculously irresponsible not to. I have obligations. I have to have dollars. And that makes me sad. And angry. Because I have to be responsible to my bank account and not to my passions. Why do they have to be mutually exclusive?
I don’t want money to dictate what I do with my life. But it has, for at least 10 years now. Student loans converted to an underwater mortgage on my parents’ house don’t leave a lot of room for negotiation. And migraine medication and treatment is expensive. As is healthy food, insurance, internet access, smartphones, transportation costs…
Do I resent those things? No. My education and the people and experiences it brought into my life are priceless. My migraines aren’t going anywhere and are a byproduct of the way my brain works, which I wouldn’t change. Eating healthy is important, technology keeps me connected, my car is both transportation and a refuge for solo contemplation.
so, I understand that it costs money to keep me alive, to get the things I need and want. But money doesn’t make a life. Experiences, interactions, disappointments, conversations, contemplations, relationships, failures, successes…these are some of the things that make a life.
I haven’t been able to find these things behind a desk.
But I’m finding them in coffee shops, half-demolished houses, nonprofit offices, and on university quads. I’m finding them in random phone calls, photography gigs, volunteer jobs, on twitter, and in books I’ve half-read but can’t stop talking about.
I only have one life. I don’t want to spend it pursuing someone else’s goals, playing by someone else’s rules, meeting someone else’s deadlines. I want to plan world-changing projects over morning tea, come up with a thousand ways they won’t work before lunch, and then try them anyway after dinner. I want to work when it makes sense to work, where I work best, and however long it takes me to get it done. I want to take a nap or go for a run at 2:00 or 4:00 or whenever my body needs me to in order to operate at my best. I want to stay up until 2am in a furiously productive blur and then sleep until I can be at my best again. I want to be able to shut out the world or fling open the windows on my own schedule.
Yeah, I know. “Stop dreaming and get a job,” right? That’s what everyone has to do. That’s what you have to do to survive. You can’t live like that and expect anybody to pay you, or respect you, or be supportive of you. You just can’t.
Well why not? WHY NOT? If everybody lived the status quo, we’d be an assembly line society - working for the man, collecting a paycheck, not taking risks, never changing, never innovating.
I’m just really not ok with that.
I have been incredibly responsible all my life. Even as a child, as far back as I can remember.
I’m 30 years old. I have no kids or high-maintenance pets. Nobody but me to be responsible for. I have a mind that never stops questioning and at least some remnants of youthful energy.
So could I turn down a full-time well-paid job in order pursue consulting, photography, writing…living?
I don’t know. Right now? I don’t think my convictions are stronger than my empty wallet.
I’m working on that.