Recently, I shared a meme with the below quote:
“Keep your day job.
The truth is that even if you’re lucky enough to make a living doing what you truly love, it will probably take you awhile to get to that point. Until then, you’ll need a day job. A day job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine. Freedom from financial stress means freedom in your art. As photographer Bill Cunningham says, ‘If you don’t make money, they can’t tell you what to do.'”
Upon sharing the meme, I was met with well-meaning encouragements to take a risk, quit my job. It will be worth it.
Many of us have the dream: the day we can tell our bosses to take their jobs and shove it. We throw our arms up in victory as we sail through the front doors one last time. Yes! In our imagination, it feels so good.
I have this dream, and yet now not so recklessly minded. In fact, I have come to appreciate my day job.
How is that possible? How can one desire freedom from the corporate world and still appreciate the daily grind?
The perfect analogy came during a meditation therapy workshop with a friend. When she asked what I want most of all, I responded freedom. She then told me a story of a boy and a butterfly.
A boy noticed a butterfly beginning to emerge from the cocoon. In the kindness of his heart, he decided to help the butterfly out, but when he did so, the butterfly fell to the floor, fluttered about, and died.
The struggle to emerge from the cocoon strengthens the butterfly’s wings. It can only emerge and fly away by its own doing. This is the same for people. Through the struggle, we all strengthen our wings, and when pushed out when we’re not ready, we may falter and fall hard.
Despite the glamorous talk of quitting our day jobs, it must come with deep personal reflection. It’s not just about being ready to take a risk. It is to know if that risk is really worth it.
Here are some considerations:
1) Financial security
Sigh. Yes, it feels good, and yes, there is the danger of becoming complacent and comfortable. I not only have heard this argument, I believe it to a certain extent, but this all depends upon on a person’s goals.
There are those who have plans to start a new business, or offer a specific service, and yes, at times you just have to do it. However, for creative people who are offering mostly a product, one has to wait until they have significant number of customers. Unless one has financial backing or support, one needs to have a way to pay rent, and really, mom and dad don’t want us squatting in their homes as we pursue our dreams.
There are benefits to financial security. There is less anxiety of paying bills and rent, which eases the mind. A person is able to reflect on their creativity rather than their financial stresses. There is the ability to pay for tools of the trades, workshops, and even travel. If one doesn’t have financial support from a backer, or family, it is their paycheck that funds dreams.
Often the job we bemoan is what is funding our passions.
Every creative person has a different process, and some thrive on chaos and adversity. Me? I am a triple air sign who desperately needs grounding. Left to my own devices, I can easily float away.
The stability of a full-time job forces me to find a routine within the daily grind. I commit to early morning and lunchtime writing. This stability and routine helped me become prolific as a writer and artist.
Stability often has a negative connotation, as we may become bored or stagnant within our routine. If we do, then we need to shake up the routine that best suits us. As financial security, this stability helps ease the mind from anxiety, and when less anxious, we may be more creative.
The stability of a job can increase creative output.
While there is encouragement from others to take that leap of faith into our dreams, we have to fully understand what our dreams are. What do we want? Are we leaping into our dreams or onto a bridge which may or may not lead our dreams?
What is meant by that is often we leap with a goal in mind which has not yet been obtained, so we find a substitute. I will use myself as an example. As a writer, I dream of living off my own creative writing, and yet, as of now, I am nowhere close to that being an option. If I quit my day job, I would have to invest in writing for others or teaching writing, and in doing so, I may find myself bogged down trying to make ends meet and further away from my passions and goal.
Keeping our eyes on our end goal is a way to determine whether we should keep our day job or tell our bosses to shove it. We should move toward our goals with the precision of a surgeon and not jump into a void.
The void may work for those who don’t have a specific goal in mind and just desire freedom from the daily grind, but for those who are laser-focused, sitting back and waiting until we’re ready is a better strategy.
What are we willing to sacrifice? What are we willing to give up for our dreams?
There may be some willing to sleep in their car and eat at 7-Eleven. For me, a slightly pampered princess, I need a bed, a roof over my head, and food in my refrigerator. I can give up a new car. I drive a 2001 Toyota deteriorating from the inside out, and that’s fine, but I want a car to get around. Personally, I need to invest in my community through my yoga studio. It keeps me connected and grounded as an artist who can easily lose myself.
When we think of telling our bosses to shove it, do we have our sacrifices in mind and are we ready to make them?
Our job doesn’t need to be a corporate one. We don’t need to make tons of money in pursuit of another passion, but we need enough to cover our routines, our tools, and what we’re not willing to sacrifice.
5) Creative freedom
Here is the biggest paradox of all. When I was taking screenwriting classes, our teacher told us this was the best time of our lives as writers. Once we sold a screenplay, once we signed a contract—boom—there goes our creative freedom. Despite signing a contract doing what we love, we lose the freedom to create what we want; we are creating for others. For writers, and even artists, this is an epic consideration. Do we want to create for others or relish our own creativity?
As a writer, I have tested these waters, and I really don’t like writing for others. My heart and soul need to bleed onto the page, or else it is painfully hard. For others, however, they may prefer writing the story of others via TV and film writers, ghostwriters for books. This may be a goal for some. Their personal creativity may take second stage to the writing gig.
It is fully understanding where we stand in this process. Do we want the freedom to create what we please or is it the medium we wish to pursue?
Weighing all the options
After all considerations, is quitting our day job the answer? Maybe, maybe not. But it takes more than the confidence to take a risk; it takes self-awareness and a complete understanding of what we want to accomplish.
I was and still am one of those who dream of quitting my day job. As a Pennsylvania steel town girl, I recall the movie, “Flashdance.” Oh, what a feeling! What a feeling it is to dance through our lives and making our dreams come true, and yet there must be gratitude to that which is lifting us and allowing us to get there, and it’s those damned paychecks.
Remember, regardless if we have a day job or not, there is nothing to stop us from pursuing our dreams. We do so every day, whether before the sun rises, or when everyone else is asleep.
The dream is always alive.