Making It Work

by third planet living

Esther’s post yesterday got me thinking about my own bohemian lifestyle.  When it started, and how it’s evolved.  

I guess my first experience of being an “outsider” (not counting the many playground heartaches of my childhood) came with the decision that high school really wasn’t working for me.  So at age sixteen I took a test and flew the coop.  With the exception of my parents, everyone was horrified, (I would miss prom and economics).  In their eyes, it was the first step towards failure, to which I took deep offense, as I was a smart kid and an excellent student.  Luckily those days of judgment are behind me… right?

How many times have you been standing around, shooting the breeze with someone you’ve just met… you talk about gas prices, the upcoming election, the really great Asian-Fusion restaurant you found in the most unlikely neighborhood… and suddenly the universal chit-chat takes a turn toward the specific and you’re asked, “What do you do?”  We throw the question around so casually, like it’s the easiest thing in the world to sum up the multitudinous details of our lives in a sentence or two.

Of course people are asking “what we do” for a living.

Whenever I’m asked this, I find myself taking an uncomfortably long pause, during which I am quickly assessing how well this person needs to know me, or wants to know me, etc.  Usually I decide that the answer is far too complex, and opt for the shortest (and least interesting) route, which is to talk about my “day job.”  What’s strange is that I seem to want to omit that part entirely.  I’m sure it has a lot to do with ego, and wanting to be seen as the creative badass type and not the boring desk job type… but there’s something more:  It doesn’t accurately reflect who I am.

The truth is,  people aren’t just asking “what we do” as in, how do we make our money.  People take this little sliver of information and use it to size us up and create a quick sketch of who we are.  Makes me want to hand over my fat stack of 1099’s and see what they come up with.

My “day job” is working at the Western School of Feng Shui.  While I spend a significant portion of my day there, the income from that job only brings in about 2/3 of what I need monthly, just to scrape by.  So where do I come up with the other 1/3?  It varies.   Some of my more regular sources of unsteady income include:

             * Making jewelry for Betty’s Beads.

             * Being a compliance reviewer for the SD Office of Education. 

             * Doing school runs for my sister’s daycare.

             * Working on the occasional theatrical production. 

             * Tutoring folks in algebra, and more recently, in business math.

It’s a bit of a crapshoot, but it’s served me well.   That’s not to say I’m all footloose and fancy-free.  (Well maybe fancy free, dammit).  It’s a compromise between financial security and freedom and flexibility, until I can earn my living as an artist… and while it’s totally worth it, it can be stressful.  Sometimes people pass judgment.  Sometimes the loan officer at the bank makes me feel like the most irresponsible person on the planet. There are periods where I need to feel more financially stable, so I day-job more and freelance less. I’m grateful I know how to make that work. But if suddenly I were making the bucks doing what I love, I don’t think I would feel like a sellout.  I think I would feel like the luckiest and most blessed person on earth. 

Life doesn’t have to be a constant struggle to be meaningful. This guilt-association we have with money holds us back.  I fight it, for sure.   From the time we’re little, this “us” vs. “them” mentality (them being people who have lots of money) is pounded into us.  I always related most to the penniless woodcutter, shoemaker or Cinderella… all of whom were flat broke but had super good hearts.  A poor man’s attempt to make being poor suck less.  “I’m broke but I’m happy,” you know?  It seems very soulful whereas money seems very worldly.  But babies, we’re souls livingin a material world and need to strike a balance between the two.  Can’t we remain kind and generous people with artistic integrity, while living a life of shared abundance?  I hope so, because I’ve been financially challenged for too long, and I’m looking to bust out and get me some of mine.