I think that creative people have always had to be super resourceful when it comes to making a living. Some of us don’t fit in well to traditional employment settings, no matter how hard we try. Some (many) cannot make a living from the creative work that we do. I’d love a Patron, so I can do what I do best…but in the meantime, I work. And I learn a lot from this work.
I’m not sure that “checkered” is the right word to describe my employment past. I’ve always been what I think is an exceptional employee. I’ve been told, in fact, that I am “too nice.” I’m not sure if this is a plus, or negative, or both.
But I was thinking about two jobs I held, in the past several years — one right after the other. I live in an area with few or no traditional jobs. It is very very hard to get a job here (I know — I’ve been rejected for more than 20 or 30 traditional jobs, not counting freelance work I’ve gone after), and people hang onto their jobs for what they’re worth. In regards to these jobs, I’m not talking about big bucks. The jobs ranged in pay from $10-$15 / hour. Welcome to the new W2 economy.
The first job was a professional role in a professional organization. People were nice to me, but guarded. My attempts to be friendly were often met with disinterest. I wondered if some were threatened by me or by my job (which was new and not well understood). I quickly learned that work is not a place to necessarily look for friends. If they happen, great. It was a good lesson in non-attachment. I had been out of the traditional workforce for many many years, and this was a good wake up call.
When this temporary job ended, I took a seasonal job in the hospitality industry and a $3/hour cut in pay. We worked our asses off, quite literally. My Fitbit would log from 15,000-30,000 steps per day on this job. I’m strong and in shape, and yet…I’d get home from this job and hardly be able to put a sentence together, I was so wiped. There was tumult and craziness in this place (which would make your head spin if I told you about it), and yet…I felt more at home in this job than I’d ever felt in a traditional job.
Call me weird.
I loved the physical activity. I loved the dance of the hospitality industry when everyone’s grooving and things are going well. I loved not sitting at a desk, and I loved getting to be outside a lot, even if it only meant walking from one cabin to the next and the next.
What I loved best is that people (mostly) cared about each other at this job. We ate together, we helped each other, we learned to laugh when things were ridiculous and crazy. We got weird and we swore a lot when we got frustrated. We were totally there for the guests and we worked our butts off for our visitors. I got to hug a big dog every day (who finally learned to put up with me). I got sad when people left suddenly — people I’d started to get close to.
The takeaway? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s something about choosing whatever best supports the writing — no matter what it looks like. “Professional” is in the eyes of the beholder.