I think there’s a weird stigma and expectation of working in the arts that unless you die with your paintbrush in your hand, you weren’t dedicated to the craft. While we all connect on basic key points like financial and personal relationship trouble – something we don’t seem to talk about is what happens when it’s time to move on.
I’ll use myself as an example. I got involved in theatre when I was three years old and I’m 25 now. My parents literally met in a production of Fiddler on The Roof, and it’s been a no brainer for me ever since. I mainly focused on acting, but I’ve directed and run different parts of tech as well. I got my BA in Theatre Arts Performance, and I minored in Media & Ethics to try and cultivate my story-telling abilities further.
I would lie in bed every night as a teenager and practice my Oscar acceptance speech, and promised myself that if I didn’t win my Oscar by 25 that I would move into a cabin in the woods and live off the land.
No melodrama there, right?
Well, I’m 25 now. No Oscar, just a crippling amount of student loans on top of everyday bills that go along with living in New York City. I got my first “TV job” a month or two ago, and will allegedly have my 45 seconds of fame in a few weeks on AMC.
However, I still have my crippling student loans and regular bills.
I worked at Radio City Music Hall as a Tour Guide for almost a year. While the wages were subpar, to say the least, I met some of the best friends of my life in an environment I would have given my left leg to be buried in. I was living the typical “starving artist making it work” lifestyle until I checked my savings account one day and had the visceral response of what can only be described as my heart and my stomach changing places. Other guides would come and go as they got their full time jobs, and I once caught the phrase “dreams die, bills don’t” come out of my mouth towards the end of that cycle.
I got offered my first full time job about a month ago. It’s an honest to God, sit at a desk and make a close-to livable wage job. It’s in an industry where I still get to talk to and work with people from all walks of life, and I still get to use that part of my brain that feels like it’ll shrivel up and die unless I challenge it.
My first day at this job was also my 25th birthday. So I asked myself, did I give up or did I move on? Personally, I look at it as somewhere in between moving on and adapting. Moving on to me means moving forward. By no means is taking a “9-5 job” my signal for the arts to go to hell. One of the main stipulations of being an artist is working in the environment you have and doing what you need to get by. People look at 9-5 jobs as throwing in the towel and “conforming to the man” and – sorry, lost my train of thought and starting singing Aquarius (Let The Sunshine In).
Being an artist is about having a balance. Finding a balance is an art form in and of itself. If you can survive gig to gig, God bless you and please tell me what your secret is. If you need a little break to get yourself and your things back in order, God bless you and let me tell you what my secret is. Don’t look back on all the work you did in the past as a better time. Don’t worry about the potential lack of work in the future. You’re living here, now, so live here now.
9-5 jobs do not mean you give up. It means you decided to take care of the vessel that creates the craft, and that’s one of the more beautiful forms of art.
Self-care is an art, don’t @ me Tumblr. So you audition on the weekend and go to rehearsals at 6:00. Live to reach your peak happiness and not how others reach theirs. No two mountains are the same.
So my stage has office lights instead of Gobo’s for a while. All the world’s a stage, remember?
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.” – Henry David Thoreau
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