Nearly a decade ago I entered the professional world by taking an entry level position for a health insurance company. I took the job intending it to be for only a brief period of time, six months was the number I often stated, but ended up staying there for almost 8 years.
Now the odd thing about all this is that a week into my employment, not even having received my first paycheck, I got a call from the director of a local dinner theater, offering me a role in a show they had to fill immediately, due to losing an actor on short notice.
This would have been a paying gig (not much, but paying) and although it would have only been temporary work, the group was known for recasting the same people over and over again, meaning that if I were in one show, it was quite likely I’d get in more.
Now, although this was a dream job for me and I had only intended for the job I had just started to be temporary, not to mention that it was in a field I didn’t really consider to be a viable offer, I turned him down. I remember the exact words I used. “I’d love to, but I just started a real job.”
Nearly a decade later and guess who I see at the car lot when looking for a van to cart my family around in. That same director. The dinner theater had closed down a few years ago and he turned to selling cars. The job honestly makes a lot of sense for an actor.
Now I don’t bring this up as a comment about how my decisions were better than his. To the contrary, I often wonder where my life would have led if I had taken the creative career option. And this man had a very successful and long career doing exactly what he loved. I’m jealous of him in more than a few ways.
I bring this up because during my time with him as a customer at the car lot , he used the phrase ‘real job’. I couldn’t help but consider it might be a callback to when I implied that a job as an actor wasn’t a real job. Then again, I’m guessing that whole conversation is not even in his memory, considering how long ago it was and how little difference it made to his life.
But that consideration got me thinking all the same. My real job is what actually got me to put some real effort into my creative pursuits. If I had been acting for this company, would the same have happened? My ‘real jobs’ for all the frustrations they have caused me, have done a lot towards helping me develop myself creatively. Not to mention that the money gained over the pittance artists make has allowed for a much more creative and comfortable life than I would have had.
But here’s the real deal, folks. The reason I chose professional over artistic at that precise moment can be blamed on one thing. I had just gotten married. I knew I needed to think about and provide for the future. If it weren’t for that simple fact, if the offer had come about a month earlier, if, if, if, I would have probably made the other choice. And although there would have been parts of that alternate time-line which might have been better, I’m certain that the majority of the things I love about my life would not even be around.
I’m not saying that money buys happiness, but I am saying that it would be a lot less likely that we would have had kids so early, or do all the fun family things we do together, or even have that much time together because the life of a creative generally means long hours.
Actually, when I start to look at things through that light, the annoyance of the boredom so much of my professional life has been defined by seems absolutely dumb to even consider.
The ‘real job’ has given me so many opportunities I would have never seen without it. And most importantly, I’m still allowed to be a creative as well.
But most importantly, my real job has given me my family. They are everything to me.
Second item to note, however, is that my professional life has been able to support my creative life. If I were an actor, I would never have been able to produce my books. I probably wouldn’t have even cared to, considering how I would have already had a creative outlet.
I have done a lot of complaining over the years about my professional life, but I feel it’s time that I admit to you and myself that it has always been entirely my own choice.
And I’d do it again too.
Granted, if someone wanted to pay me to write full-time, I’m not sure I’d turn them down because of my real job 😉
Have fun out there!