Pursuing a creative career, though scary, can be life-saving
“Yeah, that’s great. But when are you going to get a real job?” Ah, the well-intended words spoken by well-meaning family and friends to those who have gone the way of the creative and unconventional.
The minimum wage job at a drive-thru. Waiting tables. Bagging groceries. Making copies. Making music. Writing project proposals. Writing books. Which ones are real? And who has the authority to decide?
Sometimes it seems like our society’s definition of a “real job” involves something corporate, a Monday-Friday, 9-5, with paid vacation, generous benefits, a 401k, and a clear path from cubicle to corner office with a view. It’s practicality, stability, the ability to provide, creating a name for yourself, being able to retire at the right age. All of these things? They fit the American Dream. They’re comfortable.
I’ve learned there’s a difference between being comfortable and being happy.
By the societal definition, the job that drains my energy, crushes my spirit, toys with my anxiety and stress levels, and makes me want to scream, is real. But that thing I do on the side, that I’m still learning, that barely pays a dime, but sings to my soul and makes me feel alive, isn’t.
I’ve been in the workforce almost 15 years, which I know isn’t long by some standards. I’ve held jobs I enjoyed, and ones I hated with every fiber of my being. I haven’t found that one I want to keep for the rest of my life, but I’m working on it. In my early thirties, I’m finally making choices that align with where I see myself in the long-term, rather than where everyone else sees me. I’m on an uncertain path toward a creative career, with a thousand unanswered questions and a thousand ways to fail.
And it is terrifying.
But it’s real. Maybe not by conventional standards. Maybe not in the eyes of my corporate peers. But to me, it’s real. It’s my heartbeat. My future.
Maybe you’ve been chasing real jobs your entire career, and none of them have clicked. Maybe you’ve always wanted to draw, paint, design, write, sing. The working world isn’t always kind to the creative. Everyone has an opinion, a reason why you can’t, or shouldn’t, or won’t make it, or won’t enjoy it as much as you think you will. They’ll tell you the creative life is only for those with real talent, those who get lucky, those who don’t have a family or responsibilities or insert some other lame excuse here.
What do they know, anyway?
Maybe it won’t be easy. Maybe it won’t come with all the perks and stability (at least not right away.) Maybe it won’t be roses all the time. But it’ll be yours.
Life is too short to spend decades in a career that you don’t want, no matter how practical it is. Be impractical. Be irrational. It’s your life. Your vision. Your future. Your dream. Reality is subjective, and when it comes to the people who think you need to just get a real job already, reality is wildly overrated.
Amanda Baczek is an aspiring graphic designer and current arranger of words (sometimes good ones.) She finds fiction writing to be the greatest antidote to reality, but has a passion for connecting with the outside world through all forms of the written word. A recovering worst-case scenario expert, she's learning to be okay with change and uncertainty, and hopes to help others discover the joy and freedom in listening to their creative heartbeat and following their craziest dreams.