We’ve all heard it a thousand times before. “Do what you love,” “Think of what you would do for free, and make that your career,” “Money will follow the passion.” I love watching re-runs of Dexter, but I don’t see anyone rushing to cut me a check. I love painting, but I also love going out for dinner, getting drinks with my friends, and being able to pay the rent. Can I realistically maintain the latter with the money from the former? I didn’t think so, and that is why I sold out. Big time. For the past three years I have been the Vice President for my mom’s company. I went to college for Fine Arts, and volunteered in Mozambique for seven months. I was all set to be a bleeding heart/starving artist. I had fallen in love with the romance of poor bohemia. But when I moved to New York City and tried to live off a teacher’s salary I quickly realized, as Jonathan Larson put it so eloquently, “bohemia is dead.”
All of a sudden I was challenging property assessments to lower real estate taxes in one of the richest counties in America. I was 26 and making more money than I ever thought possible. I thought my life was all set. And to top it all off, I even had lots of free time, and practically no boss. But why wasn’t I painting in my free time? I was part of a writer’s group, and I had the most flexible schedule of all the participants, and yet I was producing the least amount of writing.
The reason for my lack of creativity was that my HeSo had dried up. That’s my nickname for my heart and soul. I was suppressing the part of me that just wanted to be happy, give back to the world, and express myself. I was ignoring my HeSo with the security of a fat paycheck. The more the little voice inside my head said, “Stop it. This isn’t making you happy,” the more fearful I become of losing my financial security. Whenever I thought, maybe I should take a break from this corporate stuff and do something else for a while, the little voice said “you’ll be imprisoned with debt, and you’ll never be able to take a vacation or buy pretty clothes again.” But the truth is I was already in a self-made prison. Robert Anthony’s quote comes to mind, “Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy.” I realized I needed to get out, take a chance, and make my HeSo a priority.
Two months ago I gave my mom notice that I was quitting. She was upset. Not about losing an employee, but by the fact that her baby would lose a very comfortable safety net. After all, the only reason why she asked me to work with her in the first place is because she thought I could do my creative stuff during my free time. But now I am convinced that you can’t balance the two. You can’t write a short story when you have an excel spreadsheet on the desktop. Or at least, I couldn’t. Creativity can’t be something you do on the side. How can you express yourself when you feel inauthentic? What scared my mom, even more was that I didn’t have a plan.
I began applying for jobs online. I wanted to work for a non-profit that promoted the arts. I went to the place where all young, idealistic, motivated people go – idealist.org. After sending out four, yes, only four applications, I realized this is not for me. Here are some things I learned from applying for jobs. I hate:
– Writing cover letters
– Writing resumes
– taking the subway during rush hour
– the thought of two weeks vacation (literally it makes me sick to my stomach)
So, in order to avoid this list I cannot get a conventional job. But I will do the most patriotic thing I can do, pursue happiness. I must follow the cliché and do what I would do for free. So here are some things I know make me happy, in no particular order:
– Watching movies
– Drawing/ Painting
– Interior decorating
– Volunteer work (particularly abroad)
– Taking pictures
– Creative writing
I want to start a business; in fact I want to start several. For the next year I will pursue any crazy idea I have that first makes me happy, second pays the rent. I am willing to invest $10,000 of my savings. If I fail, I will lose my savings and have to crawl back to the corporate world with my tail between my legs. However if I’m successful, I will be a shining example that you really can do what you love for a living. I’ll get my HeSo back, and have some fun. Are you with me?!? Say Aye.
Here are my financial goals:
– Make $45,000
Ok, here’s the reality of it. I’m not going to be happy being homeless. I need $10,500 for rent, $15,000 for taxes (taxes are higher when you’re self employed and living in a city) $12,000 for monthly expenses (I’m cutting my prior spending in half, mind you), $3,500 for my Roth IRA (I’m taking a risk, but not with my retirement. I’m not going to work into my eighties), $4,000 for vacations and other things that make me happy (what? That’s the point of all this, right?)
– Make an additional $10,000 for charity
Here are my HeSo guided goals:
– Inspire other people to take risks
– Make Queens a little more hip
Everyone knows there’s been a long-standing rivalry between Brooklyn and Queens for the coolest borough. Ok, that’s a lie. I live in Long Island City, and although I love my apartment, and there are great stores and restaurants in the area it definitely lacks the hip factor of Brooklyn, and my friends act like they’re visiting another country when they come to see me. I would like to bring some more hip, artsy charm to the borough with the most potential.
– Make every day count
For the last three years I’ve been waking up and dreading returning business calls, sending out invoices, and acting like an adult with my clients. I want to wake up excited for adventure and potential that every hour brings me.
As you probably guessed, this is very scary. The thought of running out of money petrifies me. The thought of having to start all over from scratch keeps me up at night. Being entirely accountable for my happiness and success is intimidating. Having no rules and no boss is surprisingly vomit-worthy. But I have no choice. I refuse to be unhappy. I refuse to let my life pass by without any say in it. I refuse to believe that security is more important than freedom. So please send me all your support and ideas.