Monday, September 16, 2013

Inventing Your Own Life's Meaning

A friend recently shared the behind-the-scenes stresses of her dreamy sports writing job. After detailing how she had to pull over on the side of a highway in the middle of the night to file a breaking story for the paper, I was reminded of the few meet-ups we've managed to squeeze in over the years and how she'd have to stay connected with work at all times in case something needed to be covered immediately. We'd be enjoying a meal and catching up when suddenly hell would break loose on Twitter and we'd have to cut things short so she could whip out her laptop and start making calls for her next article. The woman is stressed out her mind, but still, I wanted to believe that she loved her job to put up with the downsides, right?

"I think I just want to prove to others and myself that I can be a legitimate beat writer and that I can break news as well," she told me.

I wonder if that validation isn't coming at too high a cost, but also have to admit that my situation is no better. Last month I found myself struggling financially, plowing through rejections, and doubting if I'm doing any of this right. Yes, I have the time to spend with family and friends, to pursue my creative ambitions, to relax when I want to, work from a coffee shop, the park, L.A., wherever, and spend an afternoon reading in the sun, but I don't feel like I'm building towards any real future. Because as great as these things may be for my mind and being, I think we can agree that making money is just as important. And while a high paying job is demanding and stressful, being broke is no picnic either.

A few days ago I stumbled upon Gavin Aung Than's illustration of Bill Watterson's inspiring commencement speech to the 1990 graduates of Kenyon College. In it, the Calvin & Hobbes cartoonist pointed out how choosing a slower path that satisfies your soul and allows you time to chase the things that bring you joy isn't always so popular. You're expected to climb ladders, throw yourself into a career, and work like a horse lest you be deemed a slacker. If you step off the hamster wheel or give up a lucrative position, people might wonder if you've done lost your mind. You might wonder the same if you pass up a fat paycheck in order to go pursue a calmer existence. "As if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth," Watterson said.

I definitely don't want my life to be consumed with earnings and getting to the top of some pyramid somebody else built. I have a vision for what I'd like my life to be: meaningful, productive, filled with creative projects that I'm passionate about, the ones that keep me up at night because I'm so damn excited about them. I want the freedom to work during my optimum hours, to not have to eat lunch while shackled to my computer, to believe that what I'm working on will inspire others to pursue their own dreams, too. I want to always have time for a drink with friends, car rides with Dad, to lay out on the grass and enjoy a free concert with A. at the park, to write in the mornings, draw in the afternoons, and go to sleep at a respectable hour.

See, I love the life I have now because I already have all of the above...I just don't know if it's a sustainable one for much longer and am struggling so hard to make both sides of the coin meet.



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