Day Jobs are Necessary
During my early days in New York, a mentor gave me some invaluable advice: “Having a day job does not take you away from the work of being an artist. Having a day job is part of the work being an artist.” This took an enormous weight off my shoulders. I no longer felt guilt, or like an artistic failure, because I had to do something to support myself. It gave me permission to seek lucrative work that could alleviate financial stress while I focused on being an artist. Because there is nothing romantic about starving.
But this piece of advice also led to a problem.
Day Jobs Lead to Burnout
There is a lot of discussion these days about Millennial Burnout, the inability to perform basic life functions because of a pervasive sense of being overwhelmed and the need to optimize every task for efficiency. I’m not going to spend this blog post defending my generation from those who see us as lazy and entitled. Here’s the truth: I am a Millennial and for three years I felt overwhelmed by both my day job and my artistic career. I burned the candle at both ends, and then I burned out.
What surprised me most about my burnout was I managed to let it happen while being so freaking efficient. I worked from home four days a week, so I cut out my commute. I woke up at 5:30 am, so workout and writing were both done before work began. Evenings were open for rehearsals, readings, or tutoring. (Because I was part of the gig economy too, duh.) Eventually, I was nannying during the day while simultaneously working remote and if that’s not efficiency, I don’t know what is.
Looking back on this list, it’s a miracle I didn’t burn out sooner.
Is Your Day Job Damaging Your Soul?
The big problem with my day job was I didn’t feel morally good about it. I was blogging for a marketing agency, and most of the stuff I wrote was a lie. Instagram isn’t empowering, for example. Finding the right concealer for your skin tone won’t going to help you take on the world. Brands are not at the forefront of positive cultural change. But I wrote all of those things at one point or another. And I told myself this was okay because having a day job is part of the work of being an artist. It was just a job, but it was damaging my soul.I wish I could say that I grew a backbone one day and quit. But to avoid writing any more lies, I should say that they laid me off. They laid off all their contractors in one fell swoop, and because I was part of the gig economy, I received no unemployment and virtually no warning. But in there with the anger, fear, and general chaos of losing a job, was another feeling, a feeling I wasn’t expecting but told me everything I needed to know: grace.
Rules for Finding Grace in My Day Job
I found a new day job. It’s not nearly as impressive as the last one. It’s not something that makes use of my degree. (Hello, my degree is in theater.) It’s also not something long-term, which means I will have to find a another day job within the year. But I’m okay with that, because I’ve compiled a list of rules that (I hope) will help me avoid a similar situation in the future. Maybe they will help you as well.
- My day job can’t be a second career
I am a playwright. The way I generate income shouldn’t overshadow that. The desire to have something professional-sounding to tell friends and family is less important than doing the thing I believe God wants me to do. I don’t need to impress anyone.
- My day job must give me a sense of accomplishment
At the same time, if I’m going to spend eight hours a day doing something, I need to feel useful. Whether I’m giving someone a great experience at a restaurant or making a small child feel loved while Mom and Dad are at work, I know I’ve made a positive impact. A sense of accomplishment doesn’t need to come from a fancy job.
- My day job must be moral
This should go without saying, but it’s surprising how easy it is to rationalize something that’s bringing in money. If I feel gross at the end of the day, I’m finding something else.
- My day job must leave room for grace
A good day job is just that: a job during the day. It shouldn’t occupy my evenings. It shouldn’t interfere with my prayer life. My day job needs to let me breathe.
God is There Too
Finding balance is hard. Between making art, maintaining relationships, and supporting oneself, it’s easy to let God take a backseat. But the reality is, for a Christian, God is intimately connected with every part of your life. God is with you while you wait tables. God is with you at the cash register or in the park with the kids. Realizing that makes all the difference.