My friend Matt Dineen used to have a wonderful radio show on our local station, Valley Free Radio, called Passions and Survival. He still maintains a blog by the same name, which you should check out. His show explored what has been a central question in my life; how do we manage to follow our passions in life while managing to meet our needs for survival? I have struggled with this problem particularly since relocating to Santa Fe, where the job market was tight even before the recession and interesting organizations were hard to come by.
My initial solution was to separate passion and survival completely. I got a regular job so that I could make money to survive, and I endeavored to maintain my passions (which are outlined in detail on this blog) in my "spare time". As it turns out, this is a terrible plan. Being stuck in a chair in an office under the watchful eye of your boss, doing pointless work and getting treated like crap, is, as many of you are keenly aware, unbearable. It becomes more and more difficult to tend to your responsibilities at work because all you want to do is go home and plant things or play music or organize a gardening workshop or what have you.
My unhappiness at work was becoming so extreme and my desperation to escape so intense that I could barely stand it. What I did is probably a lot easier than for some people than it was for me. I quit. Without a plan (I really like plans). I had some savings that were supposed to go towards purchasing land, but I knew that if I didn't make this break now that before I knew it I would be a 30-year-old receptionist with a useless BA and no soul left in her body. I had no idea how much of this fund for my future would be exhausted as I held out for a job that meant something to me, but I was prepared to go the long haul.
As it turned out, I got lucky. Or the universe rewarded me for being brave. I found a wonderful new job that allows me to use my passions for history, media production, organizing, and even sustainable living. The position is part-time, and though that's a challenge financially, there are several benefits to working less than 40 hours a week. After a few months on the job, I can tell you that for me, running low on cash at the end of every pay period is much less stressful than feeling constantly drained at home and bored at work.
Working part time means that I always have enthusiasm and energy to bring to my job, because I don't feel overworked. When I need to put in extra hours to get something done, I don't think twice about it. Most days though, when 2 o'clock rolls around I breeze out of the office and find myself ready to get to work around the homestead by 3. Having more time and energy for projects at home means spending less money on stuff I can make for less, like bread, cheese, veggies, and household stuff like the bicycle wheel pot rack. Oh yeah, and there's more time for the nonprofit I run on the side. Are my savings growing faster than radishes, like they were when I worked 40 hours a week at a law firm? Hell no. Do I care? Yeah, it bugs me sometimes. But I think that I can find a way to save for my future without sacrificing my well-being in the present. With all this extra time on my hands, I just might be able to find ways to make a little extra cash without having to work for someone else. Now wouldn't that be nice.