Today marks an official acknowledgement and action towards the designation of the dayjob as a non-dominant portion of my life. It plays its part, yes. It contributes to my daily survival, yes. But it does not carry the meaning of my life. It is only a means to the meaning.
The meaning and value of my life is in my other work, my true work. The art and the writing. That is what is dominant in my life. That is what the dayjob is for. And even then, the dayjob will only be necessary for a while. Eventually the true work will sustain me in every way that a work can sustain a life, even financially.
It may seem an obvious thing for a while now, that I am indeed working on two jobs. But it is a very different thing when the shift happens inside, in the mind. When the clarity seeps into the very core of one’s belief on the way and order of Things.
I spent two decades of my life on the dayjob, for a good part of it believing that it was also my life’s work. It is not an instantaneous matter to shed that definition, nor the habits that go with it. Such pouring of attention, energy, and commitment etches something deep into the very bones of how one conducts a life. I have spent the past six years deconstructing and breaking down those old systems and old rules.
As with most of the shifts in my life, I went through this one the roundabout way, lingering, meandering, exploring every what-if, softening the turns, cushioning the falls. Then when nothing seemed to significantly change, I did a cold turkey shutdown. Something clicked then. And finally things began to fall into a semblance of place.
First I thought I could do the art on the side. Like weekend-warrior type. Or whenever-I-have-the-time type. It was fine for a while. But art grows and explores and expands in its own way. And unless I wanted to keep it small and manageable within the constraints allowed by the dayjob, it cannot simply occupy the time and space of a hobby.
Then I thought I could give the art its own time and place so I began claiming a “studio” space. But it was the same physical space where I did the dayjob work. At some point the line in my head and my mood began to blur and it was difficult to concentrate because the art started to distract and the dayjob started to irritate.
Then there was a period when the dayjob went away. No projects came for more than six months, and it pushed me into a discomfort zone with my art because suddenly it had to be something more than what I was allowing it to be. The art rose to the occasion, creating rickety bridges from one month to the other financially. But still, they were bridges, though they swayed and twisted alarmingly, broke unexpectedly in places, and shivered all the time.
So I thought I could make it that way, with just the art. I was lulled by beginner’s luck, believing for a moment that my novelty won’t pass. But of course it did. And after the initial surge of interest, there was only a yet-too-small core of supporters who are willing to pay for what I make with my art. Not enough. Not yet.
But it was the most joyful moment of my life despite the perpetually hovering possibility of not being able to cover all the bills for the next month. I woke up eager to sit in front of the blank canvas or paper. I ended the day tired but happy, holding a finished or progressed piece in my hands. Tangible and real and oh so bright and beautiful.
It was a struggle to accept that I needed to go back to the dayjob because the art is not ripe and ready enough. There wasn’t sufficient momentum, and I needed extra funds to help that momentum.
It was the most miserable moment of my life. It felt impossible to go back to doing something I no longer believed in nor felt for.
I started missing monthly payments. I had to resolve the matter quickly.
I cut off the art. Put it to sleep. I cannot do both the dayjob and the art at the same time in the same space and still be able to do well in both. I gave up the art because I had to prioritise the money.
For a full month I shut down the studio, and sat myself to explore dayjob opportunities. I was exhausted at the end of each day, half the energy spent on pushing myself rather than all of the energy creating something useful or significant.
When I finally had a dayjob project approved I was both relieved and stressed. But it was significantly easier to go through the motions of money work without the art. No mindset-shifts, no change-costumes.
Of course the art wouldn’t stay quiet for long. There was an inner physical pain as I did the dayjob, like a flood of tears dammed up inside me. Like a scream held back. I delivered on the dayjob brilliantly, as always. But I could feel I was chipping and flaking away inside.
It would not do to shut down one or the other for alternate periods. I have to find a way to do both at once.
But maybe not at the same place. Maybe I still have to split but I won’t have to do it all in my head. Maybe I can do it literally.
It cost me extra to set it up. But so far it feels like I am on the right track.
The dayjob has been removed from the studio, and even out of the house. I went back to working in the paid shared office space in the neighbourhood. I did it before but I was not clear as to why and so I thought I could do away with it. Now I see where having a fully separate space just for the dayjob can be vital to keeping the rest of my life together.
The studio is now just a studio, where I write, where I make art, where I make plans for the art shops and my art as career or profession.
I make an effort to wake up early, dress up, and walk the ten to fifteen minutes from the house to the shared office space. I bring only what I need and get down to what I need to do as soon as I sit down. I pay a fee per hour or per day, depending on how much work I need to do.
When I am in the studio I do not think of the dayjob because I have already assigned a place and a schedule for it. The pressure has eased from the dayjob task lists and such because the studio is no longer able or allowed to accept them. I find myself experiencing less guilt when I use the studio as a studio. I feel less the desire to be seen doing responsible, practical, money-making work on my computer.
But of course I make a show of going to the “office”. It has now become my token “responsible adult act”. Even if I’m dressed in bohemian.
When I am asked about work I now say I have two jobs, and that each gets its own time and space, and that I am strict with those lines. Separate times, separate spaces, separate selves. Even if it’s only an hour of revisions I will do it in the office, paying the fee. The practice has to reflect the principle. And thus I will be strict with office hours and attending to and accepting requirements from clients. Similarly, art projects and commissions also get scheduled in the studio, though more loosely. And of course art overtimes are perfectly acceptable.
I also realise that I need to "heal" my dayjob relationship, because it still serves a purpose in my life though in a reduced capacity, no longer its center. But I cannot fight with it every time. I have to work with it but I don't have to live with it, so out of the house and out of the studio it goes. While it's in my life I will make the most of what it can give me. I see that now. I just have to be aware all the time on the degrees and depth of my value compromises as I agree to projects, and as I use my skills to help perpetuate an economic and consumer culture that I would rather change. Yet who knows? Maybe I am kept here on this path for the meantime because somewhere along the way I only need to drop a single seed of an idea for change...
Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/107804984809900892/
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I am an artist-in-progress. I started my creative journey in 2012 and have never stopped taking steps since. Always one step at a time. Always moving forward. It has been an increasingly tough and occasionally rewarding road.
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