Many of us artistic types envision working all day at what we enjoy. Our fantasies consist of becoming the next famous writer or musician or painter.
We toy with the idea of traveling the world dispensing our wisdom and talents to those who listen with the fascination of children gazing in toy shop windows.
Then we crash into reality when we encounter… the day job.
I assume, by the complaints I overhear and read online, that most creative souls find little satisfaction in working within rigid systems. Someone at the “top of the food chain,” as my husband dubs leadership hierarchies, has an idea.
His or her idea rolls downhill forming procedures needed to implement the vision with expediency and accuracy.
“The only creativity allowed,” My husband goes on to explain, “is finding ways to shave off the minutes in order to make the process more efficient.”
We innovators by nature know this does not produce life in our souls. We like to be the ones contributing to the conversation at the inception of the idea. But unless you’ve found a way to climb to the top of “the food chain,” work often requires making sure the vision runs smoothly. Conformity is the name of the game.
So in spite of our freedom fantasies, we must face the fact that our lot in life requires working a day job and that day job is not always going to ring our bells.
The longer I work for a living, the more convinced I am that a major component of worker dissatisfaction comes from trying to fight with this fact. We wrestle for creative expression like a co-dependent wife trying to control an addictive spouse. To no avail, we wrangle for meaning, a chance to make something that has our fingerprints all over it, and when this does not occur, we become bitter and unhappy.
Unmet expectations, whether in love or in work, build a barrier in our hearts as we continue to stack brick after brick of dissatisfaction until we can no longer see over the wall.
So what is the answer for us frustrated creative types working the day job?
I propose acceptance for what it is, “a day job.” Be thankful we have a way to make a living and decide to pursue our longing for unique outside of our careers. Let me explain how this works in my own life…
Sometimes I come home giddy from a special encounter with a student. When the “ah ha” serendipitous moment of insight forms an aura around a middle school student’s head, I glow, all warm and fuzzy inside.
But most days, I drag my computer bag to my car with the energy of a newly harvested blood donor. As frustrating as this is at times, I’ve come to the realization that I should not expect my students to provide my creativity hit for the day. In fact, neither should my school for that matter.
Five years ago, I came to a career crossroads and decided to take the “road less traveled,” as Robert Frost so aptly writes in his poem “The Road not Taken.” I divorced my surrogate husband, the school I worked for, and decided to become “just friends.” No longer did I pour all of my creative energy into what once was an unhealthy relationship with an institution. I tried to find meaning and purpose outside of the day job instead of bleeding out all my creativity in attempts to find the identity I desired.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still work hard at my job; in fact, I have more energy at work because the emotional struggle no longer exists. The major difference is that I cultivate my creativity outside of those school walls. As a result, I have an abundance of inspiration to share with my students and this creates more of those “ah ha” moments. My hope is to transfer these insights to them. Who knows, perhaps because I work the day job, they can climb on top of their walls and discover the world.
No one can take away your creativity nor control your mind unless you give them the power to do so. So create, innovate, explore, and endeavor to bring your gifts into the world, while working the day job.