Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Quitting Your Day Job

Last night, I went to a performance of my friend's new show (overshooting my entertainment budget for this pay period by $15). It was also his birthday: he's 27. The show is only in previews (off-Broadway, hopefully moving but I don't want to jinx it), but ever since it entered the full-time development phase, it has been his primary occupation. You know what that means: no day job. He gets paid to do what he wants to do.

Other friends are making this leap as well. K. quit his day job more than a year ago, and now earns his living doing freelance video editing (he usually gets work as an assistant editor, which is close to the actual-editing that is What He Really Wants To Do). One of my two high school best friends splits her time: half exciting, fulfilling creative work for no pay; half slightly mind-numbing office administration and sporadic but lucrative tutoring gigs for the paycheck (she also lives at home). Other friends try to marry the two by doing something similar to what they ultimately want to do: they do administrative work at museums while applying to grad school in curatorial studies, they do entry-level work at urban planning firms and try to make the jump into the policy arena, they do corporate web design while trying to get their independent graphic design careers off the ground.

Me? Well, my day job was supposed to be an "almost"--as it turns out, it's sort of almost almost what I want to do. I'm taking on two volunteer opportunities (both involve working academically with socioeconomically disadvantaged kids), and if one works out particularly well, I may apply for a job with that organization.

My cherished goal is to make my living doing work I love. I don't mean "never have to do anything boring"--that's unrealistic and ultimately kind of lame, because there are boring parts involved in everything interesting, and they're worth doing to achieve the ends they enable. I mean that I don't want a "day job"--a job I do just to pay the bills, a job for which I have to drag myself out of bed, a job with which I have to strain to feel connected. Watching my friends chase down work they love or like makes that possibility more real to me.

I have always thought that no matter what, I would serve out a year--that means working here until next September. Today, remembering the show, remembering seeing my friend flushed and happy at the party afterwards, glowing, and remembering seeing him on stage, crackling with energy, I think maybe I won't wait it out. I think I'll see what comes along, and, if it's almost-er than this is, take it.

I think there are a couple of major reasons to quit a job that, for you, is a "day job." First, I think your happiness is worth more to you than money (this came up repeatedly with the friend that quit this job recently--and she's far happier now, working at a bookstore and a bar). Second, I think any job for which you don't have a passion is a job in which your advancement opportunities are automatically capped by your lack of enthusiasm. I don't think I could do a job I didn't like well for any serious length of time. I think my flagging enthusiasm would take an inevitable toll on my job performance, and I think it would limit my career (rightly). But my musical-writing friend's career? His career is limited only by his talent and his drive.

I think that's an enviable position. It's the position for which I strive.


ispf said...

Another great post! :)

My current day job is what I want to do, if I can't do what I really want to do. Well, almost :) And the pay is good. So, its a decent deal. I have decided to stick to it for atleast 3 years, before deciding whether to quit or continue. What I really want to do, will likely pay very less. I dont want to risk ending up frustrated and bitter due to lack of financial stability. With a few years in a better-paying-almost-2nd-preference job, I hope I can strike a good balance, for the long run.

Golbguru said...

Like ispf says above, there has to be a balance between "happiness" and "money".

You can quit your day job abd just do what you like but there may not be enough money in the field to keep you up to the living standards....once this happens, you effectively get distracted by the "i need to survive" aspect and the "happiness" part immediately vanishes...meaning you will be back to square one.

Also, such decisions are easier when you are single. If you are married and have got to think about their happiness before your happiness...that may very well mean you won't be able to quite your day job.

There was an interesting article by a character named "John Chow" about quitting day job..I will send you a link when I find it again. Meanwhile, see if you can google it out.

mOOm said...

I always wanted to be a professor and apart from a short time between my masters and PhD that is what I pursued... Money was mostly not the issue but I ahd to travel around the world to get those jobs. Now I don't think I want to do this any more... certainly not as much as I did, but it is 20 years on now...

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