I’m writing just days past accepted a job shift that will shake up my life in a big way for a short amount of time, and already I’m thinking about how work can overwhelm life.
Weeks after graduating college, I was hired to a fantastic job with a program I loved and a mission I believed in, and what never surprised me was quickly and completely I lost myself in the work. While I loved it, I also fantasized about boredom, and when we moved to Maryland, I took a job that would give me that.
There’s something I don’t know how to put my finger on about working while trying to make art. A balance I’ve rarely, barely found. Too much work, too much passion for it, and it will consume you, but too little?
I came back from Christmas break, and wondered if the reason Maryland still feels like transient land is because my job is a shallow anchor.
Here’s the part where I’m compelled to say: I’m not knocking a job I had (that never stopped paying me or asked me to work without pay). We’ve always the option to fill the space we’re given, and had my position not changed, I’d have continued to derive joy and satisfaction from the work I was doing.
For years I felt the need to justify writing taking up central space in my life. Maybe it’s a partner who says “of course, write first,” or maybe I’m just getting older, and the lines get sharper. Either way, it’s become the skin I slip into easily (some day, of course, more easily than others). When I said yes to the job shift that would eat into my hours and devour my energy, I did so hesitantly: it can’t get in the way of the writing.
The value of underemployment is all the space that exists outside the paying job. It’s a smaller box. Around it, space stacks and billows. Since moving to Maryland (i.e. since stepping back from a career-level job), my creativity hasn’t bloomed, but my ability to work has. After years at a job that (I can’t stress this enough) I truly loved, but that left little room, I exhaled into the new and gathering quiet.
I checked the calendar, and it’s five years nearly to the day between the first call I got for the first step in my career, and this second one. I am as different a person as I could be without leaving this body or this history, and while I hope I’ve learned something of balance, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Between the opportunity I could never reject and this one I’ve accepted with hesitation, there’s still that hollow body, ready for expansion.
This opportunity wasn’t too good to pass up (I’ll need time before I can call it “good” without equivocacy). Instead, it was intriguing. Like this move, there was the question: what might it be like to flex my experience and grow a new arm on the baggy thing that’s slowly becoming My Career.
And then there’s always this comfort to fall back on: that the living will make my writing richer.
And then, and then, there’s always more: if the writing doesn’t getting better, it’s the kind of work that will push me to. That’s reason enough, right?