LivingArts: (Don't) Quit Your Day Job?

 

I'm writing this article at two o'clock, but for the first time in a long time, it's two o'clock in the afternoon, not two o'clock in the morning. I'm not writing this on a train or on my half-hour lunch break. I don't feel rushed, like I usually do.

Two weeks ago I quit my job. I walked into my boss's office with a letter in hand, and I gave my resignation after eight years. It wasn't an easy decision.

At 23, I landed what seemed to be a dream job, editing books to be used in classrooms. I was energetic and passionate, and I couldn't wait to get to work each day. I felt in control of everything, but that control was fleeting. Eventually, commuting, negativity, and the strict 9 to 5 began to feel suffocating.

As artists and organizers, we learn to find time, even when there isn't any, to do what we are passionate about. The small hours of the night and my already-busy weekends became my time to write, to create, to organize, to burn myself out. Sunday nights would inevitably come, bringing with them a feeling of dread. I worked all the time, and when I wasn't working, I felt like I should be, and with that came guilt.

For years, I've been an advocate for Hamilton, writing about it and talking about it as often as possible. But five days a week, I boarded a train that took me outside the city to work. It felt like a betrayal.

In the early days of my career, I'd see men and women on the train with misery painted on their faces. If they're unhappy, why don't they just quit? I thought in my naivety. I learned eventually that quitting a job isn't easy, even if it makes you unhappy. To state the obvious, financial stability is a luxury, and one that isn't easily thrown away.

Anaïs Nin once said, "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." They're words I'll eventually pin to the wall of my home office once I finally finish painting it (something I'll now have time for.)

It's easy to romanticize the allure of being a full-time writer. It's what many in literary circles aspire to become. It's also a luxury. One that most of us can't afford. In her recent viral article, full-time writer Ann Bauer wrote about her own privilege, saying "In this world where women will sit around discussing the various topiary shapes of their bikini waxes, the conversation about money (or privilege) is the one we never have. Why?"

I didn't have the luxury of quitting my job without a safety net, one that could cover my bills and buy my groceries. After two years of searching, I finally found one with an organization in Hamilton that does deeply inspiring work. It's a job that will allow me stability while I begin to take back control.

It's only been a few days since I've started my new life. I still have the comfort of knowing there's one more paycheck on the horizon, and I haven't yet needed to panic. I can't tell you yet if this move was a good idea or bad, but there's a freedom in knowing I'll get to find out.

Chances are, you'll still find me writing at two o'clock in the morning. It's when my mind feels most alive. But it's a luxury to know it's a choice I get to make. I've taken back control.