Am I Giving Up on My Dreams By Getting a Real Job?

I don’t want to pound the pavement. I want to walk smoothly on it with shoes I pay for out of my bi-weekly paycheck.
Publish date:
October 11, 2013
career, dreams, change

I’ve thought a lot about turning 40 -- how that affects my feelings about fertility and motherhood, beauty and even skin care. But, there’s one aspect to 40 I haven’t touched on, and that is the career department.

Something happened when I turned 40. Besides examining turning point questions like, “Do I want children?” I also had to ask myself, "Am I happy and satisfied in my career?" If not, now is the time to change something.

Perhaps like some of you, I’ve always considered myself an artist, and while you are pursuing your art, you often have to do things unrelated to it -- things that might suck your soul dry, like waiting tables or nannying snotty, entitled children. Those jobs feel good for some people (not me). If you are going to have a survival job, you need to have a survival job you like.

I was fortunate that I found side work I was genuinely interested in: when I started practicing yoga I realized that I had the impulse to teach it, too. That led to gigs teaching Pilates and soon I had enough jobs here and there, plus children’s theatre classes, to keep me going while I pursued acting and writing in L.A.

But those piecemeal jobs that were once the keys to artistic freedom are getting annoying, and the hustle to get them (and get to them, driving all over Los Angeles for relatively little money) is taking a toll. Add that to the stress and legwork of even getting the audition (let alone the job) or pitching stories (not even writing them) and it starts to make less and less sense.

I don’t want to pound the pavement. I want to walk smoothly on it with shoes I pay for out of my bi-weekly paycheck. I want company-sponsored health insurance. I want normalcy.

Am I “changing directions” or am I giving up?

Freelancing sounds romantic, but-- like acting--you spend the majority of your time hustling to get the work, not on the actual work itself. Same goes for starting your own business -- it’s a hustle to get clients. I’m done hustling. I want some stability, damn it.

I’m sure that there’s a full-time job out there that uses all of my skills in some capacity. But taking a full-time job would probably mean a goodbye to acting for film or television simply because being committed means you can’t just beg off at 2 pm for an across-town audition.

So, what to do: recommit fully to that original dream of making a living 100 percent from acting and writing? Continue the piecemeal jobs and uncertainty, find a parallel career, or embrace a whole new way of living by pursuing a more traditional job?

After making list after list of values, priorities, financial assessments, I came up with three different paths:

I could throw myself completely into an acting and writing career while cultivating a “parallel” or “dual” career. I have several friends who have made this work by garnering a clear, marketable skill like nursing and arranging their schedules to be compatible with their creative career.

Or, I could learn to be happy doing community theatre and writing for pleasure and take a full-time job in something related to my field (television, film, media, publishing).

Or, I could scrap it all and go back to school and embark on an entirely new path. I’ve got my eye on a Speech Language Pathology program, which relates to much I’ve studied in acting and even yoga. I realized I was interested in the field after helping my best friend’s daughter, who has autism, with her speech.

So now, I’m doing my homework: actively looking for jobs in the field, going to “open houses” for various return-to-school programs, and talking to people who are, all things considered, happy about their choices and making it work.

It’s not as if there aren’t options I would be happy with. I would just have to let go of my ego that says, “woe is me, I have failed!” Nope. It’s a choice.

What about you, xoJaners. Have any of you ever made a major career change? Do you regret the path you’ve chosen? Can you happily transition a life dream into a passionate hobby?