Real job or no? Thoughts from a real job.

November 28, 2011

So, I got a “real job” a few weeks ago. Sorry, Scott Gerber.

Within my first 48 hours as a working man, I had become a different person. Prior to the job, I was crushed under a battleship’s weight of financial worries, career worries, worries about how to strip any silver lining from the black cloud of unemployment. The job lifted up all this weight from me and carried it away. Now I float to work, partially because I feel light as a feather and partially because I have to wake up at 5:30.

I did not have to practice mindfulness. I did not have to simplify my lifestyle. I did not have to shift my perspective. I had been failing at these things all summer. Once I got the job, the fear was just gone. My monthly payments are being made. There’s no one who can honestly murmur in secret that I’m a nowhere-going loser.

I was content. This, of course, made me quite discontent. This new, easygoing, money-earning version of me had to relearn how to manage success, gauge satisfaction, mobilize creativity and act with independence. It’s remarkable how few rules you want to obey and guidelines you want to follow after spending 10 hours a day doing that.

Complacence initially seems like a prime platform for creating art, since you have no one to submit to, no outside influences to contaminate the work. But what emotions do a complacent person wish to elicit? What does a complacent person feel the need to say? If I am the complacent person, the answer seems to be: Not a whole lot. Or more verbatim, “…”. Luckily, since I write for a magazine on fear, this quickly became a source of guilt that ended my complacence.

For people who strive for an unconventional career, a great debate erupts between how much a buffer you should allow yourself to build up through traditional work. Some people say that it is just good sense to gain experience and money and others say that if you compromise, you will fail. I can’t answer that. But I am only three weeks into a job I don’t hate and I can say that having a real job brings the fight against fear to a whole new battlefield. I think this is a good thing because now you can concern yourself with cool things like “how can I produce or conduct genuine, meaningful art” instead of primal things like “AHHHH I need money.” Even though it has been dizzying and provoked somewhat of an identity crisis, I would still say that my real job is a net positive and that my new mental obstacles are luxurious ones to have.

Oh no. photo by ranee25

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

David Tamale-Sali December 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Don’t worry about it Matt. Trust – and keep feeding – your inner sense of buoyancy. No matter how much ‘normal’ and ‘giving in’ that you seem to have immersed yourself in, just keep feeding who you really are…and who you are will rise above whatever it’s pressed down in, like a rubber duck in a swimming pool (okay, bad picture but you get the idea).

I’m excited that you’re in this job, because whether or not your bosses realise it, they’ve not just hired some new guy. Instead they’ve given an Internal Disruption Agent a real-world platform in which to practise his art, and spread inspiration and dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Exciting times Matt! Can’t wait to read about all your new adventures!


Shawn Michel de Montaigne December 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Earning money to pay your bills is not a bad thing. Having rent money, having a disposable income, having savings–all good. Earning enough to gain the approbation of the herd and whatever sex you’re drawn to … it can easily be argued this is a good thing as well.

The dichotomy between a “real” job and one that others have judged as not “real” is largely false. Mostly it is used by those who are immature, spiritually or otherwise, those who cannot see that you cannot apply the reality or unreality of an occupation generally, but only specifically, and then only to yourself. If your “real” job is an honest, authentic, and empowering means to do what you really want in life, then that is a good thing! But only you can answer that; only you can make that determination.

The problem is this: just how honest are you, *really*? And how devoted to your true calling are you, *really*? In my long experience (decades now), the vast majority of people I’ve run across can only answer, respectively, not really honest and not really devoted. Want to be fearful about something? Stare the reality of your dishonesty and undevotion square in their coggy little faces and realize that all your hesitation over having a real job was far less integrity and far more simple sloth. Plus, your suffering is *cool*, ain’t it? I mean, doesn’t it get you in with all the avant-garde types? Isn’t that what your Me, The Poor Little Oppressed Artist schtick was really about in the end?

Get honest with yourself, and you’ll have set foot for the first time on a genuine path of creativity. Or not. After all, you’ve had a long day, and the television is beckoning, and a cold beer, and then bed. Got to work overtime tomorrow; I can think about all this integrity/devotion/honesty stuff later. Maybe this weekend. Maybe.


Rita December 28, 2011 at 7:09 am

Love this post!
I know for sure, I don’t want a full time “real job” ever again!
Or I’d be dead as an artist for sure :D


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