Decision-making strategies filter: How to make a hard decision regarding art, uncertainty, academia, a move and major fears?
The story: I’m an artist currently making my living with design work and small teaching gigs. I’ve been offered a relatively decent academic job in a place my partner and I don’t want to live. We love where we’re living now, I’m fairly happy with my job(s), and have a decent amount of time to pursue my artwork.
The complications: My partner is quitting her job—the one that has given us a steady and reliable source of income while I’ve been freelancing. No matter what we decide to do, she will be quitting to try and make a go of her own creative career, which has been steadily gaining momentum in her spare time. The ideal for her would be for us to do this together, to combine our creative/art/design pursuits into a joint business venture, and go for it. And when I think about how I ideally want to spend my days, making things with her is a no-brainer.
However, facing the prospect of making a go of our art careers has me almost paralyzed with fear. In the typical situation
, I would be telling you that my big fear is moving across country for this job, and you would be telling me to face my fears and do it. And while the idea of a move to a disappointing place coupled with a potentially time-and-creativity-sucking job in academia is indeed cripplingly fearsome, the idea of staying here, giving up our safety nets, attempting to live as artists--and failing--is HORRIFYING. Basically, my worst fear: confirmation that we don’t have what it takes.
My ultimate goal in life is to make art, every second of every day. But I have, of course, been taught to believe that that’s basically impossible, and that an academic job is fraught with complications but ultimately necessary. And I do love teaching, but all of the teachers I know are barely able to pursue their artwork anymore.
We’re still young, we have energy, love, boundless creativity and few responsibilities (no house, no kids), a healthy cushion saved up, and my partner will continue to receive her salary for three months after quitting. If we stay and it doesn’t work out, we won’t starve. There are many temp jobs we’re qualified for, people willing to take us in, and there’s always next year’s (equally tempestuous and uncertain) academic job market. It would be our dream to stay in the city we adore, with our friends and professional connections, and be able to live off of our creative work together. That’s the daily life I get most excited about. And yet the prospect of really going for it has me paralyzed with fear, instinctively looking for the first salaried position I can find. Do we take the flat road, the reasonably safe and secure choice, or do we jump off the freaking cliff? I realize this is a decision that only we can make, and that I’ve left things too vague to solicit good advice…
My actual question, friends, is what strategies are there for making this decision in an intelligent way, without becoming blinded by anxiety? How do we weigh all the different variables? What aspects of the decision are forgetting to even consider? And once a decision has been made, how do I move forward without second-guessing, or succumbing to fear or regret?