I just can't rock the mainstream and be anywhere near happy- please advise!
August 24, 2008 8:55 PM   Subscribe

Are there any artists/back to the landers/punk rockers/non-traditional folks out there that bridged their work with the "real world", made enough money while also doing their own work, and/or had satisfying careers? (I just left my grad school program & I'm going through a lot of big changes and soul searching!)

Ok, so I recently left my Masters program for many different reasons. The biggest reason was that I was unhappy with the program I was in and very unsure whether or not I even wanted to go into my chosen field of study. I was also going through a depressive episode (which I’m seeking treatment for).

It was a very tough decision, but all in all, it was the right choice to leave, even though I have mixed feelings about it.

Now, I’d like to start looking ahead into other career choices/possibilities. But the thing is, I’m really not a traditional person, and sometimes I just don't know if there are any "careers" out there that wouldn't make me miserable.

I’m currently renovating an old barn (for under $20,000) with my S/O to live in for awhile, and we are pretty committed to living a kind of lifestyle rather than just chasing careers- i.e., quality of life is more important to us than making a lot of money, although we’d like to also have satisfying work. We’re very do-it-yourself types, although it’s not like we’re moving back to the land forever and swearing off the mainstream (although if we could make it work, who knows?)

My background is in creative writing, social work/helping professions, and I’ve done enough odd jobs in the past 5 years to write a novel about (which I may do at some point). The problem is, I just don’t know how to turn all my interests into a work that I enjoy. I have a really hard time going to the same job day after day, but I do find a lot of joy in working with people, writing, coming up with ideas, editing, organizing, brainstorming, and helping other people get their work done. I've never had a problem finding work and generally am liked in work situations. I just get soooo ancy I usually move on within a year. I have to set my own schedule or I usually end up *miserable*.

I just don’t know how I can turn all my different strengths into a career. (Or if I even need to?)

I’ve done so many different kinds of work that I feel kind of scattered. I can’t see myself on an traditional career path, but I don’t just necessarily want to odd job my whole life.

Hmm… any thoughts? Are there any artists out there, or non-traditional folks that have found out a way to bridge their interests with “the real world”?
posted by Rocket26 to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What about getting involved with theater? Not that there's necessarily much money in it, but there's usually lots of crises popping up and interesting people to work with.

Plus if you're willing to learn, there's probably aways something new to pick up. "We need someone to do lights", or "We need some help with the props."

It's an idea. (Disclosure: I know nothing about theater or theater folk, and I don't go to plays very often.) And it is arts.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:29 PM on August 24, 2008

Best answer: First, I wish more people talked about how hard the year after grad school can be. Coming off that year, I can attest that most of my friends are feeling similarly to you, even though we finished. Grad school, in middle class life, is supposed to be the thing that makes you a Productive Adult, but it can lead to lot of soul-searching and wondering about your "life path." Not a bad thing, in the end, but a painful process.

I've also struggled with a lot of what you're talking about, and for me the answer is that I'm going to start a consulting firm. Not that you should do that, but it's an option. For me, it'll hopefully allow me to do what I love without chaining me to a desk or an organizational hierarchy.

Have you thought of starting a blog about your barn experience? I bet a lot of people would like that if it's well-written and can offer something to readers. Hell, maybe you could get a book deal out of it! There's always a big audience for such escape-from-the-ratrace kinda stuff.
posted by lunasol at 10:34 PM on August 24, 2008

I am often very restless. Last year I moved across the country for a job I left after 8 months. I recently started another job, after being mostly jobless for most of the year. I'm a little afraid I'll get that feeling again and run away.

It sounds like you have no trouble being productive in your non-career life, or Fake World as compared to the often referred to Real World. I'm not really sure there is a true distinction. It often seems very silly that I am 'starting my life' 24 years after I was born.

I recently read something about how when people do what they love as a career, they risk losing that love. The point is work has intrinsic value, and making it about money, even if 'just enough' vs. 'lots of $$$', ruins that value.

Soul searching is good, most people don't do it and wake up one day and realize they got what they thought they wanted and are not happy.

Its nice having a steady, reliable job. Sometimes routine is ... boring. But I suggest looking at job listings and thinking about what you are qualified to do. And you don't have to decide what you are going to do for the rest of your life right now. You can always quit! Don't be afraid of starting over, people much much older than me have done so with success. I hope my ramblings have been helpful. Good luck!
posted by Gregamell at 7:14 AM on August 25, 2008

My field - museums - is full of people like you.

Like many, you may end up applying your skills in a number of different ways to "patchwork" your living together. For instance, working half-time at a new nonprofit, writing some grants, reviewing some grants, writing, editing, speaking.
posted by Miko at 8:22 AM on August 25, 2008

Oh, also - the main concern for nontraditional career folk always seems to be health insurance. If you can find a means of getting it through an "anchor" job, it can be pretty easy to put the rest together using contract/episodic work.

I forgot to mention PR as an option, if you can write. Small/indie businesses might be happy to have someone take care of press releases and small media buys. One of my friends does this in addition to writing/radio work.
posted by Miko at 8:24 AM on August 25, 2008

I'm an artist and like Miko I'm in the museum world as well. It's a balancing act to balance job and love (being creative). But it can be done. It takes discipline: finding a job that doesn't zap you of energy and creative spirit. If it's part time and pays the bills (and health insurance) that's good. I know I worked my way through grad school with mindless jobs for this reason.

I've been out of school for many years and, as I look back, I found a job that is creative but I also changed my art practice so I could structure time to be creative in my own life.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:17 AM on August 25, 2008

you can make $0.20 per answer @ chacha
posted by Gregamell at 8:08 PM on August 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for everyone who answered. Good ideas out there and it's nice to know other people are trying to make it happen, too.
posted by Rocket26 at 8:46 AM on August 26, 2008

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