Artsy Nomad Weirdo Seeks Expression of Purpose
March 16, 2012 2:11 AM   Subscribe

In transition, need some ideas of what to do with my life. As a job, as a business, whatever: what can this artsy nomadic person who can't fit a boundary do for love and profit? [longpost is looooong]

(hurrah career counseling).

So it seems to be that time of the year where I slide into a new phase in life. I do have things I currently get involved with, but I also have some new health and life concerns, and I'm also fed up with being underemployed for about 3-4 years now, gah. I want to know what I can do to support myself, support others, spend my time at least with contentment if not pure joy.

Things I like doing:
- Anything creative, most especially performing and occasionally writing (I used to be even more prolific as a writer, but uni kinda killed it). Being able to dabble and experiment would be great. I'm not especially skilled in craft or visual art, am starting out in music (singing in a punk band!!), have experience with theatre/performance art/burlesque/improv
- Travel - I feel most at home when wandering about somewhere. I'm somewhere between a backpacker type and a 5-star-hotel type; my parents were the latter and that's what I grew up with, but I'm usually more easygoing with travel though I don't find the Contiki-style tours appealing. Something that involves creativity would be great.
- The erotic and sexy - I do burlesque and my acts are getting more erotic, though in a somewhat more brain-twisty/kinky/offbeat way. I am especially interested in queer, creative, political intersections.
- Dealing with fluffy animals - I'm a big fan of cats and bats, and hanging around farm animals relaxes me.
- Being able to draw attention - yes I'm a ham :D
- Being able to work with good, interesting people - I've often found that I could do any job, menial or not, if the people I was working with were good people to hang with. This usually involves a sense of silly humour, respecting differences, showing kindness and support.
- Reading - I read like a bookworm on steroids. I am also mildly addicted to the Internet. eep!
- Food - I like baking on occasion, like cooking when it's with friends, and am a born foodie. I'm not a particularly snobby one; if anything I sometimes feel the high-end places are too pretentious.
- Talking about big important issues, coming up with ideas - *arguing* with people that just won't listen gets tedious, but if everyone is listening to each other and perspectives grow then it can be really good.
- Research - looking things up, learning more about things I care about, being lost in the rabbithole of information for a while

Things I'm good at:
- Making people famous - I have launched a number of careers thanks to a fortuitous introduction or sharing of opportunity. The funny thing is that other people tend to be more successful at those opportunities that I share than I do!
- Finding out anything, especially online. I'm the human Google. I have found long-lost friends, obscure documentation, things that are hard to Google for. I seem to have a strong knack of knowing what keywords to look for and how to tell if a source is reliable or not.
- Recognising moments where people need emotional support - an associate pointed this out to me the other day, that I seem to just know the right time when someone needs a hug or some sort of emotional support
- Seeing multiple sides to an issue and seeing where they come from even if they're not sides I personally support - which sometimes annoys people as I'm often never really too strongly on one side or the other without also seeing some fair points of the other side!
- Improvising and quick thinking - I could talk the ears off a donkey even (actually especially) when put on the spot.
- Idea generating - a lot of people actually come up to me asking for ideas on career options, performance routines, research options, etc. Somehow I'm better at this for others than for myself; maybe I just have higher expectations for myself.
- Being loud - I'm a natural amplifier. It's only starting to get appreciated now, especially thanks to punk.
- Adapting and being flexible with new situations - even if I stress out about it, I usually am able to work out a new country within a few weeks, and can take any situation in my stride.
- For some reason I seem to be a walking Information Booth and am constantly asked questions about where to go, where to find this or that, etc - even when I'm also a tourist or I don't work there! It's like I have an ASK ME NOW sign flashing on my head
- I've been told I'm good at policy and strategic writing
- Working out what needs to be done for certain ideas to happen
- Internets: I've been on a computer since I was 4, online since 9, pretty much live on the Internet. I'm everyone's go-to person for Internet advice, especially with social media and content. (I don't know much about development and my design skills are rusty.)

(I bet there's probably more that I haven't even recognised yet)

Things that aren't so great:
- I can be very stubborn and headstrong, especially when it's about something that I deeply care about. Sometimes this can trigger strong emotional responses in me that can be inappropriate to the situation, or I get too flummoxed and am not always so quick on my feet with a calm response.
- My nationality and ethnicity has been a barrier occasionally, especially when people assume I don't know English or typecast me as the Exotic Bollywood Princess or Angry Brown Chick
- Long sustained hours wear me out; I don't think I could last a 40-hour-week full-time job. I can do long intense hours, but the job itself would need to be a short intense burst, rather than doing it for years on end.
- I'm not very fit (it comes and goes, but usually I'm not as fit as the average person especially due to mental health issues) and not terribly strong.

Things I've looked at doing:
- Artistic direction: a lecturer once described the job as "the guy who says "For this year's festival I want BLUE DIAMONDS ON TRAMPOLINES!" and gets other people to figure out how to make it happen". I thought "THAT IS SO ME." I have (co)produced a number of events but will need more experience.
- Librarianship, especially considering my interest and skills in looking up information.
- Sex work: I've done erotic performance and quite enjoyed it, though I'm having trouble being hired for more conventional work due to my looks. I'm not opposed to being some sort of sex therapist or creative sexual facilitator person if that was possible.
- Travel guide: I once had a job for an Australian TV network where I explored various Australian adventures (mine were roller derby & busking) and talked to the people that do them. SO MUCH FUN. something like that, where I experience different things and talk to the people who do them to find out why and how, would be awesome.
- Coaching, tutoring, mentoring: I get along very well with kids about 4-12; old enough to be able to communicate, not too old to be smarmy gits. I can be a kid at heart and have had a history of being able to connect and befriend people of varying age groups.
- PA for a creative oddball person: I've done this on and off for friends in the creative industries - not for everything, but for projects like book writing or fanmail management or that sort of thing. I enjoy being helpful and the weirder the request the better!
- Working in a bookstore: because BOOKS.

Some people have suggested I write a book, or go into teaching, but I feel like I need to know *what* I can teach or write about first.

Things I don't want to do:
- Numbers: I'm actually not bad at basic accounting, but numbers and anything sciency/maths beyond maybe "ooh shiny" bores me.
- Outdoors stuff: I don't mind camping, but I'm not sure I can match up to anywhere near Bear Grylls.
- Gardening: a bad experience scarred me for life.
- Fine crafting: I have ideas, and like to design things, but I'm not sure I have quite the skill.
- Anything usually stereotyped by a businessman in a suit: I find quite a few social-change groups rather alienating actually because it feels over-suity and I'm too odd and strange for them.
- Anything that requires me to *only* be a stereotype - I get that enough already
- Anything that involves needles, knives, blood, any medical or cutting of bodies...ACK

Things I care about:
- People being free to be who they want to be, to experiment with identity, to embody their identity without scorn - if I had some sort of "life mission" this would be it
- Being able to speak up for what I believe in
- Diversity and acceptance
- Being able to explore your sexuality without stigma or abuse (SlutWalk is a huge interest of mine)
- Being able to express yourself creatively without having to worry about conforming to some idea of "talent"

feel free to ask questions, ask for links, suggest biz ideas or jobs (if they are in San Francisco so much the better, but anywhere is fine really). Thank you so much!
posted by divabat to Work & Money (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: one last thing: I don't need my *work* to be my passion: indeed I've found that if it becomes my sole source of money I end up having to compromise on why I loved it in the first place and don't get to enjoy it on my own terms (part of why I've cooled on writing). As long as there are pays for me to earn my keep in a way that supports my interests, passions, and self, that's good too. I tend to do things based on values and principles that I care about, rather than "my passion is Obscure Job Title!" or some such.
posted by divabat at 2:18 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about being a teacher? I see you've thought about doing coaching, but being a teacher probably pays better and is more stable. It hits these points:
- Being creative
- Drawing attention
- Working with interesting people
- Reading and research
- Talking
- Supporting people when they need emotional support
- Seeing multiple sides of issues
- Improvising and quick thinking
- Adapting and being flexible
- Being an information booth
- Bursts of 40-hour workweeks, but with time off
- Not requiring lots of fitness
- Not a lot of suits

And, it gives you a chance to mold the future generation, to help do away with the problems of the world as you see it, and support young people who struggle with some of the same issues you've experienced.

Possible downside: You would probably have to stop with the erotic, sexy burlesque.
posted by Houstonian at 3:20 AM on March 16, 2012

Response by poster: Well it depends on where and what I can teach - as I mentioned earlier, it's been suggested, but I'm not sure what it is I know enough of to be decent at teaching. I have helped friends of mine deal with academic English, so I could do adult education I suppose.

Considering there's already enough material out there to implicate me I'm not sure any school would want to hire me!
posted by divabat at 3:42 AM on March 16, 2012

I think you should start a burlesque-y sexy traveling circus/caberet. Maybe not as your income source, but as an artistic/travel outlet. Perhaps with a social justice message woven in.
posted by mollymayhem at 4:49 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: mollymayhem: I'm a one-person travelling social justice cabaret ;) the trick is to find enough money to fund it when most grants are out of your reach (no thanks, bridging visa)...
posted by divabat at 4:55 AM on March 16, 2012

Response by poster: Rodrigo Lamaitre: I have a Bachelor of Creative Industries, submajoring in arts management and creative writing. It's a degree that makes most people go "bzuh?". I am looking into getting a Masters though while I love research and learning, conventional academia bores me to tears.
posted by divabat at 4:58 AM on March 16, 2012

Response by poster: that's an option too, I just don't know which one to go for. Also I feel like my lack of technical skills get in the way of the ones that actually intrigue me (e.g. I'm not sure a fashion design course would help me catch up on how to sew).
posted by divabat at 5:57 AM on March 16, 2012

Response by poster: and also these things cost money...which I don't really have enough of. At least with Masters there is some possibility of a scholarship.
posted by divabat at 5:57 AM on March 16, 2012

Several people I know of with your qualification/background are working in events management, organizing professional conferences (not so interesting) through to festival and music events. You say you already have some event experience - perhaps contact a few major conference and event companies and set up some informational interviews to see what they're looking for. If you are looking at the US, there are plenty of companies that specialize in managing events in social justice or diversity.
posted by wingless_angel at 5:59 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Sorry, divabat, but the convention here is just basically ask your question and respond if people have questions or if they've misunderstood; chatty back-and-forth commenting is strongly discouraged, so just relax and consider the advice. Expanded discussion can go to email.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:42 AM on March 16, 2012

You mention coaching, tutoring and mentoring, which is what I was thinking to suggest, but in particular, focusing on finding a place that jives well with your general interests: guidance counselor at an arts school (there are graduate schools for guidance counseling, I think), life coaching or counseling for artists feeling stuck in the creative process (I'm wary of some of the life coaching certifications out there, maybe someone else has a suggestion), travel planning/itinerary creation for off-beat locations or people with unusual or particular interests... that sort of thing.
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:43 AM on March 16, 2012

I don't really have any suggestions since I have the same interests/problem that you do, but your major sounds like the coolest one EVER!

Okay, I'd suggest leaning towards theater jobs--that sounds right up your alley. I just don't know enough about theater jobs to point you at a specific one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:34 AM on March 16, 2012

Events management
Theatre/cultural work
Private English tuition for schoolchildren
Coaching for artists

But really you are a person with lots of brand - if you haven't already, get a website, write some books, tell your stories and sell them. The biggest problem creative people have is selling themselves - you seem to have personality in spades so sell your creativity - or if not yours be a champion for other people (creative types, social justice) via promotions.
posted by mleigh at 1:56 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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