Saturday, January 18, 2014

Do What You Love, Blah Blah Blah

I've been reading articles lately (here's one) on following your passion as a work/life choice, a topic which is very close to home for me. (Hey Captain Obvious! Missed you.) The full mantra is either "Do what you love. Love what you do" or "Do what you love and the money will follow." BWAAA-HAAAAA-HAAA-HA-HA!!! HAH! HA! HA!

Oh, my, let me catch my breathe a bit. That last one really hits me funny bone for some reason.

Smart assitude aside, I've been an advocate for this approach, never noticing the snobbery built into it. The aphorisms themselves suggest that if you find yourself doing a tedious or unpleasant job, it's because you were insufficiently dedicated to your passion. If only everyone would do what they love, then every job would be filled by passionate, enthusiastic people!

Except, no. Most jobs in the world are not especially lovable, but somebody still needs to do them. Somebody needs to assemble the iphones, if they are going to get assembled. Somebody needs to take away the rubbish. It's hard to imagine a person busing dishes as a calling because of their deep love of the work and dedication to being the best damn busboy ever. I'm not saying one should not do what they love; only that we should recognize the extraordinary privilege built into the freedom to make that choice.

Even me. Especially me.

I do what I love, yes. I make pottery and teach others to make pottery, and I love doing it. And the money has not followed from just loving what I do and my commitment to do it as well as it can be done, no. I've made the financial end work by hook or by crook, but it's an outright lie to imply that just dedication to a passion will cause the world to supply one with a living. The fact that we are still afloat owes much to middle class beginnings and privileges: I have a college education, and a mid-Atlantic accent that helps me interview very well when I have needed to grab a temp job to cover a shortfall. We made it through December because many of our Christmas presents were Hannaford gift cards (thank God), made possible because we have family who can afford to buy gift cards. Our car recently died, so we drove a vehicle borrowed from a friend who is traveling for a few months until we could replace it. Friends with resources are a privilege, too.

Right now I am struggling with whether I can continue to be potter in a full time way.  This is not a pity party (although the next time I have one, you'll surely get a gold-plated invitation and a ringside seat; I do love me a good pity party.) This is an observation: part of my struggle here is a sense of shame, that I might have to lower myself to do work which is merely work. And that is bullshit.

There is no failure there. I want to get past the reverence for creative pursuits above more mundane ones which makes me feel I am wasting the Gifts of the Magi or something if I decide that the necessary thing for me and my family is for me to get an office job. No more than I am wasting my talents as a receptionist (and I can joke about it, but I really was a very good receptionist) by spending my days with muddy hands.

This isn't a big announcement, and more likely than not I will find a way to keep on keeping on, because I am stubborn as hell and maybe a little selfish. Instead, this is  a shout-out to the folks whose work is purely work, an economic activity, and a reminder to myself not to devalue those whose jobs that are done of necessity rather than passion. If I join their ranks, I am still me, still a person, still making a contribution.

Looks like the Week of Reflection has begun.


Sue Pariseau Pottery said...

Mike Rowe from the show Dirty Jobs has some interesting things to say about "following your passions".

Sheri Bare said...

Interior design isn't any different...just sayin. May want to steer clear of that profession if you are taking a new direction. 30 years of it, and still working hard to cover "shit". It seems that creativity doesn't equate to $$. Just artful your blog and your thoughts.

Sheri Bare said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Rohrer said...

Once in a while a young person who has taken a couple of college ceramic classes asks me about the possibility of making a living as a potter. I don't want to slap down their dreams, but I have to tell them it's the rare person who can make it work. Most potters either have another job or a nicely supportive spouse.

Liberty Stoneware said...

Well said, particularly the "shout out" to those who work jobs that they perhaps don't enjoy, but that need doing. That was one of the things that drove me crazy about that article was that the "low-wage jobs" had to be jobs that people could not actually enjoy- but who's to say what each person's capacity of enjoyment is?

We're very forthright with people when we tell them that yes, I make pottery, and we run a farm, but I also work at a museum and my other half does part-time engineering and other odd jobs. It's not ideal, but we like what we do! Kudos to you for being flexible and laid back enough to find the resources and connections to find a car, make things work, and work with your passions. Not every personality can handle that kind of living, but sometimes the patchwork makes a nice quilt and things work out in the end.

Felicia Kramer said...

Your post is very timely for me. I was sitting here mulling posting my own blog post along similar lines when I read yours. My circumstances are slightly different, but the sentiments are the same. Thank you!

- Cindy - said...

As much as I will always have the dream of making a living completely off of art and having no financial worries doing it, I don't think 'doing what you love' needs to equal that. It's a dream and a big goal, and along the way anyone who is working at one of those 'regular jobs' and also finding time for their passion is winning in my book. It's when you completely leave a passion due to work and other obligations that is sad.

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